Posts Tagged 'biological response'

Rapid bioerosion in a tropical upwelling coral reef

Coral reefs persist in an accretion-erosion balance, which is critical for understanding the natural variability of sediment production, reef accretion, and their effects on the carbonate budget. Bioerosion (i.e. biodegradation of substrate) and encrustation (i.e. calcified overgrowth on substrate) influence the carbonate budget and the ecological functions of coral reefs, by substrate formation/consolidation/erosion, food availability and nutrient cycling. This study investigates settlement succession and carbonate budget change by bioeroding and encrusting calcifying organisms on experimentally deployed coral substrates (skeletal fragments of Stylophora pistillata branches). The substrates were deployed in a marginal coral reef located in the Gulf of Papagayo (Costa Rica, Eastern Tropical Pacific) for four months during the northern winter upwelling period (December 2013 to March 2014), and consecutively sampled after each month. Due to the upwelling environmental conditions within the Eastern Tropical Pacific, this region serves as a natural laboratory to study ecological processes such as bioerosion, which may reflect climate change scenarios. Time-series analyses showed a rapid settlement of bioeroders, particularly of lithophagine bivalves of the genus Lithophaga/Leiosolenus (Dillwyn, 1817), within the first two months of exposure. The observed enhanced calcium carbonate loss of coral substrate (>30%) may influence seawater carbon chemistry. This is evident by measurements of an elevated seawater pH (>8.2) and aragonite saturation state (Ωarag >3) at Matapalo Reef during the upwelling period, when compared to a previous upwelling event observed at a nearby site in distance to a coral reef (Marina Papagayo). Due to the resulting local carbonate buffer effect of the seawater, an influx of atmospheric CO2 into reef waters was observed. Substrates showed no secondary cements in thin-section analyses, despite constant seawater carbonate oversaturation (Ωarag >2.8) during the field experiment. Micro Computerized Tomography (μCT) scans and microcast-embeddings of the substrates revealed that the carbonate loss was primarily due to internal macrobioerosion and an increase in microbioerosion. This study emphasizes the interconnected effects of upwelling and carbonate bioerosion on the reef carbonate budget and the ecological turnovers of carbonate producers in tropical coral reefs under environmental change.

Continue reading ‘Rapid bioerosion in a tropical upwelling coral reef’

Effect of seawater temperature, pH, and nutrients on the distribution and character of low abundance shallow water benthic foraminifera in the Galápagos

In order to help predict the effects of anthropogenic stressors on shallow water carbonate environments, it is important to focus research on regions containing natural oceanographic gradients, particularly with respect to interactions between oceanography and ecologically sensitive carbonate producers. The Galápagos Archipelago, an island chain in the eastern equatorial Pacific, spans a natural nutrient, pH, and temperature gradient due to the interaction of several major ocean currents. Further, the region is heavily impacted by the El Niño—Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Galápagos exhibited widespread coral bleaching and degradation following the strong ENSO events of 1982–1983 and 1997–1998. These findings are coupled with reports of unusually low abundances of time-averaged benthic foraminiferal assemblages throughout the region. Foraminifera, shelled single-celled protists, are sensitive to environmental change and rapidly respond to alterations to their surrounding environment, making them ideal indicator species for the study of reef water quality and health. Here, statistical models and analyses were used to compare modern shallow water benthic foraminiferal assemblages from 19 samples spanning the Galápagos Archipelago to predominant oceanographic parameters at each collection site. Fisher α diversity indices, Ternary diagrams, Canonical Correspondence Analysis, regression tree analysis and FORAM-Index (FI; a single metric index for evaluating water quality associated with reef development) implied a combined impact from ENSO and upwelling from Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC) waters to primarily impact foraminiferal abundances and drive assemblage patterns throughout the archipelago. For instance, repeated ENSO temperature anomalies might be responsible for low foraminiferal density, while chronically high nutrients and low aragonite saturation and low pH—induced by EUC upwelling and La Niña anomalies—likely inhibited post-ENSO recovery, and caused foraminiferal assemblages to exhibit a heterotrophic dominance in the southern archipelago. What resulted are low FI values in the southern collection sites, indicating environments not conducive to endosymbiont development and/or recovery.

Continue reading ‘Effect of seawater temperature, pH, and nutrients on the distribution and character of low abundance shallow water benthic foraminifera in the Galápagos’

Marine metazoan modern mass extinction: improving predictions by integrating fossil, modern, and physiological data

Evolution, extinction, and dispersion are fundamental processes affecting marine biodiversity. Until recently, studies of extant marine systems focused mainly on evolution and dispersion, with extinction receiving less attention. Past extinction events have, however, shaped the evolutionary history of marine ecosystems, with ecological and evolutionary legacies still evident in modern seas. Current anthropogenic global changes increase extinction risk and pose a significant threat to marine ecosystems, which are critical for human use and sustenance. The evaluation of these threats and the likely responses of marine ecosystems requires a better understanding of evolutionary processes that affect marine ecosystems under global change. Here, we discuss how knowledge of (a) changes in biodiversity of ancient marine ecosystems to past extinctions events, (b) the patterns of sensitivity and biodiversity loss in modern marine taxa, and (c) the physiological mechanisms underpinning species’ sensitivity to global change can be exploited and integrated to advance our critical thinking in this area.

Continue reading ‘Marine metazoan modern mass extinction: improving predictions by integrating fossil, modern, and physiological data’

Impact of ocean acidification and warming on the bioenergetics of developing eggs of Atlantic herring Clupea harengus

Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) is a benthic spawner, therefore its eggs are prone to encounter different water conditions during embryonic development, with bottom waters often depleted of oxygen and enriched in CO2. Some Atlantic herring spawning grounds are predicted to be highly affected by ongoing Ocean Acidification and Warming with water temperature increasing by up to +3°C and CO2 levels reaching ca. 1000 μatm (RCP 8.5). Although many studies investigated the effects of high levels of CO2 on the embryonic development of Atlantic herring, little is known about the combination of temperature and ecologically relevant levels of CO2. In this study, we investigated the effects of Ocean Acidification and Warming on embryonic metabolic and developmental performance such as mitochondrial function, respiration, hatching success (HS) and growth in Atlantic herring from the Oslo Fjord, one of the spawning grounds predicted to be greatly affected by climate change. Fertilized eggs were incubated under combinations of two PCO2 conditions (400 μatm and 1100 μatm) and three temperatures (6, 10 and 14°C), which correspond to current and end-of-the-century conditions. We analysed HS, oxygen consumption (MO2) and mitochondrial function of embryos as well as larval length at hatch. The capacity of the electron transport system (ETS) increased with temperature, reaching a plateau at 14°C, where the contribution of Complex I to the ETS declined in favour of Complex II. This relative shift was coupled with a dramatic increase in MO2 at 14°C. HS was high under ambient spawning conditions (6–10°C), but decreased at 14°C and hatched larvae at this temperature were smaller. Elevated PCO2 increased larval malformations, indicating sub-lethal effects. These results indicate that energetic limitations due to thermally affected mitochondria and higher energy demand for maintenance occur at the expense of embryonic development and growth.

Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean acidification and warming on the bioenergetics of developing eggs of Atlantic herring Clupea harengus’

Impact of environmental hypercapnia on fertilization success rate and the early embryonic development of the clam Limecola balthica (Bivalvia, Tellinidae) from the southern Baltic Sea – a potential CO2 leakage case study


• Fertilization success of Limecola balthica drops along decreasing pH gradient.
• Low pH causes delays of early embryonic development of the Baltic clam.
L. balthica embryos develop aberrations of early cleavages in CO2-rich environment.
• CO2 leakage from CCS site may affect population’s size by impeding its reproduction.


Carbon capture and storage technology was developed as a tool to mitigate the increased emissions of carbon dioxide by capture, transportation, injection and storage of CO2 into subterranean reservoirs. There is, however, a risk of future CO2 leakage from sub-seabed storage sites to the sea-floor sediments and overlying water, causing a pH decrease. The aim of this study was to assess effects of CO2-induced seawater acidification on fertilization success and early embryonic development of the sediment-burrowing bivalve Limecola balthica L. from the Baltic Sea. Laboratory experiments using a CO2 enrichment system involved three different pH variants (pH 7.7 as control, pH 7.0 and pH 6.3, both representing environmental hypercapnia). The results showed significant fertilization success reduction under pH 7.0 and 6.3 and development delays at 4 and 9 h post gamete encounter. Several morphological aberrations (cell breakage, cytoplasm leakages, blastomere deformations) in the early embryos at different cleavage stages were observed.

Continue reading ‘Impact of environmental hypercapnia on fertilization success rate and the early embryonic development of the clam Limecola balthica (Bivalvia, Tellinidae) from the southern Baltic Sea – a potential CO2 leakage case study’

The palaeoceanographic crisis of the Early Aptian (OAE 1a) in the Vocontian Basin (SE France)


• Palaeoceanographic changes across the OAE 1a investigated in the Vocontian Basin.
• Cyclostratigraphic analysis give for the OAE 1a a duration of 1.2 Myr.
• Onset of both carbonate platform and nannoconid crises not linked to the OAE 1a.
• Shallowing of the calcite CCD suspected in the lower part of the OAE 1a.
• Deep water anoxia and enhanced fertility in the upper part of the OAE 1a.


The Vocontian Basin (SE France) which presents lower Aptian expanded successions characterized by major lithological changes, is particularly suitable to determine palaeoenvironmental changes occurring across the OAE 1a. A multidisciplinary study (sedimentology, CaCO3, TOC, carbon and oxygen stable isotopes, micropalaeontology, cyclostratigraphy) was carried out in the Notre-Dame-de-Rosans section in order to establish a detailed chronological framework of these changes. The OAE 1a corresponds to carbon isotope segments C3–C6, and it lasted for 1.2 Myr. A first drop in the carbonate production occurs 500 kyr before the OAE 1a (upper part of the carbon isotope segment C2), and could result from both onset of “Urgonian” carbonate platform demise and associated reducing export of platform-derived sediments into the basin, and nannoconid crisis. A second drastic drop (crash) in the carbonate production is recorded within the lower part of the OAE 1a (latter part of segment C3 to C5) and is explained by a strong dissolution. This study then shows that the onset of the major carbonate crisis, that occurs before the OAE 1a, could be due to both rise in sea-level and in marine surface water fertility, whereas its “acme” that occurs within the OAE 1a, could be related to CO2-induced ocean acidification. Black shales of the “Niveau Goguel” occur in the upper part of the OAE 1a and represent the lower part of segment C6. Surface-waters primary producers are principally represented by cyanobacteria, whereas nannofossil primary productivity is reduced, and deep-water anoxia prevailed during the deposition of “the Niveau Goguel”. The last 300 kyr of the OAE 1a are characterized by a partial recovery of both nannofossil primary productivity and pelagic carbonate production, which sharply increase just after the end of the event. This study also shows that organic-rich layers associated to the OAE 1a are diachronous in the Tethyan realm.

Continue reading ‘The palaeoceanographic crisis of the Early Aptian (OAE 1a) in the Vocontian Basin (SE France)’

Possible roles of glutamine synthetase in responding to environmental changes in a scleractinian coral

Glutamine synthetase is an enzyme that plays an essential role in the metabolism of nitrogen by catalyzing the condensation of glutamate and ammonia to form glutamine. In this study, the activity and responses of glutamine synthetase towards environmental changes were investigated in the scleractinian coral Pocillopora damicornis. The identified glutamine synthetase (PdGS) was comprised of 362 amino acids and predicted to contain one Gln-synt_N and one Gln-synt_C domain. Expression of PdGS mRNA increased significantly after 12 h (1.28-fold, p < 0.05) of exposure to elevated ammonium, while glutamine synthetase activity increased significantly from 12 to 24 h, peaking at 12 h (54.80 U mg−1, p < 0.05). The recombinant protein of the mature PdGS (rPdGS) was expressed in E. coli BL21, and its activities were detected under different temperature, pH and glufosinate levels. The highest levels of rPdGS activity were observed at 25 °C and pH 8 respectively, but decreased significantly at lower temperature, and higher or lower pH. Furthermore, the level of rPdGS activities was negatively correlated with the concentration of glufosinate, specifically decreasing at 10−5 mol L−1 glufosinate to be less than 50% (p < 0.05) of that in the blank. These results collectively suggest that PdGS, as a homologue of glutamine synthetase, was involved in the nitrogen assimilation in the scleractinian coral. Further, its physiological functions could be suppressed by high temperature, ocean acidification and residual glufosinate, which might further regulate the coral-zooxanthella symbiosis via the nitrogen metabolism in the scleractinian coral P. damicornis.

Continue reading ‘Possible roles of glutamine synthetase in responding to environmental changes in a scleractinian coral’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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