Posts Tagged 'biological response'

The future of seaweed aquaculture in a rapidly changing world

Human activities are having increasingly negative impacts on the natural environment. The rapidly expanding human population has led to a shortage of resources and the ability to support the growing population sustainably is a major challenge for the future. Coastal environments, including natural seaweed communities, provide a range of important ecosystem services. Since seaweed aquaculture beds (SABs) provide many of the services associated with natural seaweed communities they have a potential role in providing solutions such as CO2 sequestration, provision of food and the supply of useful chemicals. However, the productivity of natural seaweed communities and SABs is under threat from the rapid changes in climate that the planet is experiencing. Here we examine the likely effects of global change, in particular elevated CO2 and ocean acidification, increased temperatures and elevated levels of UVB, on the performance of seaweeds. While it is clear that rising temperatures and elevated CO2 and their interactions with other environmental factors are likely to have profound effects on macroalgal production, such effects are likely to be species dependent. We also examine the fate of organic matter from seaweeds and the potential for using SAB productivity as a contributor to blue carbon as a strategy for amelioration of increases in anthropogenic CO2 emissions. There is considerable potential for increased drawdown of CO2 by SABs, though its effectiveness in amelioration of atmospheric CO2 increase will depend on the fate of the resulting biomass.

Continue reading ‘The future of seaweed aquaculture in a rapidly changing world’

Effects of high pCO2 on early life development of pelagic spawning marine fish

The present study investigated the effect of elevated pCO2 on the development of early stages of the pelagic spawning marine fish Solea senegalensis, Diplodus sargus and Argyrosomus regius. Eggs and larvae were reared under control (pH 8.0, ~570 μatm) and two elevated pCO2 conditions (pH 7.8, ~1100 μatm; pH 7.6, ~1900 μatm) until mouth opening (3 days post-hatching). Egg size did not change with exposure to elevated pCO2, but hatching rate was significantly reduced under high pCO2 for all three species. Survival rate was not affected by exposure to increased pCO2, but growth rate was differently affected across species, with A. regius growing faster in the mid-level pCO2 treatment compared with control conditions. S. senegalensis and A. regius hatched with smaller yolk sacs under increased pCO2 but endogenous reserves of D. sargus were not affected. Otoliths were consistently larger under elevated pCO2 conditions for all the three species. Differences among egg batches and a significant interaction between batch and pCO2 suggest that other factors, such as egg quality, can influence the response to increased pCO2. Overall, the results support the occurrence of a species-specific response to pCO2, but highlight the need for cautious analysis of potential sensitivity of species from unreplicated observations.

Continue reading ‘Effects of high pCO2 on early life development of pelagic spawning marine fish’

Diversity and stability of coral endolithic microbial communities at a naturally high pCO2 reef

The health and functioning of reef-building corals is dependent on a balanced association with prokaryotic and eukaryotic microbes. The coral skeleton harbours numerous endolithic microbes, but their diversity, ecological roles and responses to environmental stress, including ocean acidification (OA), are not well characterized. This study tests whether pH affects the diversity and structure of prokaryotic and eukaryotic algal communities associated with skeletons of Porites spp. using targeted amplicon (16S rRNA gene, UPA and tufA) sequencing. We found that the composition of endolithic communities in the massive coral Porites spp. inhabiting a naturally high pCO2 reef (avg. pCO2 811 μatm) is not significantly different from corals inhabiting reference sites (avg. pCO2 357 μatm), suggesting that these microbiomes are less disturbed by OA than previously thought. Possible explanations may be that the endolithic microhabitat is highly homeostatic or that the endolithic micro-organisms are well adapted to a wide pH range. Some of the microbial taxa identified include nitrogen-fixing bacteria (Rhizobiales and cyanobacteria), algicidal bacteria in the phylum Bacteroidetes, symbiotic bacteria in the family Endozoicomoniaceae, and endolithic green algae, considered the major microbial agent of reef bioerosion. Additionally, we test whether host species has an effect on the endolithic community structure. We show that the endolithic community of massive Porites spp. is substantially different and more diverse than that found in skeletons of the branching species Seriatopora hystrix and Pocillopora damicornis. This study reveals highly diverse and structured microbial communities in Porites spp. skeletons that are possibly resilient to OA.

Continue reading ‘Diversity and stability of coral endolithic microbial communities at a naturally high pCO2 reef’

The role of natural variability in shaping the response of coral reef organisms to climate change

Purpose of Review

We investigate whether regimes of greater daily variability in temperature or pH result in greater tolerance to ocean warming and acidification in key reef-building taxa (corals, coralline algae).

Recent Findings

Temperature and pH histories will likely influence responses to future warming and acidification. Past exposure of corals to increased temperature variability generally leads to greater thermotolerance. However, the effects of past pH variability are unclear. Variability in pH or temperature will likely modify responses during exposure to stressors, independent of environmental history. In the laboratory, pH variability often limited the effects of ocean acidification, but the effects of temperature variability on responses to warming were equivocal.


Environmental variability could alter responses of coral reef organisms to climate change. Determining how both environmental history as well as the direct impacts of environmental variability will interact with the effects of anthropogenic climate change should now be high priority.

Continue reading ‘The role of natural variability in shaping the response of coral reef organisms to climate change’

Local habitat influences on feeding and respiration of the intertidal mussels Perumytilus purpuratus exposed to increased pCO2 levels

Coastal ecosystems are exposed to changes in physical-chemical properties, such as those occurring in upwelling and freshwater-influenced areas. In these areas, inorganic carbon can influence seawater properties that may affect organisms and populations inhabiting benthic habitats such as the intertidal mussel Perumytilus purpuratus. Feeding and metabolic responses were measured in adult mussels from two geographic regions (central and southern Chile) and two local habitats (river-influenced and non-river-influenced) and three pCO2 levels (380, 750, and 1200 μatm pCO2 in seawater). The feeding rates of mussels tend to increase at high pCO2 levels in seawater; however this response was variable across regions and local habitats. In contrast, there was no difference in the respiratory rate of mussels between geographic areas, but there was a significant reduction of oxygen consumption at intermediate and high levels of pCO2. The results indicate that river-influenced organisms compensate for reductions in metabolic cost at elevated pCO2 levels by having their energy demands met, in contrast with non-river-influenced organisms. The lack of regional-scale variability in the physiological performance of mussels may indicate physiological homogeneity across populations and thus potential for local adaptation. However, the local-scale influences of river- and non-river-influenced habitats may counterbalance this regional response promoting intra-population variability and phenotypic plasticity in P. purpuratus. The plasticity may be an important mechanism that allows mussels to confront the challenges of projected ocean acidification scenarios.

Continue reading ‘Local habitat influences on feeding and respiration of the intertidal mussels Perumytilus purpuratus exposed to increased pCO2 levels’

Southern Ocean pteropods at risk from ocean warming and acidification

Early life stages of marine calcifiers are particularly vulnerable to climate change. In the Southern Ocean aragonite undersaturation events and areas of rapid warming already occur and are predicted to increase in extent. Here, we present the first study to successfully hatch the polar pteropod Limacina helicina antarctica and observe the potential impact of exposure to increased temperature and aragonite undersaturation resulting from ocean acidification (OA) on the early life stage survival and shell morphology. High larval mortality (up to 39%) was observed in individuals exposed to perturbed conditions. Warming and OA induced extensive shell malformation and dissolution, respectively, increasing shell fragility. Furthermore, shell growth decreased, with variation between treatments and exposure time. Our results demonstrate that short-term exposure through passing through hotspots of OA and warming poses a serious threat to pteropod recruitment and long-term population viability.

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Competitive interactions moderate the effects of elevated temperature and atmospheric CO2 on the health and functioning of oysters

Global increases in sea temperatures and atmospheric concentrations of CO2 may affect the health of calcifying shellfish. Little is known, however, about how competitive interactions within and between species may influence how species respond to multiple stressors. We experimentally assessed separate and combined effects of temperature (12 or 16°C) and atmospheric CO2 concentrations (400 and 1000 ppm) on the health and biological functioning of native (Ostrea edulis) and invasive (Crassostrea gigas) oysters held alone and in intraspecific or interspecific mixtures. We found evidence of reduced phagocytosis under elevated CO2 and, when combined with increased temperature, a reduction in the number of circulating haemocytes. Generally, C. gigas showed lower respiration rates relative to O. edulis when the species were in intraspecific or interspecific mixtures. In contrast, O. edulis showed a higher respiration rate relative to C. gigas when held in an interspecific mixture and exhibited lower clearance rates when held in intraspecific or interspecific mixtures. Overall, clearance rates of C. gigas were consistently greater than those of O. edulis. Collectively, our findings indicate that a species’ ability to adapt metabolic processes to environmental conditions can be modified by biotic context and may make some species (here, C. gigas) competitively superior and less vulnerable to future climatic scenarios at local scales. If these conclusions are generic, the relative role of species interactions, and other biotic parameters, in altering the outcomes of climate change will require much greater research emphasis.

Continue reading ‘Competitive interactions moderate the effects of elevated temperature and atmospheric CO2 on the health and functioning of oysters’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book