Posts Tagged 'biological response'

Predation in high CO2 waters: prey fish from high-risk environments are less susceptible to ocean acidification

Most studies investigating the effects of anthropogenic environmental stressors do so in conditions that are often optimal for their test subjects, ignoring natural stressors such as competition or predation. As such, the quantitative results from such studies may often underestimate the lethality of certain toxic compounds. A well-known example of this concept is illustrated by the marked increase in the lethality of pesticides when larval amphibians are concurrently exposed to the odor of potential predators. Here, we investigated the interaction between background levels of environmental predation risk (high vs. low) and ocean acidification (ambient vs. elevated CO2) in 2 × 2 design. Wild-caught juvenile damselfish, Pomacentrus amboinensis, were exposed in the laboratory to the different risk and CO2 conditions for 4 days and released onto coral reef patches. Using a well-established field assay, we monitored the in situ behavior and mortality of the damselfish for 2 days. We predicted that juvenile fish exposed to elevated CO2 and high-risk conditions would display more severe behavioral impairments and increased mortality compared to fish exposed to elevated CO2 maintained under low-risk conditions. As expected, elevated CO2 exposure led to impaired antipredator responses and increased mortality in low-risk fish compared to ambient CO2 controls. However, we failed to find an effect of elevated CO2 on the behavior and survival of the high-risk fish. We hypothesized that the results may stem from either a behavioral compensation or a physiological response to high risk. Our results provide insights into the interactive nature of environmental and natural stressors and advance our understanding of the predicted effect of ocean acidification on aquatic ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Predation in high CO2 waters: prey fish from high-risk environments are less susceptible to ocean acidification’

Ocean acidification alters the burrowing behaviour, Ca2+/Mg2+-ATPase activity, metabolism, and gene expression of a bivalve species, Sinonovacula constricta

Although the impacts of ocean acidification on fertilization, embryonic development, calcification, immune response, and behaviour have been well studied in a variety of marine organisms, the physiological and molecular mechanism manifesting acidification stress on behavioural response remains poorly understood. Therefore, the impacts of future ocean acidification scenarios (pH at 7.8, 7.6, and 7.4) on the burrowing behaviour, Ca2+/Mg2+-ATPase activity, metabolism, and expression of energy-producing-related genes of the razor clam Sinonovacula constricta were investigated in the present study. The results showed that elevated CO2 partial pressure ( pCO2) (pH at 7.6 and 7.4) led to a significant reduction in the digging depth of the razor clam. In addition, exposure to pCO2-acidified seawater depressed the metabolism and activity of Ca2+/Mg2+-ATPase, which may partially contribute to the reduced digging depth detected. Furthermore, the expression of energy-producing-related genes was generally induced by exposure to acidified seawater and could be accounted for by an increased energy demand under acidification stress. The results obtained suggest ocean acidification may exert a behavioural impact through altering physiological condition in the razor clam.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification alters the burrowing behaviour, Ca2+/Mg2+-ATPase activity, metabolism, and gene expression of a bivalve species, Sinonovacula constricta’

Effects of ocean acidification and eutrophication on the macroalgae Ulva spp.

Ocean acidification is the increased absorption of atmospheric CO2 in seawater and the consequent decrease in pH. This phenomenon is occurring throughout the global oceans while land use changes and large human populations near coasts are linked to increased nutrient concentrations in seawater. Ulva spp. blooms caused by nutrient enrichment occur regularly in some parts of the world and are known as green tides. There is concern that ocean acidification may increase green tides and intensify ecological and economic damages. Ulva spp. can utilize bicarbonate (HCO3-) as an inorganic carbon source, but this comes at an energetic cost as HCO3- must be converted to CO2 before it can be used for carbon fixation. Therefore, increased utilization of pCO2 with ocean acidification may benefit Ulva spp. Ocean acidification and eutrophication will occur simultaneously in many coastal ecosystems. The goal of the following investigations was to determine the effects of ocean acidification and nutrient enrichment alone and their interaction on photosynthetic, nutrient, and growth physiology of Ulva spp. In Chapter 2, the response of Ulva australis to pHT and ammonium (NH4+) enrichment were investigated in a seven day growth experiment using a range of pHT (7.56 – 7.84) and ambient and enriched NH4+ concentrations. I measured relative growth rates (RGRs), NH4+ uptake rates and pools, photosynthetic characteristics, and tissue carbon and nitrogen content. There was no interaction of pHT and NH4+ enrichment on the physiological parameters. The RGR was not affected by pHT, but was an average of two times higher in the enriched NH4+ treatment. rETRmax, total chlorophyll, and tissue nitrogen increased with both NH4+ enrichment and decreased pHT. The C:N ratio decreased with decreasing pH and with NH4+ enrichment. Although rETRmax increased and the C:N ratio decreased under decreased pH, these metabolic changes did not translate to higher growth rates. The results show that U. australis growth and physiology is more sensitive to NH4+ than it is to pH and that there is no interactive effect of NH4+ enrichment and decreasing pH. In Chapter 3, Ulva lactuca was grown for 22 days under a range of pCO2 and NH4+ concentrations and a multiple linear regression was used to analyze RGRs, NH4+ and NO3- pools, in situ NH4+ and NO3- uptake rates, tissue carbon and nitrogen content, carbohydrate and protein concentrations, and photosynthesis irradiance curves (P-I curves). The results from model selection and model-averaging techniques allowed me to make predictive models across a range of relevant ocean acidification and eutrophication scenarios and measure the effect sizes of pCO2, NH4+ enrichment, and their interaction. Overall, there was no effect of pCO2 and NH4+ on RGRs after day 5. However, there was a synergistic effect of pCO2 and NH4+ enrichment on the growth rates during days 0 – 5. When pCO2 and NH4+ concentrations increased simultaneously, NO3- uptake rates increased, which may have contributed to increased growth as seen in days 0 – 5. Maximum photosynthetic rates (Pmax) decreased with increasing pCO2 and there was a positive interaction of pCO2 and NH4+ on indicating CCMs were altered under these conditions. This shows that under high light intensities, Pmax was negatively affected by pCO2 and CCMs are not altered when nutrients are limited. Ultimately, there was no longer-term effect of ocean acidification and eutrophication on Ulva lactuca growth. Nutrient enrichment is a major cause of green tide blooms around the world and Ulva australis had the ability to enhance nutrient, photosynthetic, and growth physiology with NH4+ enrichment. Conversely, Ulva lactuca collected from a eutrophic environment, did not respond to NH4+ in terms of growth. Both chapters provided evidence that ocean acidification is unlikely to affect the growth rates of Ulva spp. However, the exception was a positive interactive effect of pCO2 and NH4+ enrichment on the growth rate of U. lactuca during the first five days, suggesting ocean acidification could play a role in initiating Ulva spp. blooms in a eutrophic environment. This could be an important consideration for determining how green tides will be affected by ocean acidification in coastal areas where nutrient enrichment occurs in pulses, resulting in transiently increased nitrogen concentrations.

Continue reading ‘Effects of ocean acidification and eutrophication on the macroalgae Ulva spp.’

Inorganic carbon availability in benthic diatom communities: photosynthesis and migration

Diatom-dominated microphytobenthos (MPB) is the main primary producer of many intertidal and shallow subtidal environments, being therefore of critical importance to estuarine and coastal food webs. Owing to tidal cycles, intertidal MPB diatoms are subjected to environmental conditions far more variable than the ones experienced by pelagic diatoms (e.g. light, temperature, salinity, desiccation and nutrient availability). Nevertheless, benthic diatoms evolved adaptation mechanisms to these harsh conditions, including the capacity to move within steep physical and chemical gradients, allowing them to perform photosynthesis efficiently. In this contribution, we will review present knowledge on the effects of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) availability on photosynthesis and productivity of diatom-dominated MPB. We present evidence of carbon limitation of photosynthesis in benthic diatom mats and highly productive MPB natural communities. Furthermore, we hypothesize that active vertical migration of epipelic motile diatoms could overcome local depletion of DIC in the photic layer, providing the cells alternately with light and inorganic carbon supply. The few available longer-term experiments on the effects of inorganic carbon enrichment on the productivity of diatom-dominated MPB have yielded inconsistent results. Therefore, further studies are needed to properly assess the response of MPB communities to increased CO2 and ocean acidification related to climate change.

Continue reading ‘Inorganic carbon availability in benthic diatom communities: photosynthesis and migration’

Effects of elevated CO2 on phytoplankton community biomass and species composition during a spring Phaeocystis spp. bloom in the western English Channel

A 21-year time series of phytoplankton community structure was analysed in relation to Phaeocystis spp. to elucidate its contribution to the annual carbon budget at station L4 in the western English Channel (WEC).

Between 1993–2014 Phaeocystis spp. contributed ∼4.6% of the annual phytoplankton carbon and during the March − May spring bloom, the mean Phaeocystis spp. biomass constituted 17% with a maximal contribution of 47% in 2001. Upper maximal weekly values above the time series mean ranged from 63 to 82% of the total phytoplankton carbon (∼42–137 mg carbon (C) m−3) with significant inter-annual variability in Phaeocystis spp. Maximal biomass usually occurred by the end of April, although in some cases as early as mid-April (2007) and as late as late May (2013).

The effects of elevated pCO2 on the Phaeocystis spp. spring bloom were investigated during a fifteen-day semi-continuous microcosm experiment. The phytoplankton community biomass was estimated at ∼160 mg C m−3 and was dominated by nanophytoplankton (40%, excluding Phaeocystis spp.), Phaeocystis spp. (30%) and cryptophytes (12%). The smaller fraction of the community biomass comprised picophytoplankton (9%), coccolithophores (3%), Synechococcus (3%), dinoflagellates (1.5%), ciliates (1%) and diatoms (0.5%). Over the experimental period, total biomass increased significantly by 90% to ∼305 mg C m−3 in the high CO2 treatment while the ambient pCO2 control showed no net gains. Phaeocystis spp. exhibited the greatest response to the high CO2 treatment, increasing by 330%, from ∼50 mg C m−3 to over 200 mg C m−3 and contributing ∼70% of the total biomass.

Taken together, the results of our microcosm experiment and analysis of the time series suggest that a future high CO2 scenario may favour dominance of Phaeocystis spp. during the spring bloom. This has significant implications for the formation of hypoxic zones and the alteration of food web structure including inhibitory feeding effects and lowered fecundity in many copepod species.

Continue reading ‘Effects of elevated CO2 on phytoplankton community biomass and species composition during a spring Phaeocystis spp. bloom in the western English Channel’

Genome-wide identification, characterization and expression analyses of TLRs in Yesso scallop (Patinopecten yessoensis) provide insight into the disparity of responses to acidifying exposure in bivalves


  • Eighteen TLR superfamily members were identified in the P. yessoensis genome.
  • Phylogenetic analysis confirmed duplication and expansion of TLR genes in mollusk.
  • The 18 PyTLRs showed different immune response patterns to acidifying exposure.
  • Adaptive recruitment of tandem duplication of TLR genes have been arisen to the immune stress.


Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a crucial role in innate immunity by recognizing specific pathogen-associated molecular patterns, including lipoproteins, lipopeptides, lipopolysaccharide, flagellin, dsRNA, ssRNA and CpG DNA motifs. Although significant effects of TLRs on immunity have been reported in most vertebrates and some invertebrates, the complete TLR superfamily has not been systematically characterized in scallops. In this study, 18 TLR genes were identified from Yesso scallop (Patinopecten yessoensis) using whole-genome scanning. Phylogenetic and protein structural analyses were performed to determine the identities and evolutionary relationships of the 18 genes. Extensive expansion of TLR genes from the Yesso scallop genome indicated gene duplication events. In addition, expression profiling of PyTLRs was performed at different acidifying exposure levels (pH = 6.50, 7.50) with different challenge durations (3, 6, 12 and 24 h) via in silico analysis using transcriptome and genome databases. Our results confirmed the inducible expression patterns of PyTLRs under acidifying exposure, and the responses to immune stress may have arisen through adaptive recruitment of tandem duplications of TLR genes. Collectively, this study provides novel insight into PyTLRs as well as the specific role and response of TLR signaling pathways in host immune responses against acidifying exposure in bivalves.


Continue reading ‘Genome-wide identification, characterization and expression analyses of TLRs in Yesso scallop (Patinopecten yessoensis) provide insight into the disparity of responses to acidifying exposure in bivalves’

The effects of ocean warming and acidification on seaweed growth and urchin grazing

Human produced carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are currently higher than previously recorded and are continuing to rise at alarming rates. This greenhouse gas is the primary driver for changing climate scenarios highlighted by an approximate 1°C increase in sea surface temperatures. In addition to driving global warming, CO2 is readily absorbed by the oceans, resulting in changes in seawater chemistry and a decrease in seawater pH (acidification). The singular effects of ocean warming and acidification are known to impact marine organisms; lesser known, however, are the combined effects of these stressors, particularly on biotic interactions. This study aimed to expand on the knowledge of how these abiotic stressors affect seaweed and seaweed-herbivore interactions by comparing seaweed growth and herbivore feeding rate and selectivity under combinations of current and modelled future temperature (18°C and 21°C) and pH (8.1 and 7.8) conditions. Growth rates of two seaweed species, a calcified red alga (Lithothrix aspergillum) and a non-calcified brown alga (giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera), were compared among manipulated seawater conditions. In addition, the feeding rates and feeding selectivity of a common sea urchin herbivore (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) for these two seaweeds were compared among water conditions. Lithothrix was not affected by the singular effects of pH or temperature but under combined future temperature and pH conditions, the seaweed performed poorly. While acidification is known to affect the ability of calcifying species to deposit calcium carbonate, Lithothrix appeared to only be impacted by acidification under temperature stress. Macrocystis, on the other hand, performed significantly better under future acidic conditions, regardless of temperature, as it likely experienced an increase in photosynthetic rate driven by high CO2 concentrations. Urchin herbivory rates were elevated for both seaweeds grown under acidification scenarios, possibly due to increased grazing susceptibility of Lithothrix during poor calcification/decalcification conditions and Macrocystis during new growth conditions. Feeding preference trials were inconsistent with feeding rate patterns as urchins exhibited low overall consumption and no selectivity for either seaweed under any water condition. Although the impacts of warming and acidification on growth of seaweeds and susceptibility to grazing by urchins are variable among taxa, potential future stressors are likely to alter seaweed population and seaweed-herbivore dynamics.

Continue reading ‘The effects of ocean warming and acidification on seaweed growth and urchin grazing’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book