Posts Tagged 'BRcommunity'

Ocean acidification drives gut microbiome changes linked to species-specific immune defence

Ocean acidification (OA) has important effects on the intrinsic phenotypic characteristics of many marine organisms. Concomitantly, OA can alter the extended phenotypes of these organisms by perturbing the structure and function of their associated microbiomes. It is unclear, however, the extent to which interactions between these levels of phenotypic change can modulate the capacity for resilience to OA. Here, we explored this theoretical framework assessing the influence of OA on intrinsic (immunological responses and energy reserve) and extrinsic (gut microbiome) phenotypic characteristics and the survival of important calcifiers, the edible oysters Crassostrea angulata and C. hongkongensis. After one-month exposure to experimental OA (pH 7.4) and control (pH 8.0) conditions, we found species-specific responses characterised by elevated stress (hemocyte apoptosis) and decreased survival in the coastal species (C. angulata) compared with the estuarine species (C. hongkongensis). Phagocytosis of hemocytes was not affected by OA but in vitro bacterial clearance capability decreased in both species. Gut microbial diversity decreased in C. angulata but not in C. hongkongensis. Overall, C. hongkongensis was capable of maintaining the homeostasis of the immune system and energy supply under OA. In contrast, C. angulata’s immune function was suppressed, and the energy reserve was imbalanced, which might be attributed to the declined microbial diversity and the functional loss of essential bacteria in the guts. This study highlights a species-specific response to OA determined by genetic background and local adaptation, shedding light on the understanding of host-microbiota-environment interactions in future coastal acidification.

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Elevated CO2 reduces copper accumulation and toxicity in the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana

The projected ocean acidification (OA) associated with increasing atmospheric CO2 alters seawater chemistry and hence the bio-toxicity of metal ions. However, it is still unclear how OA might affect the long-term resilience of globally important marine microalgae to anthropogenic metal stress. To explore the effect of increasing pCO2 on copper metabolism in the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana (CCMP 1335), we employed an integrated eco-physiological, analytical chemistry, and transcriptomic approach to clarify the effect of increasing pCO2 on copper metabolism of Thalassiosira pseudonana across different temporal (short-term vs. long-term) and spatial (indoor laboratory experiments vs. outdoor mesocosms experiments) scales. We found that increasing pCO2 (1,000 and 2,000 μatm) promoted growth and photosynthesis, but decreased copper accumulation and alleviated its bio-toxicity to T. pseudonana. Transcriptomics results indicated that T. pseudonana altered the copper detoxification strategy under OA by decreasing copper uptake and enhancing copper-thiol complexation and copper efflux. Biochemical analysis further showed that the activities of the antioxidant enzymes glutathione peroxidase (GPX), catalase (CAT), and phytochelatin synthetase (PCS) were enhanced to mitigate oxidative damage of copper stress under elevated CO2. Our results provide a basis for a better understanding of the bioremediation capacity of marine primary producers, which may have profound effect on the security of seafood quality and marine ecosystem sustainability under further climate change.

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No effect of ocean acidification on growth, photosynthesis, or dissolved organic carbon release by three temperate seaweeds with different dissolved inorganic carbon uptake strategies

In a future ocean, dissolved organic carbon (DOC) release by seaweed has been considered a pathway for organic carbon that is not incorporated into growth under carbon dioxide (CO2) enrichment/ocean acidification (OA). To understand the influence of OA on seaweed DOC release, a 21-day experiment compared the physiological responses of three seaweed species, two which operate CO2 concentrating mechanisms (CCMs), Ecklonia radiata (C. Agardh) J. Agardh and Lenormandia marginata (Hooker F. and Harvey) and one that only uses CO2 (non-CCM), Plocamium cirrhosum (Turner) M.J. Wynne. These two groups (CCM and non-CCM) are predicted to respond differently to OA dependent on their affinities for Ci (defined as CO2 + bicarbonate, HCO3). Future ocean CO2 treatment did not drive changes to seaweed physiology—growth, Ci uptake, DOC production, photosynthesis, respiration, pigments, % tissue carbon, nitrogen, and C:N ratios—for any species, regardless of Ci uptake method. Our results further showed that Ci uptake method did not influence DOC release rates under OA. Our results show no benefit of elevated CO2 concentrations on the physiologies of the three species under OA and suggest that in a future ocean, photosynthetic CO2 fixation rates of these seaweeds will not increase with Ci concentration.

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Evaluation of the current understanding of the impact of climate change on coral physiology after three decades of experimental research

After three decades of coral research on the impacts of climate change, there is a wide consensus on the adverse effects of heat-stress, but the impacts of ocean acidification (OA) are not well established. Using a review of published studies and an experimental analysis, we confirm the large species-specific component of the OA response, which predicts moderate impacts on coral physiology and pigmentation by 2100 (scenario-B1 or SSP2-4.5), in contrast with the severe disturbances induced by only +2 °C of thermal anomaly. Accordingly, global warming represents a greater threat for coral calcification than OA. The incomplete understanding of the moderate OA response relies on insufficient attention to key regulatory processes of these symbioses, particularly the metabolic dependence of coral calcification on algal photosynthesis and host respiration. Our capacity to predict the future of coral reefs depends on a correct identification of the main targets and/or processes impacted by climate change stressors.

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Seasonal net calcification by secondary calcifiers in coral reefs of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean

This study assesses whether secondary calcification is driven by a contrasting seasonal pattern (rainy vs dry) that occurs in the Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP). Secondary calcifiers net calcification rates and coverage were measured in two reefs: the semi-enclosed Bahía Tiburón reef (BT [21°52′30 “N, 105°54/54 “W]) and the open Las Monas fringing reef (LM [21°51ʹ00ʹʹN, 105°52ʹ45ʹʹW]). Measurements were made from 2013 to 2016 using Calcification Accretion Units (CAUs). Seawater temperature, illuminance, pCO2, pH, ΩCa, and ΩAr were also measured. Low means of pCO2, and high means of ΩCa and ΩAr, were measured during the rainy season. At Las Monas, the composition of the calcifier community differed between seasons. A seasonal effect on net calcification was recorded in the semi-enclosed reef and in the exposed microhabitat of both reefs. Overall, net calcification (mean ± SD) was 1.17 ± 1.13 g·CaCO3·m−2·day−1. Calcification in the open fringing reef (1.51 ± 1.32 g·CaCO3·m−2·day−1) was almost double that in the semi-enclosed reef (0.83 ± 0.78 g·CaCO3·m−2·day−1). Calcification also decreased dramatically between 2014 (1.57 g·CaCO3·m−2·day−1) and 2016 (0.99 g·CaCO3·m−2·day−1). The ENSO event of 2015 raised the water temperature almost 1 °C above the decadal average, which led to a mass coral bleaching in both reefs. That thermal stress might explain the calcification decline in 2015–2016, but probably also obscured a clearer seasonal pattern in net calcification. This study is the first to show that anomalous and persistent high seawater temperatures can affect carbonate production by secondary calcifiers.

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Climate change amelioration by marine producers: does dominance predict impact?

Climate change threatens biodiversity worldwide, and assessing how those changes will impact communities will be critical for conservation. Dominant primary producers can alter local-scale environmental conditions, reducing temperature via shading and mitigating ocean acidification via photosynthesis, which could buffer communities from the impacts of climate change. We conducted two experiments on the coast of southeastern Alaska to assess the effects of a common seaweed species, Neorhodomela oregona, on temperature and pH in field tide pools and tide pool mesocosms. We found that N. oregona was numerically dominant in this system, covering >60% of habitable space in the pools and accounting for >40% of live cover. However, while N. oregona had a density-dependent effect on pH in isolated mesocosms, we did not find a consistent effect of N. oregona on either pH or water temperature in tide pools in the field. These results suggest that the amelioration of climate change impacts in immersed marine ecosystems by primary producers is not universal and likely depends on species’ functional attributes, including photosynthetic rate and physical structure, in addition to abundance or dominance.

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Natural photosynthetic microboring communities produce alkalinity in seawater whereas aragonite saturation state rises up to five

Bioerosion, resulting from microbioerosion or biogenic dissolution, macrobioerosion and grazing, is one the main processes involved in reef carbonate budget and functioning. On healthy reefs, most of the produced carbonates are preserved and accumulate. But in the context of global change, reefs are increasingly degraded as environmental factors such as ocean warming and acidification affect negatively reef accretion and positively bioerosion processes. The recent 2019 SROCC report suggests that if CO2 emissions in the atmosphere are not drastically reduced rapidly, 70%–99% of coral reefs will disappear by 2,100. However, to improve projections of coral reef evolution, it is important to better understand dynamics of bioerosion processes. Among those processes, it was shown recently that bioeroding microflora which actively colonize and dissolve experimental coral blocks, release significant amount of alkalinity in seawater both by day and at night under controlled conditions. It was also shown that this alkalinity production is enhanced under ocean acidification conditions (saturation state of aragonite comprised between 2 and 3.5) suggesting that reef carbonate accumulation will be even more limited in the future. To better understand the conditions of production of alkalinity in seawater by boring microflora and its possible consequences on reef resilience, we conducted a series of experiments with natural rubble maintained under natural or artificial light, and various saturation states of aragonite. We show here that biogenic dissolution of natural reef rubble colonized by microboring communities dominated by the chlorophyte Ostreobium sp., and thus the production of alkalinity in seawater, can occur under a large range of saturation states of aragonite, from 2 to 6.4 under daylight and that this production is directly correlated to the photosynthetic activity of microboring communities. We then discuss the possible implications of such paradoxical activities on reef resilience.

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Water motion and pH jointly impact the availability of dissolved inorganic carbon to macroalgae

The supply of dissolved inorganic carbon to seaweeds is a key factor regulating photosynthesis. Thinner diffusive boundary layers at the seaweed surface or greater seawater carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations increase CO2 supply to the seaweed surface. This may benefit seaweeds by alleviating carbon limitation either via an increased supply of CO2 that is taken up by passive diffusion, or via the down-regulation of active carbon concentrating mechanisms (CCMs) that enable the utilization of the abundant ion bicarbonate (HCO3). Laboratory experiments showed that a 5 times increase in water motion increases DIC uptake efficiency in both a non-CCM (Hymenena palmata, Rhodophyta) and CCM (Xiphophora gladiata, Phaeophyceae) seaweed. In a field survey, brown and green seaweeds with active-CCMs maintained their CCM activity under diverse conditions of water motion. Whereas red seaweeds exhibited flexible photosynthetic rates depending on CO2 availability, and species switched from a non-CCM strategy in wave-exposed sites to an active-CCM strategy in sheltered sites where mass transfer of CO2 would be reduced. 97–99% of the seaweed assemblages at both wave-sheltered and exposed sites consisted of active-CCM species. Variable sensitivities to external CO2 would drive different responses to increasing CO2 availability, although dominance of the CCM-strategy suggests this will have minimal impact within shallow seaweed assemblages.

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Transgenerational transfer of the microbiome is altered by ocean acidification in oyster larvae

Ocean acidification will affect marine molluscs, however, transgenerational plasticity (TGP) can ameliorate some effects. Marine molluscs acquire members of their microbiome via the egg, yet we know little about how the microbiome can be influenced by transgenerational exposure to ocean acidification. We exposed adult Sydney Rock oysters (Saccostrea glomerata) from four genotypes to elevated and ambient PCO2 for nine weeks. Larvae were then raised in the same ambient and elevated PCO2 conditions. The relative abundance of bacteria in eggs and larvae were characterised using 16S RNA amplicon sequencing. Parental exposure to elevated PCO2 significantly altered the bacterial community composition of both eggs and larvae, but this was dependent on genotype. Parental exposure to elevated PCO2 caused five core Rhodobacteraceae ASVs to increase in relative abundance, and three Rhodobacteraceae ASVs to decrease in relative abundance. These findings show transfer of maternal microbiomes to larvae is altered by exposure to ocean acidification and this may play a role in TGP.

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Calcareous nannoplankton response to a high CO2 world: evidence from sediment traps (Aegean and Ionian Seas) and Pliocene paleofluxes

One of the most enigmatic features of long-term Cenozoic climatic evolution, with some analogue potential for present/ future global climate change, is the last sustained warm and high-atmospheric CO2 interval in Earth’s history. The Pliocene is the most recent period in Earth’s history when average global temperature, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and sea level were higher than today. This time period offers an appropriate interval to understand the climatic processes of a warm, high CO2 world, similar to the ongoing climatic conditions. Also, due to the high absorption capacity of the Eastern Mediterranean to anthropogenic CO2, the study area (Aegean and Ionian seas) is an ideal location to assess the impact of anthropogenic ocean acidification on calcifying organisms. The main objective of the present study is to investigate calcareous nannoplankton fluxes in the NE Mediterranean Sea as recorded by sediment traps and paleoceanographic records. The study material is collected from sediment traps in the Aegean and Ionian Seas and from the sedimentary record of the Eastern Mediterranean Deep Sea Drilling Project (DSDP Leg42A, Site 378). In the present study, coccolith fluxes from sediment traps were examined and compared in different sites of the Aegean and Ionian Seas. Data were compared in order to define the spatial and seasonal variability in assemblage composition and coccolithophore fluxes. The present study reflects in the coccolithophore export productivity the context of biogenic sedimentation in the water column. Furthermore, a water and sediment trap samples (N.Aegean Sea) analysis was carried out and through the comparison with data derived from surface sediment of the same site, valuable information were provided on the alterations observed in coccolithophore assemblage composition during their export from the euphotic zone to the seafloor. In addition, the morphometric analysis of coccoliths contributed to the investigation of water masses in the water column of the North Aegean Sea. In the DSDP core data we focus on the “warm Pliocene” interval, after the Zanclean “flooding” phenomenon in the Aegean after the Messinian Mediterranean Salinity Crisis (Zanclean reflooding). According to the detailed biostratigraphy and the derived age model, this study presents a composite dataset of the two boreholes of DSDP-Leg42A-Site 378 for the interval 3.8-5.08Ma. Subsequently, we studied how coccolithophores adapted to the Pliocene environment by quantifying their abundance through paleofluxes, species composition and correlation with geochemical paleo-indices analyses performed on the core material. In addition, the DSDP sedimentary record provided evidence on the Zanclean reflooding mechanism in the Cretan Basin. This study aims to improve our understanding of long-term adaptation strategies of calcareous nannoplankton in warm, high-CO2 climates by combining present-day evidence with Lower Pliocene fossil time series.

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Responses of corals and coral reef ecosystems to ocean acidification under variable temperature and light

Coral reefs are under increasing pressure from ocean acidification. However, much of our understanding is based on single-species aquarium experiments made in isolation from realistic environmental parameters (e.g. light, water flow, food supply) and other co occurring stressors (e.g. increasing sea surface temperatures, reduced water clarity due to terrestrial runoff). In my PhD project I aimed to understand how ocean acidification affects the ecophysiology of reef corals and reef communities in natural settings, and how effects may differ with concurrent exposure to variable temperature and light. I used a combination of experimental and observational studies at unique field sites with naturally high levels of CO2 (CO2 seep sites), and multi-factor experiments in the aquarium facilities of The Australian Institute of Marine Science’s National Sea Simulator to address these questions.

In chapter 2, I investigated if corals can acclimate to ocean acidification by switching their photosymbionts to types that may be able to utilise the more abundant CO2 in photosynthesis. I used molecular techniques to investigate the dominant photosymbiont types in six species of coral from the field and found them to be highly conserved within species between CO2 seep and control sites. In chapter 3, I used a combination of field surveys and a multifactor laboratory experiment to investigate if elevated CO2 increased the severity of coral thermal bleaching. Field surveys during a bleaching event at the CO2 seeps, as well as the experimental study, both showed that corals were not significantly more susceptible to thermal stress under high CO2. In chapter 4, I used a multifactor laboratory experiment to investigate if reduced or variable daily light availability affected the responses of corals to high CO2. Here I found that reductions in light levels, regardless of the variability in daily light integrals, can reduce coral growth rates more than high CO2. In chapter 5, I followed the development of early successional coral reef benthic communities on settlement tiles along a gradient of CO2 exposure at the seep sites, and further measured rates of community metabolism. Here high CO2 strongly influenced the development of communities, shifting them away from a dominance of calcifying taxa under present day conditions to a range of non-calcifying algae as CO2 levels increased. These high CO2 communities progressively recorded lower rates of calcification and higher rates of hotosynthesis at high CO2.

Results from this thesis show that the considerable changes to the CO2 seep benthic communities are likely due to secondary ecological effects, rather than the physiological effects on corals alone. Moreover, the negative effects of cooccurring stressors on corals and coral reefs will also be substantial. Hence there is an immediate need to reduce atmospheric CO2 emissions and improve the management of local stressors to prevent further declines to the health and functioning of coral reef ecosystems.

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Shelled pteropod abundance and distribution across the Mediterranean Sea during spring


  • First estimate of pteropod distribution across the Mediterranean Sea in spring.
  • Highest abundance recorded in the oligotrophic Eastern Mediterranean basin.
  • Temperature, aragonite saturation, oxygen and salinity main drivers of distribution.
  • Pteropods and planktic foraminifera are inversely distributed in the Med Sea.


Thecosome pteropods are a dominant group of calcifying pelagic molluscs and an important component of the food web. In this study, we characterise spring pteropod distribution throughout the Mediterranean Sea, an understudied region for this common group of marine calcifying organisms. This semi-enclosed sea is rapidly changing under climatic and anthropogenic forcings. The presence of surface water biogeochemical gradients from the Atlantic Ocean/Gibraltar Strait to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea allowed us to investigate pteropod distribution and their ecological preferences. In the ultra-oligotrophic Eastern Mediterranean Sea, we found the mean upper 200 m pteropod standing stock of 2.13 ind. m-3 was approximately 5x greater than the Western basin (mean 0.42 ind. m-3). Where standing stocks were high, pteropods appeared largely in the same family grouping belonging to Limacinidae. Temperature, O2 concentration, salinity, and aragonite saturation (Ωar) explain 96% of the observed variations in the community structure at the time of sampling, suggesting that pteropods might show a preference for environmental conditions with a lower energetic physiological demand. We also document that pteropods and planktonic foraminifera have an opposite geographical distribution in the Mediterranean Sea. Our findings indicate that in specific pelagic ultra-oligotrophic conditions, such as the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, different feeding strategies could play an important role in regulating calcifying zooplankton distribution.

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Biological responses of the predatory blue crab and its hard clam prey to ocean acidification and low salinity

How ocean acidification (OA) interacts with other stressors is understudied, particularly for predators and prey. We assessed long-term exposure to decreased pH and low salinity on (1) juvenile blue crab Callinectes sapidus claw pinch force, (2) juvenile hard clam Mercenaria mercenaria survival, growth, and shell structure, and (3) blue crab and hard clam interactions in filmed mesocosm trials. In 2018 and 2019, we held crabs and clams from the Chesapeake Bay, USA, in crossed pH (low: 7.0, high: 8.0) and salinity (low: 15, high: 30) treatments for 11 and 10 wk, respectively. Afterwards, we assessed crab claw pinch force and clam survival, growth, shell structure, and ridge rugosity. Claw pinch force increased with size in both years but weakened in low pH. Clam growth was negative, indicative of shell dissolution, in low pH in both years compared to the control. Growth was also negative in the 2019 high-pH/low-salinity treatment. Clam survival in both years was lowest in the low-pH/low-salinity treatment and highest in the high-pH/high-salinity treatment. Shell damage and ridge rugosity (indicative of deterioration) were intensified under low pH and negatively correlated with clam survival. Overall, clams were more severely affected by both stressors than crabs. In the filmed predator-prey interactions, pH did not substantially alter crab behavior, but crabs spent more time eating and burying in high-salinity treatments and more time moving in low-salinity treatments. Given the complex effects of pH and salinity on blue crabs and hard clams, projections about climate change on predator-prey interactions will be difficult and must consider multiple stressors.

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Acidification impacts and acclimation potential of Caribbean benthic foraminifera assemblages in naturally discharging low-pH water (update)

Ocean acidification (OA) is expected to negatively affect many ecologically important organisms. Here we report the response of Caribbean benthic foraminiferal assemblages to naturally discharging low-pH waters with a composition similar to that expected for the end of the 21st century. At low pH ∼ 7.8 and low saturation state with respect to calcite (Ωcalcite< 4), the relative abundance of hyaline, agglutinated, and symbiont-bearing species increased, indicating higher resistance to potential carbonate chemistry changes. Diversity and other taxonomical metrics (i.e., richness, abundance, and evenness) declined steeply with decreasing pH despite exposure of this ecosystem to low-pH conditions for millennia, suggesting that tropical foraminiferal communities will be negatively impacted under acidification scenarios SSP3-7.0 (Shared Socioeconomic Pathways) and SSP5-8.5. The species Archaias angulatus, a major contributor to sediment production in the Caribbean, was able to calcify at more extreme conditions (7.1 pH) than those projected for the late 21st century, but the calcified tests had a lower average density than those exposed to higher-pH conditions (7.96), indicating that reef foraminiferal carbonate production might decrease this century. Smaller foraminifera were particularly sensitive to low pH, and our results demonstrate their potential use to monitor OA conditions.

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Corals adapted to extreme and fluctuating seawater pH increase calcification rates and have unique symbiont communities

Ocean acidification (OA) is a severe threat to coral reefs mainly by reducing their calcification rate. Identifying the resilience factors of corals to decreasing seawater pH is of paramount importance to predict the survivability of coral reefs in the future. This study compared corals adapted to variable pH (i.e., 7.23-8.06 pH units) from the semi-enclosed lagoon of Bouraké, New Caledonia, to corals adapted to more stable seawater pH (i.e., 7.90-8.18 pH units). In a 100-day aquarium experiment, we examined the physiological response and genetic diversity of Symbiodiniaceae from three coral species ( Acropora tenuis , Montipora digitata and Porites sp.) from both sites under three stable pH conditions (i.e., 8.11, 7.76, 7.54 pH units) and fluctuating pH conditions (i.e., between 7.56 and 8.07 pH units). Bouraké corals consistently exhibited higher growth rates than corals from the stable pH environment, with specific ITS2 intragenomic variant profiles. While OA generally decreased coral calcification by ca. 16%, Bouraké coralsshowed higher growth rates (21 to 93% increase, depending on species with all pH conditions pooled) than those from the stable pH environment. This superior performance coincided with divergent ITS2-like profiles with better consistency for both variable and low pH conditions. This response was not gained by corals from the more stable environment exposed to variable pH during the four-month experiment, suggesting that such a kind of plasticity is time dependent. Future long-term experiments should address the exposure duration required to confer fitness benefits for sustained calcification, hopefully fast enough to cope with the ongoing rapid OA.

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Negative effects of a zoanthid competitor limit coral calcification more than ocean acidification

Ocean acidification (OA) threatens the persistence of reef-building corals and the habitat they provide. While species-specific effects of OA on marine organisms could have cascading effects on ecological interactions like competition, few studies have identified how benthic reef competitors respond to OA. We explored how two common Caribbean competitors, branching Porites and a colonial zoanthid (Zoanthus), respond to the factorial combination of OA and competition. In the laboratory, we exposed corals, zoanthids and interacting corals and zoanthids to ambient (8.01 ± 0.03) and OA (7.68 ± 0.07) conditions for 60 days. The OA treatment had no measured effect on zoanthids or coral calcification but decreased Porites maximum PSII efficiency. Conversely, the competitive interaction significantly decreased Porites calcification but had minimal-to-no countereffects on the zoanthid. Although this interaction was not exacerbated by the 60-day OA exposure, environmental changes that enhance zoanthid performance could add to the dominance of zoanthids over corals. The lack of effects of OA on coral calcification indicates that near-term competitive interactions may have more immediate consequences for some corals than future global change scenarios. Disparate consequences of competition have implications for community structure and should be accounted for when evaluating local coral reef trajectories.

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Coral reef carbonate accretion rates track stable gradients in seawater carbonate chemistry across the U.S. Pacific Islands

The U.S. Pacific Islands span a dramatic natural gradient in climate and oceanographic conditions, and benthic community states vary significantly across the region’s coral reefs. Here we leverage a decade of integrated ecosystem monitoring data from American Samoa, the Mariana Archipelago, the main and Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and the U.S. Pacific Remote Island Areas to evaluate coral reef community structure and reef processes across a strong natural gradient in pH and aragonite saturation state (Ωar). We assess spatial patterns and temporal trends in carbonate chemistry measured in situ at 37 islands and atolls between 2010 and 2019, and evaluate the relationship between long-term mean Ωar and benthic community cover and composition (benthic cover, coral genera, coral morphology) and reef process (net calcium carbonate accretion rates). We find that net carbonate accretion rates demonstrate significant sensitivity to declining Ωar, while most benthic ecological metrics show fewer direct responses to lower-Ωar conditions. These results indicate that metrics of coral reef net carbonate accretion provide a critical tool for monitoring the long-term impacts of ocean acidification that may not be visible by assessing benthic cover and composition alone. The perspectives gained from our long-term, in situ, and co-located coral reef environmental and ecological data sets provide unique insights into effective monitoring practices to identify potential for reef resilience to future ocean acidification and inform effective ecosystem-based management strategies under 21st century global change.

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Community context and pCO2 impact the transcriptome of the “helper” bacterium Alteromonas in co-culture with picocyanobacteria

Many microbial photoautotrophs depend on heterotrophic bacteria for accomplishing essential functions. Environmental changes, however, could alter or eliminate such interactions. We investigated the effects of changing pCO2 on gene transcription in co-cultures of 3 strains of picocyanobacteria (Synechococcus strains CC9311 and WH8102 and Prochlorococcus strain MIT9312) paired with the ‘helper’ bacterium Alteromonas macleodii EZ55. Co-culture with cyanobacteria resulted in a much higher number of up- and down-regulated genes in EZ55 than pCO2 by itself. Pathway analysis revealed significantly different transcription of genes involved in carbohydrate metabolism, stress response, and chemotaxis, with different patterns of up- or down-regulation in co-culture with different cyanobacterial strains. Gene transcription patterns of organic and inorganic nutrient transporter and catabolism genes in EZ55 suggested resources available in the culture media were altered under elevated (800 ppm) pCO2 conditions. Altogether, changing transcription patterns were consistent with the possibility that the composition of cyanobacterial excretions changed under the two pCO2 regimes, causing extensive ecophysiological changes in both members of the co-cultures. Additionally, significant downregulation of oxidative stress genes in MIT9312/EZ55 cocultures at 800 ppm pCO2 were consistent with a link between the predicted reduced availability of photorespiratory byproducts (i.e., glycolate/2PG) under this condition and observed reductions in internal oxidative stress loads for EZ55, providing a possible explanation for the previously observed lack of “help” provided by EZ55 to MIT9312 under elevated pCO2. If similar broad alterations in microbial ecophysiology occur in the ocean as atmospheric pCO2 increases, they could lead to substantially altered ecosystem functioning and community composition.

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Sea surface carbonate dynamics at reefs of Bolinao, Philippines: seasonal variation and fish mariculture-induced forcing

Coral reefs are vulnerable to global ocean acidification (OA) and local human activities will continue to exacerbate coastal OA. In Bolinao, Philippines, intense unregulated fish mariculture has resulted in regional eutrophication. In order to examine the coastal acidification associated with this activity and the impact on nearby coral reefs, water quality and carbonate chemistry parameters were measured at three reef sites, a mariculture site and an offshore, minimally impacted control site during both the wet and dry season. Additionally, benthic community composition was characterized at reef sites, and both autonomous carbonate chemistry sampling and high-frequency pH measurements were used to characterize fine-scale (diel) temporal variability. Water quality was found to be poorer at all reefs during the wet season, when there was stronger outflow of waters from the mariculture area. Carbonate chemistry parameters differed significantly across the reef flat and between seasons, with more acidic conditions occurring during the dry season and increased primary production suppressing further acidification during the wet season. Significant relationships of both total alkalinity (TA) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) with salinity across all stations may imply outflow of acidified water originating from the mariculture area where pH values as low as 7.78 were measured. This apparent mariculture-induced coastal acidification was likely due to organic matter respiration as sustained mariculture will continue to deliver organic matter. While TA-DIC vector diagrams indicate greater contribution of net primary production, net calcification potential in the nearest reef to mariculture area may already be diminished. The two farther reefs, characterized by higher coral cover, indicates healthier ecosystem functioning. Here we show that unregulated fish mariculture activities can lead to localized acidification and impact reef health. As these conditions at times approximate those projected to occur globally due to OA, our results may provide insight into reef persistence potential worldwide. These results also underscore the importance of coastal acidification and indicate that actions taken to mitigate OA on coral reefs should address not only global CO2 emissions but also local perturbations, in this case fish mariculture-induced eutrophication.

Continue reading ‘Sea surface carbonate dynamics at reefs of Bolinao, Philippines: seasonal variation and fish mariculture-induced forcing’

Cascading effects augment the direct impact of CO2 on phytoplankton growth in a biogeochemical model

Atmospheric and oceanic CO2 concentrations are rising at an unprecedented rate. Laboratory studies indicate a positive effect of rising CO2 on phytoplankton growth until an optimum is reached, after which the negative impact of accompanying acidification dominates. Here, we implemented carbonate system sensitivities of phytoplankton growth into our global biogeochemical model FESOM-REcoM and accounted explicitly for coccolithophores as the group most sensitive to CO2. In idealized simulations in which solely the atmospheric CO2 mixing ratio was modified, changes in competitive fitness and biomass are not only caused by the direct effects of CO2, but also by indirect effects via nutrient and light limitation as well as grazing. These cascading effects can both amplify or dampen phytoplankton responses to changing ocean pCO2 levels. For example, coccolithophore growth is negatively affected both directly by future pCO2 and indirectly by changes in light limitation, but these effects are compensated by a weakened nutrient limitation resulting from the decrease in small-phytoplankton biomass. In the Southern Ocean, future pCO2 decreases small-phytoplankton biomass and hereby the preferred prey of zooplankton, which reduces the grazing pressure on diatoms and allows them to proliferate more strongly. In simulations that encompass CO2-driven warming and acidification, our model reveals that recent observed changes in North Atlantic coccolithophore biomass are driven primarily by warming and not by CO2. Our results highlight that CO2 can change the effects of other environmental drivers on phytoplankton growth, and that cascading effects may play an important role in projections of future net primary production.

Continue reading ‘Cascading effects augment the direct impact of CO2 on phytoplankton growth in a biogeochemical model’

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