Posts Tagged 'Chordata'



Feeding plasticity more than metabolic rate drives the productivity of economically important filter feeders in response to elevated CO2 and reduced salinity

Climate change driven alterations in salinity and carbonate chemistry are predicted to have significant implications particularly for northern costal organisms, including the economically important filter feeders Mytilus edulis and Ciona intestinalis. However, despite a growing number of studies investigating the biological effects of multiple environmental stressors, the combined effects of elevated pCO2 and reduced salinity remain comparatively understudied. Changes in metabolic costs associated with homeostasis and feeding/digestion in response to environmental stressors may reallocate energy from growth and reproduction, affecting performance. Although these energetic trade-offs in response to changes in routine metabolic rates have been well demonstrated fewer studies have investigated how these are affected by changes in feeding plasticity. Consequently, the present study investigated the combined effects of 26 days’ exposure to elevated pCO2 (500 µatm and 1000 µatm) and reduced salinity (30, 23, and 16) on the energy available for growth and performance (Scope for Growth) in M. edulis and C. intestinalis, and the role of metabolic rate (oxygen uptake) and feeding plasticity [clearance rate (CR) and absorption efficiency] in this process. In M. edulis exposure to elevated pCO2 resulted in a 50% reduction in Scope for Growth. However, elevated pCO2 had a much greater effect on C. intestinalis, with more than a 70% reduction in Scope for Growth. In M. edulis negative responses to elevated pCO2 are also unlikely be further affected by changes in salinity between 16 and 30. Whereas, under future predicted levels of pCO2C. intestinalis showed 100% mortality at a salinity of 16, and a >90% decrease in Scope for Growth with reduced biomass at a salinity of 23. Importantly, this work demonstrates energy available for production is more dependent on feeding plasticity, i.e. the ability to regulate CR and absorption efficiency, in response to multiple stressors than on more commonly studied changes in metabolic rates.

Continue reading ‘Feeding plasticity more than metabolic rate drives the productivity of economically important filter feeders in response to elevated CO2 and reduced salinity’

The weakest link: sensitivity to climate extremes across life stages of marine invertebrates

Predicting the effects of climate change on Earth’s biota becomes even more challenging when acknowledging that most species have life cycles consisting of multiple stages, each of which may respond differently to extreme environmental conditions. There is currently no clear consensus regarding which stages are most susceptible to increasing environmental stress, or ‘climate extremes’. We used a meta‐analytic approach to quantify variation in responses to environmental stress across multiple life stages of marine invertebrates. We identified 287 experiments in 29 papers which examined the lethal thresholds of multiple life stages (embryo, larva, juvenile, and adult) of both holoplanktonic and meroplanktonic marine invertebrates subjected to the same experimental conditions of warming, acidification, and hypoxia stress. Most studies considered short acute exposure to stressors. We calculated effect sizes (log response ratio) for each life stage (unpaired analysis) and the difference in effect sizes between stages of each species (paired analysis) included in each experiment. In the unpaired analysis, all significant responses were negative, indicating that warming, acidification and hypoxia tended to increase mortality. Furthermore, embryos, larvae, and juveniles were more negatively affected by warming than adults. The paired analysis revealed that, when subjected to the same experimental conditions, younger life stages were more negatively affected by warming than older life stages, specifically among pairings of adults vs. juveniles and larvae vs. embryos. Although responses to warming are well documented, few studies of the effects of acidification and hypoxia met the criteria for inclusion in our analyses. Our results suggest that while most life stages will be negatively affected by climate change, younger stages of marine invertebrates are more sensitive to extreme heating events.

Continue reading ‘The weakest link: sensitivity to climate extremes across life stages of marine invertebrates’

Variable metabolic responses of Skagerrak invertebrates to low O2 and high CO2 scenarios (update)

Coastal hypoxia is a problem that is predicted to increase rapidly in the future. At the same time, we are facing rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, which are increasing the pCO2 and acidity of coastal waters. These two drivers are well studied in isolation; however, the coupling of low O2 and pH is likely to provide a more significant respiratory challenge for slow moving and sessile invertebrates than is currently predicted. The Gullmar Fjord in Sweden is home to a range of habitats, such as sand and mud flats, seagrass beds, exposed and protected shorelines and rocky bottoms. Moreover, it has a history of both natural and anthropogenically enhanced hypoxia as well as North Sea upwelling, where salty water reaches the surface towards the end of summer and early autumn. A total of 11 species (Crustacean, Chordate, Echinoderm and Mollusc) of these ecosystems were exposed to four different treatments (high or low oxygen and low or high CO2; varying pCO2 of 450 and 1300 µatm and O2 concentrations of 2–3.5 and 9–10 mg L−1) and respiration measured after 3 and 6 days, respectively. This allowed us to evaluate respiration responses of species of contrasting habitats to single and multiple stressors. Results show that respiratory responses were highly species specific as we observed both synergetic as well as antagonistic responses, and neither phylum nor habitat explained trends in respiratory responses. Management plans should avoid the generalized assumption that combined stressors will result in multiplicative effects and focus attention on alleviating hypoxia in the region.

Continue reading ‘Variable metabolic responses of Skagerrak invertebrates to low O2 and high CO2 scenarios (update)’

Ocean acidification alters early successional coral reef communities and their rates of community metabolism

Ocean acidification is expected to alter community composition on coral reefs, but its effects on reef community metabolism are poorly understood. Here we document how early successional benthic coral reef communities change in situ along gradients of carbon dioxide (CO2), and the consequences of these changes on rates of community photosynthesis, respiration, and light and dark calcification. Ninety standardised benthic communities were grown on PVC tiles deployed at two shallow-water volcanic CO2 seeps and two adjacent control sites in Papua New Guinea. Along the CO2 gradient, both the upward facing phototrophic and the downward facing cryptic communities changed in their composition. Under ambient CO2, both communities were dominated by calcifying algae, but with increasing CO2 they were gradually replaced by non-calcifying algae (predominantly green filamentous algae, cyanobacteria and macroalgae, which increased from ~30% to ~80% cover). Responses were weaker in the invertebrate communities, however ascidians and tube-forming polychaetes declined with increasing CO2. Differences in the carbonate chemistry explained a far greater amount of change in communities than differences between the two reefs and successional changes from five to 13 months, suggesting community successions are established early and are under strong chemical control. As pH declined from 8.0 to 7.8, rates of gross photosynthesis and dark respiration of the 13-month old reef communities (upper and cryptic surfaces combined) significantly increased by 10% and 20%, respectively, in response to altered community composition. As a consequence, net production remained constant. Light and dark calcification rates both gradually declined by 20%, and low or negative daily net calcification rates were observed at an aragonite saturation state of <2.3. The study demonstrates that ocean acidification as predicted for the end of this century will strongly alter reef communities, and will significantly change rates of community metabolism.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification alters early successional coral reef communities and their rates of community metabolism’

Increased fitness of a key appendicularian zooplankton species under warmer, acidified seawater conditions

Ocean warming and acidification (OA) may alter the fitness of species in marine pelagic ecosystems through community effects or direct physiological impacts. We used the zooplanktonic appendicularian, Oikopleura dioica, to assess temperature and pH effects at mesocosm and microcosm scales. In mesocosms, both OA and warming positively impacted O. dioica abundance over successive generations. In microcosms, the positive impact of OA, was observed to result from increased fecundity. In contrast, increased pH, observed for example during phytoplankton blooms, reduced fecundity. Oocyte fertility and juvenile development were equivalent under all pH conditions, indicating that the positive effect of lower pH on O. dioica abundance was principally due to increased egg number. This effect was influenced by food quantity and quality, supporting possible improved digestion and assimilation at lowered pH. Higher temperature resulted in more rapid growth, faster maturation and earlier reproduction. Thus, increased temperature and reduced pH had significant positive impacts on O. dioica fitness through increased fecundity and shortened generation time, suggesting that predicted future ocean conditions may favour this zooplankton species.

Continue reading ‘Increased fitness of a key appendicularian zooplankton species under warmer, acidified seawater conditions’

Variable metabolic responses of Skagerrak invertebrates to low O2 and high CO2 scenarios

Coastal hypoxia is a problem that is predicted to increase rapidly in the future. At the same time we are facing rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, which are increasing the pCO2 and acidity of coastal waters. These two drivers are well studied in isolation however; the coupling of low O2 and pH is likely to provide a more significant respiratory challenge for slow moving and sessile invertebrates than is currently predicted. The Gullmar Fjord in Sweden is home to a range of habitats such as sand and mud flats, seagrass beds, exposed and protected shorelines, and rocky bottoms. Moreover, it has a history of both natural and anthropogenically enhanced hypoxia as well as North Sea upwelling, where salty water reaches the surface towards the end of summer and early autumn. A total of 11 species (Crustacean, Chordate, Echinoderm and Mollusc) of these ecosystems were exposed to four different treatments (high/low oxygen and low/high CO2; varying pCO2 of 450 and 1300 ppm and O2 concentrations of 2–3.5 and 9–10 mg L−1) and respiration measured after 3 and 6 days, respectively. This allows us to evaluate respiration responses of species of contrasting habitats and life-history strategies to single and multiple stressors. Results show that the responses of the respiration were highly species specific as we observed both synergetic as well as antagonistic responses, and neither phylum nor habitat explained trends in respiratory responses. Management plans should avoid the generalized assumption that combined stressors will results in multiplicative effects and focus attention on alleviating hypoxia in the region.
Continue reading ‘Variable metabolic responses of Skagerrak invertebrates to low O2 and high CO2 scenarios’

Natural acidification changes the timing and rate of succession, alters community structure, and increases homogeneity in marine biofouling communities

Ocean acidification may have far-reaching consequences for marine community and ecosystem dynamics, but its full impacts remain poorly understood due to the difficulty of manipulating pCO2 at the ecosystem level to mimic realistic fluctuations that occur on a number of different timescales. It is especially unclear how quickly communities at various stages of development respond to intermediate-scale pCO2 change and, if high pCO2 is relieved mid-succession, whether past acidification effects persist, are reversed by alleviation of pCO2 stress, or are worsened by departures from prior high pCO2 conditions to which organisms had acclimatized. Here, we used reciprocal transplant experiments along a shallow water volcanic pCO2 gradient to assess the importance of the timing and duration of high pCO2 exposure (i.e. discrete events at different stages of successional development vs. continuous exposure) on patterns of colonization and succession in a benthic fouling community. We show that succession at the acidified site was initially delayed (less community change by eight weeks) but then caught up over the next four weeks. These changes in succession led to homogenization of communities maintained in or transplanted to acidified conditions, and altered community structure in ways that reflected both short- and longer-term acidification history. These community shifts are likely a result of interspecific variability in response to increased pCO2 and changes in species interactions. High pCO2 altered biofilm development, allowing serpulids to do best at the acidified site by the end of the experiment, although early (pre-transplant), negative effects of pCO2 on recruitment of these worms was still detectable. The ascidians Diplosoma sp. and Botryllus sp. settled later and were more tolerant to acidification. Overall, transient and persistent acidification-driven changes in the biofouling community, via both past and more recent exposure, could have important implications for ecosystem function and food web dynamics.

Continue reading ‘Natural acidification changes the timing and rate of succession, alters community structure, and increases homogeneity in marine biofouling communities’

An integrated coral reef ecosystem model to support resource management under a changing climate

Millions of people rely on the ecosystem services provided by coral reefs, but sustaining these benefits requires an understanding of how reefs and their biotic communities are affected by local human-induced disturbances and global climate change. Ecosystem-based management that explicitly considers the indirect and cumulative effects of multiple disturbances has been recommended and adopted in policies in many places around the globe. Ecosystem models give insight into complex reef dynamics and their responses to multiple disturbances and are useful tools to support planning and implementation of ecosystem-based management. We adapted the Atlantis Ecosystem Model to incorporate key dynamics for a coral reef ecosystem around Guam in the tropical western Pacific. We used this model to quantify the effects of predicted climate and ocean changes and current levels of current land-based sources of pollution (LBSP) and fishing. We used the following six ecosystem metrics as indicators of ecosystem state, resilience and harvest potential: 1) ratio of calcifying to non-calcifying benthic groups, 2) trophic level of the community, 3) biomass of apex predators, 4) biomass of herbivorous fishes, 5) total biomass of living groups and 6) the end-to-start ratio of exploited fish groups. Simulation tests of the effects of each of the three drivers separately suggest that by mid-century climate change will have the largest overall effect on this suite of ecosystem metrics due to substantial negative effects on coral cover. The effects of fishing were also important, negatively influencing five out of the six metrics. Moreover, LBSP exacerbates this effect for all metrics but not quite as badly as would be expected under additive assumptions, although the magnitude of the effects of LBSP are sensitive to uncertainty associated with primary productivity. Over longer time spans (i.e., 65 year simulations), climate change impacts have a slight positive interaction with other drivers, generally meaning that declines in ecosystem metrics are not as steep as the sum of individual effects of the drivers. These analyses offer one way to quantify impacts and interactions of particular stressors in an ecosystem context and so provide guidance to managers. For example, the model showed that improving water quality, rather than prohibiting fishing, extended the timescales over which corals can maintain high abundance by at least 5–8 years. This result, in turn, provides more scope for corals to adapt or for resilient species to become established and for local and global management efforts to reduce or reverse stressors.

Continue reading ‘An integrated coral reef ecosystem model to support resource management under a changing climate’

The impact of CO2 emissions on ‘nuisance’ marine species (video & text)


Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are being taken up from the atmosphere by the oceans, increasing the availability of dissolved inorganic carbon but reducing both the carbonate saturation and pH of seawater. This ocean acidification affects biological processes in a wide range of marine taxa. Here, we assess the likely responses of ‘nuisance’ species to ocean acidification, meaning those organisms that have undesirable effects from a human perspective. Based on a synthesis of evidence available to date, we predict increased growth and toxicity in harmful algal bloom species, and a significant increase in invasive algae in response to increased CO2 availability. Blooms of stinging jellyfish are also expected to increase since they are highly resilient to acidification. The effects of ocean acidification on invasive molluscs (eg, oyster drills), damaging echinoderms (eg, crown-of-thorns starfish), and a wide range of nuisance taxa will vary depending on species and location. In the USA, for example, the invasive crab Carcinus maenas is resilient to projected increases in CO2 and its impact on marine communities is expected to increase since it feeds on organisms that respond to ocean acidification with weaker defensive traits and lower recruitment. Conversely, the Red King Crab, Paralithodes camtschaticus, is adversely affected by acidification and so is expected to die back in the Barents Sea which it has invaded. Overall, we suspect that there will be an increase in nuisance species, as many have traits that are resilient to the combined warming and acidification caused by rising CO2 levels; region-specific assessments are needed to understand responses of nuisance species in local habitats. Finally, we highlight the need for targeted studies of the effects of global change on particularly harmful marine taxa such as the seaweed Caulerpa taxifolia, the starfish Asterias amurensis, several invasive ascidians, and the lionfish Pterois volitans.

Continue reading ‘The impact of CO2 emissions on ‘nuisance’ marine species (video & text)’

Acidification effects on biofouling communities: winners and losers

How ocean acidification affects marine life is a major concern for science and society. However, its impacts on encrusting biofouling communities, that are both the initial colonizers of hard substrata and of great economic importance, are almost unknown. We showed that community composition changed significantly, from 92% spirorbids, 3% ascidians and 4% sponges initially to 47% spirorbids, 23% ascidians and 29% sponges after 100 days in acidified conditions (pH 7.7). In low pH, numbers of the spirorbid Neodexiospira pseudocorrugata were reduced ×5 compared to controls. The two ascidians present behaved differently with Aplidium sp. decreasing ×10 in pH 7.7, whereas Molgula sp. numbers were ×4 higher in low pH than controls. Calcareous sponge (Leucosolenia sp.) numbers increased ×2.5 in pH 7.7 over controls. The diatom and filamentous algal community was also more poorly developed in the low pH treatments compared to controls. Colonization of new surfaces likewise showed large decreases in spirorbid numbers, but numbers of sponges and Molgula sp. increased. Spirorbid losses appeared due to both recruitment failure and loss of existing tubes. Spirorbid tubes are comprised of a loose prismatic fabric of calcite crystals. Loss of tube materials appeared due to changes in the binding matrix and not crystal dissolution, as SEM analyses showed crystal surfaces were not pitted or dissolved in low pH conditions. Biofouling communities face dramatic future changes with reductions in groups with hard exposed exoskeletons and domination by soft-bodied ascidians and sponges.

Continue reading ‘Acidification effects on biofouling communities: winners and losers’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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