Posts Tagged 'cnidaria'

Ocean acidification alters the predator – prey relationship between hydrozoa and fish larvae

Anthropogenic CO2 emissions cause a drop in seawater pH and shift the inorganic carbon speciation. Collectively, the term ocean acidification (OA) summarizes these changes. Few studies have examined OA effects on predatory plankton, e.g. Hydrozoa and fish larvae as well as their interaction in complex natural communities. Because Hydrozoa can seriously compete with and prey on other higher-level predators such as fish, changes in their abundances may have significant consequences for marine food webs and ecosystem services. To investigate the interaction between Hydrozoa and fish larvae influenced by OA, we enclosed a natural plankton community in Raunefjord, Norway, for 53 days in eight ≈ 58 m³ pelagic mesocosms. CO2 levels in four mesocosms were increased to ≈ 2000 µatm pCO2, whereas the other four served as untreated controls. We studied OA-induced changes at the top of the food web by following ≈2000 larvae of Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) hatched inside each mesocosm during the first week of the experiment, and a Hydrozoa population that had already established inside the mesocosms. Under OA, we detected 20% higher abundance of hydromedusae staged jellyfish, but 25% lower biomass. At the same time, survival rates of Atlantic herring larvae were higher under OA (control pCO2: 0.1%, high pCO2: 1.7%) in the final phase of the study. These results indicate that a decrease in predation pressure shortly after hatch likely shaped higher herring larvae survival, when hydromedusae abundance was lower in the OA treatment compared to control conditions. We conclude that indirect food-web mediated OA effects drove the observed changes in the Hydrozoa – fish relationship, based on significant changes in the phyto-, micro-, and mesoplankton community under high pCO2. Ultimately, the observed immediate consequences of these changes for fish larvae survival and the balance of the Hydrozoa – fish larvae predator – prey relationship has important implications for the functioning of oceanic food webs.

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The role of epiphytes in seagrass productivity under ocean acidification

Ocean Acidification (OA), due to rising atmospheric CO2, can affect the seagrass holobiont by changing the plant’s ecophysiology and the composition and functioning of its epiphytic community. However, our knowledge of the role of epiphytes in the productivity of the seagrass holobiont in response to environmental changes is still very limited. CO2 vents off Ischia Island (Italy) naturally reduce seawater pH, allowing to investigate the adaptation of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica L. (Delile) to OA. Here, we analyzed the percent cover of different epiphytic groups and the epiphytic biomass of P. oceanica leaves, collected inside (pH 6.9–7.9) and outside (pH 8.1–8.2) the CO2 vents. We estimated the contribution of epiphytes to net primary production (NPP) and respiration (R) of leaf sections collected from the vent and ambient pH sites in laboratory incubations. Additionally, we quantified net community production (NCP) and community respiration (CR) of seagrass communities in situ at vent and ambient pH sites using benthic chambers. Leaves at ambient pH sites had a 25% higher total epiphytic cover with encrusting red algae (32%) dominating the community, while leaves at vent pH sites were dominated by hydrozoans (21%). Leaf sections with and without epiphytes from the vent pH site produced and respired significantly more oxygen than leaf sections from the ambient pH site, showing an average increase of 47 ± 21% (mean ± SE) in NPP and 50 ± 4% in R, respectively. Epiphytes contributed little to the increase in R; however, their contribution to NPP was important (56 ± 6% of the total flux). The increase in productivity of seagrass leaves adapted to OA was only marginally reflected by the results from the in situ benthic chambers, underlining the complexity of the seagrass community response to naturally occurring OA conditions.

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Severe seawater acidification causes a significant reduction in pulse rate, bell diameter, and acute deterioration in feeding apparatus in the scyphozoan medusa Cassiopeia sp

The detrimental effect of ocean acidification (OA) on marine animals with carbonate exoskeletons or shells is an issue drawing increased attention in marine biology and ecology, yet few studies have focused on the impact on gelatinous organisms like scyphozoan medusae. Here, we examined the physiological tolerance of Cassiopea sp., an abundant genus of scyphozoans valuable for their role as bioindicators and for having similarities to other cnidarians, to OA by conducting three, 12-week trials using CO2 diffusers and electronic pH controllers to incrementally lower the water to test pHs of 7.5 and 7.0. The impact of reduced pH on the survival, pulse rate, bell diameter, and reorientation and settlement abilities of Cassiopea sp. medusae were measured weekly. Cassiopea sp. was tolerant to pH 7.5 while further reduction of the pH to 7.0 resulted in 22.22% mortality rate, which was significantly different from the control and treatment pH 7.5. Significant differences between the treatment pH 7.0 and control first occurred on day 23.5 with a 50% reduction in the pulse rate, and on day 36 with a 16.6% reduction in bell diameter, while pH 7.5 had no effect. By the final time point of 66 days in treatment pH 7.0, there was an 87% reduction in pulse rate and a 36% reduction in bell diameter versus control. Reduced pH 7.0 caused bell malformations, inhibited swimming abilities, and deterioration of the oral arm feeding apparatus, but had no effect on the orientation and settlement assay. Observations indicate that asexual reproduction via planuloid production and strobilation was unaffected by pH reduction, though polyps in treatment pH 7.0 gave rise to ephyrae with inverted bells. Combined, findings from this study demonstrate Cassiopea sp. to be resilient to the end of century ocean acidity prediction of pH 7.6, and vulnerable to more severe OA to pH 7.0.

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Biomineralization: integrating mechanism and evolutionary history

Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) biomineralizing organisms have played major roles in the history of life and the global carbon cycle during the past 541 Ma. Both marine diversification and mass extinctions reflect physiological responses to environmental changes through time. An integrated understanding of carbonate biomineralization is necessary to illuminate this evolutionary record and to understand how modern organisms will respond to 21st century global change. Biomineralization evolved independently but convergently across phyla, suggesting a unity of mechanism that transcends biological differences. In this review, we combine CaCO3 skeleton formation mechanisms with constraints from evolutionary history, omics, and a meta-analysis of isotopic data to develop a plausible model for CaCO3 biomineralization applicable to all phyla. The model provides a framework for understanding the environmental sensitivity of marine calcifiers, past mass extinctions, and resilience in 21st century acidifying oceans. Thus, it frames questions about the past, present, and future of CaCO3 biomineralizing organisms.

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Lead in the marine environment: concentrations and effects on invertebrates

Lead (Pb) is a non-essential metal naturally present in the environment and often complexed with other elements (e.g., copper, selenium, zinc). This metal has been used since ancient Egypt and its extraction has grown in the last centuries. It has been used until recently as a fuel additive and is currently used in the production of vehicle batteries, paint, and plumbing. Marine ecosystems are sinks of terrestrial contaminations; consequently, lead is detected in oceans and seas. Furthermore, lead is not biodegradable. It remains in soil, atmosphere, and water inducing multiple negative impacts on marine invertebrates (key species in trophic chain) disturbing ecological ecosystems. This review established our knowledge on lead accumulation and its effects on marine invertebrates (Annelida, Cnidaria, Crustacea, Echinodermata, and Mollusca). Lead may affect different stages of development from fertilization to larval development and can also lead to disturbance in reproduction and mortality. Furthermore, we discussed changes in the seawater chemistry due to Ocean Acidification, which can affect the solubility, speciation, and distribution of the lead, increasing potentially its toxicity to marine invertebrates.

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Climate change effects on the ecophysiology and ecological functioning of an offshore wind farm artificial hard substrate community


  • Local effects of offshore wind farms add to and interact with global climate change.
  • Species-specific effects on artificial hard substrate colonising community.
  • Mortality, feeding and metabolism generally increased with temperature and lower pH.
  • Temperature and pH had antagonistic effect on growth.
  • Maximised cumulative clearance potential significantly increased by climate change.


In the effort towards a decarbonised future, the local effects of a proliferating offshore wind farm (OWF) industry add to and interact with the global effects of marine climate change. This study aimed to quantify potential ecophysiological effects of ocean warming and acidification and to estimate and compare the cumulative clearance potential of suspended food items by OWF epifauna under current and future climate conditions. To this end, this study combined ecophysiological responses to ocean warming and acidification of three dominant colonising species on OWF artificial hard substrates (the blue mussel Mytilus edulis, the tube-building amphipod Jassa herdmani and the plumose anemone Metridium senile). In general, mortality, respiration rate and clearance rate increased during 3- to 6-week experimental exposures across all three species, except for M. senile, who exhibited a lower clearance rate in the warmed treatments (+3 °C) and an insensitivity to lowered pH (−0.3 pH units) in terms of survival and respiration rate. Ocean warming and acidification affected growth antagonistically, with elevated temperature being beneficial for M. edulis and lowered pH being beneficial for M. senile. The seawater volume potentially cleared from suspended food particles by this AHS colonising community increased significantly, extending the affected distance around an OWF foundation by 9.2% in a future climate scenario. By using an experimental multi-stressor approach, this study thus demonstrates how ecophysiology underpins functional responses to climate change in these environments, highlighting for the first time the integrated, cascading potential effects of OWFs and climate change on the marine ecosystem.

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The regulatory role of GABAA receptor in Actinia equina nervous system and the possible effect of global ocean acidification

Global warming and connected acidification of the World Ocean attract a substantial amount of research efforts, in particular in a context of their impact on behaviour and metabolism of marine organisms, such as Cnidaria. Nevertheless, mechanisms underlying Cnidarians’ neural signalling and behaviour and their (possible) alterations due to the World Ocean acidification remain poorly understood. Here we researched for the first time modulation of GABAA receptors (GABAARs) in Actinia equina (Cnidaria: Anthozoa) by pH fluctuations within a range predicted by the World Ocean acidification scenarios for the next 80-100 years, and by selective pharmacological activation. We found, that in line with earlier studies on vertebrates, both changes of pH and activation of GABAARs with a selective allosteric agonist (diazepam) modulate electrical charge transfer through GABAAR and the whole-cell excitability. On top of that, diazepam modifies the animal behavioural reaction on startle response. However, despite behavioural reactions displayed by living animals are controlled by GABAARs, changes of pH do not alter them significantly. Possible mechanisms underlying the species resistance to acidification impact are discussed.

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Biodiversity of coral reef cryptobiota shuffles but does not decline under the combined stressors of ocean warming and acidification


Although climate change is expected to decimate coral reefs, the combined impacts of ocean-warming and acidification on coral reef biodiversity remains largely unmeasured. Here, we present a two-year mesocosm experiment to simulate future ocean acidification and ocean-warming to quantify the impacts on species richness, community composition, and community structure. We find that species richness is equivalent between the dual-stressor and present-day treatments but that the community shuffles, undoubtedly altering ecosystem function. However, our ability to predict the outcomes of such community shuffling remains limited due to the critical knowledge gap regarding ecological functions, life histories, and distributions for most members of the cryptobenthic community that account for the majority of the biodiversity within these iconic ecosystems.


Ocean-warming and acidification are predicted to reduce coral reef biodiversity, but the combined effects of these stressors on overall biodiversity are largely unmeasured. Here, we examined the individual and combined effects of elevated temperature (+2 °C) and reduced pH (−0.2 units) on the biodiversity of coral reef communities that developed on standardized sampling units over a 2-y mesocosm experiment. Biodiversity and species composition were measured using amplicon sequencing libraries targeting the cytochrome oxidase I (COI) barcoding gene. Ocean-warming significantly increased species richness relative to present-day control conditions, whereas acidification significantly reduced richness. Contrary to expectations, species richness in the combined future ocean treatment with both warming and acidification was not significantly different from the present-day control treatment. Rather than the predicted collapse of biodiversity under the dual stressors, we find significant changes in the relative abundance but not in the occurrence of species, resulting in a shuffling of coral reef community structure among the highly species-rich cryptobenthic community. The ultimate outcome of altered community structure for coral reef ecosystems will depend on species-specific ecological functions and community interactions. Given that most species on coral reefs are members of the understudied cryptobenthos, holistic research on reef communities is needed to accurately predict diversity–function relationships and ecosystem responses to future climate conditions.

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Impact of ocean warming and ocean acidification on asexual reproduction and statolith formation of the symbiotic jellyfish Cotylorhiza tuberculata

Ocean acidification and warming are challenging marine organisms and ecosystems around the world. The synergetic effects of these two climate change stressors on jellyfish remain still understudied. Here, we examine the independent and combined effects of these two environmental variables on polyp population dynamics of the Mediterranean jellyfish Cotylorhiza tuberculata. An experiment was conducted to examine asexual reproduction by budding and strobilation considering current and ca. 2100 winter (Trial 1, 36 days) and summer (Trial 2, 36 days) conditions under the RCP8.5 (IPCC 2013). In Trial 1, a temperature of 18°C and two pH levels (current: 7.9 and, reduced: 7.7) were tested. Trial 2 considered two temperature levels 24°C and 30°C, under current and reduced acidification conditions (8.0 and 7.7, respectively). Ephyrae size and statolith formation of released ephyrae from polyps exposed to summer temperatures under both acidification treatment was also analyzed. Zooxanthellae density inside the polyps throughout the experiment was measured. Ctuberculata polyps could cope with the conditions mimicked in all experimental treatments and no significant effect of pH, temperature, or the combination of both variables on the abundance of polyps was observed. At 18°C, strobilation was reduced under high PCO2 conditions. Under summer treatments (24°C and 30°C), percentage strobilation was very low and several released ephyrae suffered malformations and reduced size, as a consequence of reduced pH and elevated temperatures, separately. The number of statoliths was not affected by pH or temperature, however, bigger statoliths were formed at elevated temperatures (30°C). Finally, zooxanthellae density was not affected by experimental conditions, even if, the duration of the experiment significantly affected symbiont concentration. Our results show that even though polyps of Ctuberculata would thrive the future worst scenario predicted for the Mediterranean Sea, their capacity to undergo a proper strobilation and to produce healthy ephyrae will be more vulnerable to climate induced environmental conditions, thereby affecting medusae recruitment and, therefore, population dynamics of the species.

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DNA metabarcoding to examine the biodiversity of coral reef cryptobiota

Coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse, complex, and productive of ecosystems. The vast majority of coral reef biodiversity is made up of the small and cryptic organisms living unseen by most within the reef matrix. This hidden community, the cryptobiota, are a critical component of coral reef trophic dynamics and play an essential role in nutrient recycling that enable reefs to thrive in oligotrophic environments. Despite their ecological importance, the cryptobiota are often ignored because they live deep within the reef matrix and require significant taxonomic expertise and time to collect and identify. As a result, our perceptions of coral reef biodiversity across marine gradients and how it will respond to climatic change is based on observable surface-dwelling taxa, such as corals and fish. Using DNA metabarcoding technology, this research fills an extensive knowledge gap about the diversity and distribution of the important and understudied coral reef cryptobiota community. The objectives of this dissertation were to (i) evaluate metabarcoding performance on marine sponges, a prominent and ecologically vital member of the cryptobenthos that is one of the most difficult metazoans to identify to species using both taxonomic and molecular methods; (ii) investigate the individual and combined effects of ocean warming and acidification on cryptobiota biodiversity; and (iii) examine cryptobiota diversity along the most striking macrospatial diversity gradient in the marine tropics. Contrary to expectations, this research (i) demonstrated that the metabarcoding approach performs much better than expected in capturing sponge richness; (ii) discovered that diversity shuffles but does not decline under the combined stressors of ocean warming and acidification; and (iii) cryptobiotic diversity undermines the tropical Pacific longitudinal diversity gradient defined by corals and fish. These results contribute towards reshaping the way we consider coral reef biodiversity under different oceanographic, geographic and climatic regimes.

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Ocean acidification impairs the physiology of symbiotic phyllosoma larvae of the lobster Thenus australiensis and their ability to detect cues from jellyfish


  • Ocean acidification (OA) under delta (∆) pH = – 0.3 (pH ~7.7), but not ∆pH = – 0.1 (pH ~ 7.9) relative to the present (~8.0 pH), reduced the survival, respiration and moulting of phyllosomas of T. australiensis.
  • OA under pH ~7.7 adversely affected the attraction of T. australiensis phyllosomas to jellyfish cues.
  • The majority of individual metabolites of phyllosomas were suppressed even in mild pH ~ 7.9.
  • The interaction between phyllosoma and jellyfish may be impaired under pH ~7.7.


Ocean acidification (OA) can alter the behaviour and physiology of marine fauna and impair their ability to interact with other species, including those in symbiotic and predatory relationships. Phyllosoma larvae of lobsters are symbionts to many invertebrates and often ride and feed on jellyfish, however OA may threaten interactions between phyllosomas and jellyfish. Here, we tested whether OA predicted for surface mid-shelf waters of Great Barrier Reef, Australia, under ∆ pH = −0.1 (pH ~7.9) and ∆pH = −0.3 (pH ~7.7) relative to the present pH (~8.0) (P) impaired the survival, moulting, respiration, and metabolite profiles of phyllosoma larvae of the slipper lobster Thenus australiensis, and the ability of phyllosomas to detect chemical cues of fresh jellyfish tissue. We discovered that OA was detrimental to survival of phyllosomas with only 20% survival under ∆pH = −0.3 compared to 49.2 and 45.3% in the P and ∆pH = −0.1 treatments, respectively. The numbers of phyllosomas that moulted in the P and ∆pH = −0.1 treatments were 40% and 34% higher, respectively, than those in the ∆pH = −0.3 treatment. Respiration rates varied between pH treatments, but were not consistent through time. Respiration rates in the ∆pH = −0.3 and ∆pH = −0.1 treatments were initially 40% and 22% higher, respectively, than in the P treatment on Day 2 and then rates varied to become 26% lower (∆pH = −0.3) and 17% (∆pH = −0.1) higher towards the end of the experiment. Larvae were attracted to jellyfish tissue in treatments P and ∆pH = −0.1 but avoided jellyfish at ∆pH = −0.3. Moreover, OA conditions under ∆pH = −0.1 and ∆pH = −0.3 levels reduced the relative abundances of 22 of the 34 metabolites detected in phyllosomas via Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Our study demonstrates that the physiology and ability to detect jellyfish tissue by phyllosomas of the lobster T. australiensis may be impaired under ∆pH = −0.3 relative to the present conditions, with potential negative consequences for adult populations of this commercially important species.

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Patterns of element incorporation in calcium carbonate biominerals recapitulate phylogeny for a diverse range of marine calcifiers

Elemental ratios in biogenic marine calcium carbonates are widely used in geobiology, environmental science, and paleoenvironmental reconstructions. It is generally accepted that the elemental abundance of biogenic marine carbonates reflects a combination of the abundance of that ion in seawater, the physical properties of seawater, the mineralogy of the biomineral, and the pathways and mechanisms of biomineralization. Here we report measurements of a suite of nine elemental ratios (Li/Ca, B/Ca, Na/Ca, Mg/Ca, Zn/Ca, Sr/Ca, Cd/Ca, Ba/Ca, and U/Ca) in 18 species of benthic marine invertebrates spanning a range of biogenic carbonate polymorph mineralogies (low-Mg calcite, high-Mg calcite, aragonite, mixed mineralogy) and of phyla (including Mollusca, Echinodermata, Arthropoda, Annelida, Cnidaria, Chlorophyta, and Rhodophyta) cultured at a single temperature (25°C) and a range of pCO2 treatments (ca. 409, 606, 903, and 2856 ppm). This dataset was used to explore various controls over elemental partitioning in biogenic marine carbonates, including species-level and biomineralization-pathway-level controls, the influence of internal pH regulation compared to external pH changes, and biocalcification responses to changes in seawater carbonate chemistry. The dataset also enables exploration of broad scale phylogenetic patterns of elemental partitioning across calcifying species, exhibiting high phylogenetic signals estimated from both uni- and multivariate analyses of the elemental ratio data (univariate: λ = 0–0.889; multivariate: λ = 0.895–0.99). Comparing partial R2 values returned from non-phylogenetic and phylogenetic regression analyses echo the importance of and show that phylogeny explains the elemental ratio data 1.4–59 times better than mineralogy in five out of nine of the elements analyzed. Therefore, the strong associations between biomineral elemental chemistry and species relatedness suggests mechanistic controls over element incorporation rooted in the evolution of biomineralization mechanisms.

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Comparative sensitivities of zooplankton to ocean acidification conditions in experimental and natural settings

Zooplankton can serve as indicators of ecosystem health, water quality, food web structure, and environmental change, including those associated with climate change and ocean acidification (OA). Laboratory studies demonstrate that low pH and high pCO2 associated with OA can significantly affect the physiology and survival of zooplankton, with differential responses among taxa. While laboratory studies can be indicative of zooplankton response to OA, in situ responses will ultimately determine the fate of populations and ecosystems. In this perspective, we compare expectations from experimental studies with observations made in Puget Sound (Washington, United States), a highly dynamic estuary with known vulnerabilities to low pH and high pCO2. We found little association between empirical measures of in situ pH and the abundance of sensitive taxa as revealed by meta-analysis, calling into question the coherence between experimental studies and field observations. The apparent mismatch between laboratory and field studies has important ramifications for the design of long-term monitoring programs and interpretation and use of the data produced. Important work remains to be done to connect traits that are sensitive to OA with those that are ecologically relevant and reliably observable in the field.

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Epiphytic hydroids on Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows are winner organisms under future ocean acidification conditions: evidence from a CO2 vent system (Ischia Island, Italy)

Effects of ocean acidification (OA) on the plant phenology and colonization/settlement pattern of the hydrozoan epibiont community of the leaves of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica have been studied at volcanic CO2 vents off Ischia (Italy). The study was conducted in shallow Posidonia stands (2.5–3.5 m depth), in three stations on the north and three on the south sides of the vent’s area (Castello Aragonese vents), distributed along a pH gradient. At each station, 10–15 P. oceanica shoots were collected every three months for one-year cycle (Sept 2009–2010). The shoot density of Posidonia beds in the most acidified stations along the gradient (pH < 7.4) was significantly higher than that in the control area (pH = 8.10). On the other hand, we recorded lower leaf lengths and widths in the acidified stations in the whole year of observations, compared to those in the control stations. However, the overall leaf surface (Leaf Area Index) available for epiphytes under ocean acidification conditions was higher on the south side and on both the most acidified stations because of the higher shoot density under OA conditions. The hydrozoan epibiont community on the leaf canopy accounted for seven species, three of which were relatively abundant and occurring all year around (Sertularia perpusilla, Plumularia obliqua, Clytia hemisphaerica). All hydroids species showed a clear tolerance to low pH levels, including chitinous and non-calcifying forms, likely favoured also by the absence of competition for substratum with the calcareous forms of epiphytes selected against OA.

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Ocean temperature, but not acidification, causes sea anemone bleaching under a near-future climate scenario

Climate change is causing ocean temperature and partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO(2)) to increase. For sea anemones that have Symbiodiniaceae, high temperatures induce bleaching, whereas rises in pCO(2) can enhance photosynthesis and increase host growth and abundance. It is, however, not clear how the interaction of these two stressors impacts sea anemones that provide habitat for anemonefishes. Here, we investigated the bleaching response of the sea anemone Entacmaea quadricolor, under four conditions: (i) current temperature and current pCO(2) (control); (ii) future pCO(2); (iii) future temperature; and (iv) future temperature and future pCO(2). After 16 days of exposure, future temperature, but not pCO(2) nor their interaction, significantly reduced the Symbiodiniaceae density and total chlorophyll Symbiodiniaceae cell(-1). Colour score was lower in the sea anemones exposed to future temperature than current temperature from day 4 onwards. In contrast, total chlorophyll symbiont cell(-1) increased in the future temperature treatments, and light-adapted effective quantum yield remained similar in all treatments. Although pCO(2) had no impact within the time frame of our experiment, the predicted future temperature induced bleaching in E. quadricolor. As bleaching events increase in frequency and severity, this will likely impact the abundance of host sea anemones and their symbiotic anemonefishes.

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Extreme levels of ocean acidification restructure the plankton community and biogeochemistry of a temperate coastal ecosystem: a mesocosm study

The oceans’ uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) decreases seawater pH and alters the inorganic carbon speciation – summarized in the term ocean acidification (OA). Already today, coastal regions experience episodic pH events during which surface layer pH drops below values projected for the surface ocean at the end of the century. Future OA is expected to further enhance the intensity of these coastal extreme pH events. To evaluate the influence of such episodic OA events in coastal regions, we deployed eight pelagic mesocosms for 53 days in Raunefjord, Norway, and enclosed 56–61 m3 of local seawater containing a natural plankton community under nutrient limited post-bloom conditions. Four mesocosms were enriched with CO2 to simulate extreme pCO2 levels of 1978 – 2069 μatm while the other four served as untreated controls. Here, we present results from multivariate analyses on OA-induced changes in the phyto-, micro-, and mesozooplankton community structure. Pronounced differences in the plankton community emerged early in the experiment, and were amplified by enhanced top-down control throughout the study period. The plankton groups responding most profoundly to high CO2 conditions were cyanobacteria (negative), chlorophyceae (negative), auto- and heterotrophic microzooplankton (negative), and a variety of mesozooplanktonic taxa, including copepoda (mixed), appendicularia (positive), hydrozoa (positive), fish larvae (positive), and gastropoda (negative). The restructuring of the community coincided with significant changes in the concentration and elemental stoichiometry of particulate organic matter. Results imply that extreme CO2 events can lead to a substantial reorganization of the planktonic food web, affecting multiple trophic levels from phytoplankton to primary and secondary consumers.

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Volcanic CO2 seep geochemistry and use in understanding ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is one of the most dramatic effects of the massive atmospheric release of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution, although its effects on marine ecosystems are not well understood. Submarine volcanic hydrothermal fields have geochemical conditions that provide opportunities to characterise the effects of elevated levels of seawater CO2 on marine life in the field. Here, we review the geochemical aspects of shallow marine CO2-rich seeps worldwide, focusing on both gas composition and water chemistry. We then describe the geochemical effects of volcanic CO2 seepage on the overlying seawater column. We also present new geochemical data and the first synthesis of marine biological community changes from one of the best-studied marine CO2 seep sites in the world (off Vulcano Island, Sicily). In areas of intense bubbling, extremely high levels of pCO2 (> 10,000 μatm) result in low seawater pH (< 6) and undersaturation of aragonite and calcite in an area devoid of calcified organisms such as shelled molluscs and hard corals. Around 100–400 m away from the Vulcano seeps the geochemistry of the seawater becomes analogous to future ocean acidification conditions with dissolved carbon dioxide levels falling from 900 to 420 μatm as seawater pH rises from 7.6 to 8.0. Calcified species such as coralline algae and sea urchins fare increasingly well as sessile communities shift from domination by a few resilient species (such as uncalcified algae and polychaetes) to a diverse and complex community (including abundant calcified algae and sea urchins) as the seawater returns to ambient levels of CO2. Laboratory advances in our understanding of species sensitivity to high CO2 and low pH seawater, reveal how marine organisms react to simulated ocean acidification conditions (e.g., using energetic trade-offs for calcification, reproduction, growth and survival). Research at volcanic marine seeps, such as those off Vulcano, highlight consistent ecosystem responses to rising levels of seawater CO2, with the simplification of food webs, losses in functional diversity and reduced provisioning of goods and services for humans.

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The effects of decomposing invasive jellyfish on biogeochemical fluxes and microbial dynamics in an ultra-oligotrophic sea

Over the past several decades, jellyfish blooms have intensified spatially and temporally, affecting functions and services of ecosystems worldwide. At the demise of a bloom, an enormous amount of jellyfish biomass sinks to the seabed and decomposes. This process entails reciprocal microbial and biogeochemical changes, typically enriching the water column and seabed with large amounts of organic and inorganic nutrients. Jellyfish decomposition was hypothesized to be particularly important in nutrient-impoverished ecosystems, such as the Eastern Mediterranean Sea – one of the most oligotrophic marine regions in the world. Since the 1970s, this region has been experiencing the proliferation of a notorious invasive scyphozoan jellyfish, Rhopilema nomadica. In this study, we estimated the short-term decomposition effects of R. nomadica on nutrient dynamics at the sediment-water interface. Our results show that the degradation of R. nomadica has led to increased oxygen demand and acidification of overlying water as well as high rates of dissolved organic nitrogen and phosphate production. These conditions favored heterotrophic microbial activity and bacterial biomass accumulation, and triggered a shift towards heterotrophic biodegrading bacterial communities, whereas autotrophic picophytoplankton abundance was moderately affected or reduced. This shift may further decrease primary production in the water column of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. Deoxygenation, acidification, nutrient enrichment, and microbial community shifts at the sediment-water interface may have a detrimental impact on macrobenthic communities. Based on these findings, we suggest that jelly-falls and their decay may facilitate an additional decline in ecosystem functions and services.

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Coastal acidification and deoxygenation enhance settlement but do not influence movement behavior of creeping polyps of the irukandji jellyfish, Alatina alata (cubozoa)


  • Deoxygenation enhanced the survival of the creeping polyps of Alatina alata.

  • More creeping polyps settled under low pH and low dissolved O2 (DO) treatments than under normal pH and DO conditions.

  • Exposure to low pH and DO did not influence the number of tentacles, mobility or movement velocity of the creeping polyps.

  • The Irukandji jellyfish may persist in coastal areas with coastal deoxygenation and acidification.


Deoxygenation and acidification co-occur in many coastal ecosystems because nutrient enrichment produces excess organic matter that intensifies aerobic respiration during decomposition, thereby depleting O2, increasing CO2 and lowering pH. Despite this link between coastal deoxygenation (CD) and acidification (CA), and evidence that both stressors pose a risk to marine fauna, few studies have examined the effects of these drivers in combination on marine animals including invertebrates. Here, we studied the individual and combined effects of CD (∼1.5 mg L−1 O2) and CA (∼7.7 pH) on the survival, number of tentacles, settlement and movement behaviours of creeping polyps of the Irukandji jellyfish, Alatina alata. Low DO increased the survival rate (17% more) of the creeping polyps. 12% more creeping polyps settled in low pH than ambient pH and 16.7% more settled in low DO than ambient DO treatment. Exposure to CA and CD did not influence the number of tentacles, mobility or movement velocity of the creeping polyps, but after 4 h exposure to the treatments, they moved approximately half as fast. Our results indicate that CD can enhance survival and settlement success, but CA does not intensify these outcomes on A. alata creeping polyps.

Continue reading ‘Coastal acidification and deoxygenation enhance settlement but do not influence movement behavior of creeping polyps of the irukandji jellyfish, Alatina alata (cubozoa)’

Toward a mechanistic understanding of marine invertebrate behavior at elevated CO2

Elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can alter ecologically important behaviors in a range of marine invertebrate taxa; however, a clear mechanistic understanding of these behavioral changes is lacking. The majority of mechanistic research on the behavioral effects of elevated CO2 has been done in fish, focusing on disrupted functioning of the GABAA receptor (a ligand-gated ion channel, LGIC). Yet, elevated CO2 could induce behavioral alterations through a range of mechanisms that disturb different components of the neurobiological pathway that produces behavior, including disrupted sensation, altered behavioral choices and disturbed LGIC-mediated neurotransmission. Here, we review the potential mechanisms by which elevated CO2 may affect marine invertebrate behaviors. Marine invertebrate acid–base physiology and pharmacology is discussed in relation to altered GABAA receptor functioning. Alternative mechanisms for behavioral change at elevated CO2 are considered and important topics for future research have been identified. A mechanistic understanding will be important to determine why there is variability in elevated CO2-induced behavioral alterations across marine invertebrate taxa, why some, but not other, behaviors are affected within a species and to identify which marine invertebrates will be most vulnerable to rising CO2 levels.

Continue reading ‘Toward a mechanistic understanding of marine invertebrate behavior at elevated CO2’

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