Posts Tagged 'community composition'

Environmental stability impacts the differential sensitivity of marine microbiomes to increases in temperature and acidity

Ambient conditions shape microbiome responses to both short- and long-duration environment changes through processes including physiological acclimation, compositional shifts, and evolution. Thus, we predict that microbial communities inhabiting locations with larger diel, episodic, and annual variability in temperature and pH should be less sensitive to shifts in these climate-change factors. To test this hypothesis, we compared responses of surface ocean microbes from more variable (nearshore) and more constant (offshore) sites to short-term factorial warming (+3 °C) and/or acidification (pH −0.3). In all cases, warming alone significantly altered microbial community composition, while acidification had a minor influence. Compared with nearshore microbes, warmed offshore microbiomes exhibited larger changes in community composition, phylotype abundances, respiration rates, and metatranscriptomes, suggesting increased sensitivity of microbes from the less-variable environment. Moreover, while warming increased respiration rates, offshore metatranscriptomes yielded evidence of thermal stress responses in protein synthesis, heat shock proteins, and regulation. Future oceans with warmer waters may enhance overall metabolic and biogeochemical rates, but they will host altered microbial communities, especially in relatively thermally stable regions of the oceans.

Continue reading ‘Environmental stability impacts the differential sensitivity of marine microbiomes to increases in temperature and acidity’

Trophic pyramids reorganize when food web architecture fails to adjust to ocean change

As human activities intensify, the structures of ecosystems and their food webs often reorganize. Through the study of mesocosms harboring a diverse benthic coastal community, we reveal that food web architecture can be inflexible under ocean warming and acidification and unable to compensate for the decline or proliferation of taxa. Key stabilizing processes, including functional redundancy, trophic compensation, and species substitution, were largely absent under future climate conditions. A trophic pyramid emerged in which biomass expanded at the base and top but contracted in the center. This structure may characterize a transitionary state before collapse into shortened, bottom-heavy food webs that characterize ecosystems subject to persistent abiotic stress. We show that where food web architecture lacks adjustability, the adaptive capacity of ecosystems to global change is weak and ecosystem degradation likely.

Continue reading ‘Trophic pyramids reorganize when food web architecture fails to adjust to ocean change’

Rapid deep ocean deoxygenation and acidification threaten life on Northeast Pacific seamounts

Anthropogenic climate change is causing our oceans to lose oxygen and become more acidic at an unprecedented rate, threatening marine ecosystems and their associated animals. In deep‐sea environments, where conditions have typically changed over geological time scales, the associated animals, adapted to these stable conditions, are expected to be highly vulnerable to any change or direct human impact. Our study coalesces one of the longest deep‐sea observational oceanographic timeseries, reaching back to the 1960s, with a modern visual survey that characterizes almost two vertical‐kilometers of benthic seamount ecosystems. Based on our new and rigorous analysis of the Line P oceanographic monitoring data, the upper 3000 m of the Northeast Pacific has lost 15% of its oxygen in the last 60 years. Over that time, the oxygen minimum zone (OMZ), ranging between approximately 480 and 1700 m has expanded at a rate of 3.0±0.7 m/year (due to deepening at the bottom). Additionally, carbonate saturation horizons above the OMZ have been shoaling at a rate of 1‐2 m/year since the 1980s. Based on our visual surveys of four Northeast Pacific seamounts, these deep‐sea features support ecologically important taxa typified by long lifespans, slow growth rates, and limited mobility, including habitat‐forming cold‐water corals and sponges, echinoderms, and fish. By examining the changing conditions within the narrow realized bathymetric niches for a subset of vulnerable populations, we resolve chemical trends that are rapid in comparison to the lifespan of the taxa and detrimental to their survival. If these trends continue as they have over the last 3‐6 decades, they threaten to diminish regional seamount ecosystem diversity and cause local extinctions. This study highlights the importance of mitigating direct human impacts as species continue to suffer environmental changes beyond our immediate control.

Continue reading ‘Rapid deep ocean deoxygenation and acidification threaten life on Northeast Pacific seamounts’

Status of corals along the Sindh coast of Pakistan: prevailing environmental conditions, their impacts on community structure and conservation approaches


• Describes status of corals along the Sindh coast of Pakistan.

• Prevailing physico-chemical conditions in coastal waters of Sindh, Pakistan.

• Impacts of physico-chemical conditions on corals distribution patterns.

• Existing threats and future conservation plans.


Reef system across the globe is facing serious anthropogenic threats and impacts. The present study describes the status of corals, prevailing stresses and their impacts on community structure along the Sindh coast of Pakistan. In the current study, 21 species of hard corals were recorded. All together, 50 live coral species recorded from the coastal waters of Pakistan. High diversity occurred at Churna Island (15 species). A little bit patch reef formation was observed at Churna Island (dive sites 2 and 3) while scattered colonies were recorded in coastal habitats. Porites species were found dominating both in coastal and offshore environments. Overall, temperature and nutrient concentrations were found to be fluctuating than what corals prefer, however, pH concentrations were found in normal ranges. Calcium, carbon and oxygen were recorded as major elements incorporated in coral skeletons. Possible causes of limited coral fauna and a confined distribution pattern appeared to be linked with local factors (strong wave action, high nutrient concentrations, temperature fluctuations, past geological events, reversal monsoon and overfishing) rather than global changes. Other impacts, for example diving tourism, coral mining or collection for ornaments or sale are minor. Prevailing stresses, increase in the construction of local infrastructure in coastal areas and unmanaged tourism indicates that in future, the level of pollution will further increase in coastal areas. As a result, a further shift in community structure will occur and it appears that only Porites will survive in the coastal waters of Pakistan. Future protection efforts should focus on regular monitoring and establishing of an effective Marine Protected Area at least around the shallow habitats of the Churna Island.

Continue reading ‘Status of corals along the Sindh coast of Pakistan: prevailing environmental conditions, their impacts on community structure and conservation approaches’

Response of phytoplankton assemblages from naturally acidic coastal ecosystems to elevated pCO2

The interplay of coastal oceanographic processes usually results in partial pressures of CO2 (pCO2) higher than expected from the equilibrium with the atmosphere and even higher than those expected by the end of the century. Although this is a well-known situation, the natural variability of seawater chemistry at the locations from which tested organisms or communities originate is seldom considered in ocean acidification experiments. In this work, we aimed to evaluate the role of the carbonate chemistry dynamics in shaping the response of coastal phytoplankton communities to increased pCO2 levels. The study was conducted at two coastal ecosystems off Chile, the Valdivia River estuary and the coastal upwelling ecosystem in the Arauco Gulf. We characterized the seasonal variability (winter/summer) of the hydrographic conditions, the carbonate system parameters, and the phytoplankton community structure at both sites. The results showed that carbonate chemistry dynamics in the estuary were mainly related to seasonal changes in freshwater discharges, with acidic and corrosive conditions dominating in winter. In the Arauco Gulf, these conditions were observed in summer, mainly associated with the upwelling of cold and high pCO2 (>1,000 μatm) waters. Diatoms dominated the phytoplankton communities at both sites, yet the one in Valdivia was more diverse. Only certain phytoplankton groups in this latter ecosystem showed a significant correlations with the carbonate system parameters. When the impact of elevated pCO2 levels was investigated by pCO2 manipulation experiments, we did not observe any significant effect on the biomass of either of the two communities. Changes in the phytoplankton species composition and abundance during the incubations were related to other factors, such as competition and growth phases. Our findings highlight the importance of the natural variability of coastal ecosystems and the potential for local adaptation in determining responses of coastal phytoplankton communities to increased pCO2 levels.

Continue reading ‘Response of phytoplankton assemblages from naturally acidic coastal ecosystems to elevated pCO2’

Changes in biofilm bacterial communities in response to combined effects of hypoxia, ocean acidification and nutrients from aquaculture activity in Three Fathoms Cove


•Combined occurrence of hypoxia, acidification and nutrients increased biofilm bacterial diversity and richness

•Elevated nutrients, and depleted oxygen and pH levels resulted in different bacterial community composition

•Higher abundance of Flavobacteriales, Epsilonproteobacteria and Vibrionales, but less Oceanospirillales and Alteromonadales

•Suggests the identities of bacterial groups affected under the ocean trend of pollution, deoxygenation and acidification


Anthropogenic nutrient enrichment results in hypoxia, ocean acidification and elevated nutrients (HOAN) in coastal environments throughout the world. Here, we examined the composition of biofilm bacterial communities from a nutrient-excessive fish farm with low dissolved oxygen (DO) and pH levels using 16S rRNA gene sequencing. HOAN was accompanied by higher bacterial diversity and richness, and resulted in an altered community composition than the control site. HOAN resulted in more Flavobacteriales, Rhizobiales, Epsilonproteobacteria and Vibrionales, but less Oceanospirillales and Alteromonadales. Photobacterium sp. and Vibrio sp. were mostly found to be exclusive to HOAN conditions, suggesting that HOAN could possibly proliferate the presence of these potential pathogens. Our study suggests the complexity of bacterial communities to hypoxia and acidification in response to increased nutrient loads, along with identities of nutrient, oxygen and pH-susceptible bacterial groups that are most likely affected under this ocean trend.

Continue reading ‘Changes in biofilm bacterial communities in response to combined effects of hypoxia, ocean acidification and nutrients from aquaculture activity in Three Fathoms Cove’

Porewater carbonate chemistry dynamics in a temperate and a subtropical seagrass system

Seagrass systems are integral components of both local and global carbon cycles and can substantially modify seawater biogeochemistry, which has ecological ramifications. However, the influence of seagrass on porewater biogeochemistry has not been fully described, and the exact role of this marine macrophyte and associated microbial communities in the modification of porewater chemistry remains equivocal. In the present study, carbonate chemistry in the water column and porewater was investigated over diel timescales in contrasting, tidally influenced seagrass systems in Southern California and Bermuda, including vegetated (Zostera marina) and unvegetated biomes (0–16 cm) in Mission Bay, San Diego, USA and a vegetated system (Thallasia testudinium) in Mangrove Bay, Ferry Reach, Bermuda. In Mission Bay, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity (TA) exhibited strong increasing gradients with sediment depth. Vertical porewater profiles differed between the sites, with almost twice as high concentrations of DIC and TA observed in the vegetated compared to the unvegetated sediments. In Mangrove Bay, both the range and vertical profiles of porewater carbonate parameters such as DIC and TA were much lower and, in contrast to Mission Bay where no distinct temporal signal was observed, biogeochemical parameters followed the semi-diurnal tidal signal in the water column. The observed differences between the study sites most likely reflect a differential influence of biological (biomass, detritus and infauna) and physical processes (e.g., sediment permeability, residence time and mixing) on porewater carbonate chemistry in the different settings.

Continue reading ‘Porewater carbonate chemistry dynamics in a temperate and a subtropical seagrass system’

Pacific-wide pH snapshots reveal that high coral cover correlates with low, but variable pH

Ocean acidification (OA) is impairing the construction of coral reefs while simultaneously accelerating their breakdown. The metabolism of different reef organism assemblages alters seawater pH in different ways, possibly buffering or exacerbating OA impacts. In spite of this, field data relating benthic community structure and seawater pH are sparse. We collected pH time-series data snapshots at 10 m depth from 28 different reefs (n = 13 lagoon, n = 15 fore reef) across 22 Pacific islands, spanning 31° latitude and 90° longitude. Coincident with all deployments, we measured percent cover of the benthic community. On fore reefs, high coral cover (CC) negatively correlated with mean and minimum pH, but positively correlated with pH variability. Conversely, pH minima were positively correlated to coverage of coralline and turf algae. Benthic cover did not correlate with pH in lagoonal reefs. From 0%–100% CC, mean pH and aragonite saturation state (Ωarag ) declined −0.081 and −0.51, respectively, while declines in minimum values were greater (Δmin pH = −0.164, Δmin Ωarag = −0.96). Based upon previously published relationships, the mean pH decline from 0%–100% CC would depress coral calcification 7.7%–18.0% and increase biologically-mediated dissolution 13.5%–27.9%, with pH minima depressing dark coral calcification 14.4%–35.2% and increasing biologically-mediated dissolution 31.0%–62.2%. This spatially expansive dataset provides evidence that coral reefs with the highest coral cover may experience the lowest and most extreme pH values with OA.

Continue reading ‘Pacific-wide pH snapshots reveal that high coral cover correlates with low, but variable pH’

Metabolic responses of subtropical microplankton after a simulated deep-water upwelling event suggest a possible dominance of mixotrophy under increasing CO2 levels

In the autumn of 2014, nine large mesocosms were deployed in the oligotrophic subtropical North-Atlantic coastal waters off Gran Canaria (Spain). Their deployment was designed to address the acidification effects of CO2 levels from 400 to 1,400 μatm, on a plankton community experiencing upwelling of nutrient-rich deep water. Among other parameters, chlorophyll a (chl-a), potential respiration (Φ), and biomass in terms of particulate protein (B) were measured in the microplankton community (0.7–50.0 μm) during an oligotrophic phase (Phase I), a phytoplankton-bloom phase (Phase II), and a post-bloom phase (Phase III). Here, we explore the use of the Φ/chl-a ratio in monitoring shifts in the microplankton community composition and its metabolism. Φ/chl-a values below 2.5 μL O2 h−1 (μg chl-a)−1 indicated a community dominated by photoautotrophs. When Φ/chl-a ranged higher, between 2.5 and 7.0 μL O2 h−1 (μg chl-a)−1, it indicated a mixed community of phytoplankton, microzooplankton and heterotrophic prokaryotes. When Φ/chl-a rose above 7.0 μL O2 h−1 (μg chl-a)−1, it indicated a community where microzooplankton proliferated (>10.0 μL O2 h−1 (μg chl-a)−1), because heterotrophic dinoflagellates bloomed. The first derivative of B, as a function of time (dB/dt), indicates the rate of protein build-up when positive and the rate of protein loss, when negative. It revealed that the maximum increase in particulate protein (biomass) occurred between 1 and 2 days before the chl-a peak. A day after this peak, the trough revealed the maximum net biomass loss. This analysis did not detect significant changes in particulate protein, neither in Phase I nor in Phase III. Integral analysis of Φ, chl-a and B, over the duration of each phase, for each mesocosm, reflected a positive relationship between Φ and pCO2 during Phase II [α = 230·10−5 μL O2 h−1 L−1 (μatm CO2)−1 (phase-day)−1, R2 = 0.30] and between chl-a and pCO2 during Phase III [α = 100·10−5 μg chl-a L−1 (μ atmCO2)−1 (phase-day)−1, R2 = 0.84]. At the end of Phase II, a harmful algal species (HAS), Vicicitus globosus, bloomed in the high pCO2 mesocosms. In these mesocosms, microzooplankton did not proliferate, and chl-a retention time in the water column increased. In these V. globosus-disrupted communities, the Φ/chl-a ratio [4.1 ± 1.5 μL O2 h−1 (μg chl-a)−1] was more similar to the Φ/chl-a ratio in a mixed plankton community than to a photoautotroph-dominated one.

Continue reading ‘Metabolic responses of subtropical microplankton after a simulated deep-water upwelling event suggest a possible dominance of mixotrophy under increasing CO2 levels’

Characterizing biogeochemical fluctuations in a world of extremes: A synthesis for temperate intertidal habitats in the face of global change

Coastal and intertidal habitats are at the forefront of anthropogenic influence and environmental change. The species occupying these habitats are adapted to a world of extremes, which may render them robust to the changing climate or more vulnerable if they are at their physiological limits. We characterized the diurnal, seasonal and interannual patterns of flux in biogeochemistry across an intertidal gradient on a temperate sandstone platform in eastern Australia over 6 years (2009–2015) and present a synthesis of our current understanding of this habitat in context with global change. We used rock pools as natural mesocosms to determine biogeochemistry dynamics and patterns of eco‐stress experienced by resident biota. In situ measurements and discrete water samples were collected night and day during neap low tide events to capture diurnal biogeochemistry cycles. Calculation of pHT using total alkalinity (TA) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) revealed that the mid‐intertidal habitat exhibited the greatest flux over the years (pHT 7.52–8.87), and over a single tidal cycle (1.11 pHT units), while the low‐intertidal (pHT 7.82–8.30) and subtidal (pHT 7.87–8.30) were less variable. Temperature flux was also greatest in the mid‐intertidal (8.0–34.5°C) and over a single tidal event (14°C range), as typical of temperate rocky shores. Mean TA and DIC increased at night and decreased during the day, with the most extreme conditions measured in the mid‐intertidal owing to prolonged emersion periods. Temporal sampling revealed that net ecosystem calcification and production were highest during the day and lowest at night, particularly in the mid‐intertidal. Characterization of biogeochemical fluctuations in a world of extremes demonstrates the variable conditions that intertidal biota routinely experience and highlight potential microhabitat‐specific vulnerabilities and climate change refugia.

Continue reading ‘Characterizing biogeochemical fluctuations in a world of extremes: A synthesis for temperate intertidal habitats in the face of global change’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book