Posts Tagged 'community composition'

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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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.

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High sclerobiont calcification in marginal reefs of the eastern tropical Pacific

Graphical abstract.

A sclerobiont is any organism capable of fouling hard substrates. Sclerobionts have recently received attention due to their notable calcium carbonate contributions to reef structures and potential to offset drops in carbonate budgets in degraded reefs. However, due to their encrusting nature, it is difficult to quantify net calcium carbonate production at the level of individual taxonomic groups, and knowledge regarding the main environmental factors that regulate their spatial distributions is limited. In addition, the material types used to create experimental substrates, their orientations, and their overall deployment times can influence settlement and the composition of the resulting communities. Thus, comparative evaluations of these variables are necessary to improve future research efforts. In this study, we used calcification accretion units (CAUs) to quantify the calcium carbonate contributions of sclerobionts at the taxonomic group level and evaluated the effects of two frequently used materials [i.e., polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and terracotta (TCT) tiles] on the recruitment and calcification of the sclerobiont community in the tropical Mexican Pacific and the Midriff Island Region of the Gulf of California over 6 and 15 months [n = 40; 5 CAUs x site (2) x deployment time (2) x material type (2)]. The net sclerobiont calcification rate (mean ± SD) reached maximum values at six months and was higher in the Mexican Pacific (2.15 ± 0.99 kg m−2 y−1) than in the Gulf of California (1.70 ± 0.67 kg m−2 y−1). Moreover, the calcification rate was slightly higher on the PVC-CAUs compared to that of the TCT-CAUs, although these differences were not consistent at the group level. In addition, cryptic microhabitats showed low calcification rates when compared to those of exposed microhabitatsCrustosecoralline algae and barnacles dominated the exposed experimental surfaces, while bryozoans, mollusks, and serpulid polychaetes dominated cryptic surfaces. Regardless of the site, deployment time, or material type, barnacles made the greatest contributions to calcimass production (between 41 and 88%). Our results demonstrate that the orientation of the experimental substrate, and the material to a lesser extent, influence the sclerobiont community and the associated calcification rate. Upwelling-induced surface nutrient levels, low pH levels, and the aragonite saturation state (ΩAr) limit the early cementation of reef-building organisms in the tropical Mexican Pacific and promote high bioerosion rates in corals of the Gulf of California. Our findings demonstrate that sclerobionts significantly contribute to calcium carbonate production even under conditions of high environmental variability.

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Cell wall organic matrix composition and biomineralization across reef-building coralline algae under global change

Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are one of the most important benthic substrate consolidators on coral reefs through their ability to deposit calcium carbonate on an organic matrix in their cell walls. Discrete polysaccharides have been recognized for their role in biomineralization, yet little is known about the carbohydrate composition of organic matrices across CCA taxa and whether they have the capacity to modulate their organic matrix constituents amidst environmental change, particularly the threats of ocean acidification (OA) and warming. We simulated elevated pCO2 and temperature (IPCC RCP 8.5) and subjected four mid-shelf Great Barrier Reef species of CCA to two months of experimentation. To assess the variability in surficial monosaccharide composition and biomineralization across species and treatments, we determined the monosaccharide composition of the polysaccharides present in the cell walls of surficial algal tissue and quantified calcification. Our results revealed dissimilarity among species’ monosaccharide constituents, which suggests that organic matrices are composed of different polysaccharides across CCA taxa. We also found that species differentially modulate composition in response to ocean acidification and warming. Our findings suggest that both variability in composition and ability to modulate monosaccharide abundance may play a crucial role in surficial biomineralization dynamics under the stress of OA and global warming.

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Ocean acidification drives global reshuffling of ecological communities

The paradigm that climate change will alter global marine biodiversity is one of the most widely accepted. Yet, its predictions remain difficult to test because laboratory systems are inadequate at incorporating ecological complexity, and common biodiversity metrics have varying sensitivity to detect change. Here, we test for the prevalence of global responses in biodiversity and community-level change to future climate (acidification and warming) from studies at volcanic CO2 vents across four major global coastal ecosystems and studies in laboratory mesocosms. We detected globally replicable patterns of species replacements and community reshuffling under ocean acidification in major natural ecosystems, yet species diversity and other common biodiversity metrics were often insensitive to detect such community change, even under significant habitat loss. Where there was a lack of consistent patterns of biodiversity change, these were a function of similar numbers of studies observing negative versus positive species responses to climate stress. Laboratory studies showed weaker sensitivity to detect species replacements and community reshuffling in general. We conclude that common biodiversity metrics can be insensitive in revealing the anticipated effects of climate stress on biodiversity—even under significant biogenic habitat loss—and can mask widespread reshuffling of ecological communities in a future ocean. Although the influence of ocean acidification on community restructuring can be less evident than species loss, such changes can drive the dynamics of ecosystem stability or their functional change. Importantly, species identity matters, representing a substantial influence of future oceans.

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Exposure to global change and microplastics elicits an immune response in an endangered coral

Global change is increasing seawater temperatures and decreasing oceanic pH, driving declines of coral reefs globally. Coral ecosystems are also impacted by local stressors, including microplastics, which are ubiquitous on reefs. While the independent effects of these global and local stressors are well-documented, their interactions remain less explored. Here, we examine the independent and combined effects of global change (ocean warming and acidification) and microplastics exposures on gene expression (GE) and microbial community composition in the endangered coral Acropora cervicornis. Nine genotypes were fragmented and maintained in one of four experimental treatments: 1) ambient conditions (ambient seawater, no microplastics; AMB); 2) microplastics treatment (ambient seawater, microplastics; MP); 3) global change conditions (warm and acidic conditions, no microplastics; OAW); and 4) multistressor treatment (warm and acidic conditions with microplastics; OAW+MP) for 22 days, after which corals were sampled for genome-wide GE profiling and ITS and 16S metabarcoding. Overall A. cervicornis GE responses to all treatments were subtle; however, corals in the multistressor treatment exhibited the strongest GE responses, and genes associated with innate immunity were overrepresented in this treatment, according to gene ontology enrichment analyses. 16S analyses revealed stable microbiomes dominated by the bacterial associate Aquarickettsia, suggesting that these A. cervicornis fragments exhibited remarkably low variability in bacterial community composition. Future work should focus on functional differences across microbiomes, especially Aquarickettsia and viruses, in these responses. Overall, results suggest that local stressors present a unique challenge to endangered coral species under global change.

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A method for identifying sensitivity of marine benthic invertebrates to ocean acidification through a biological traits approach

Ocean acidification poses a major threat to the structure and diversity of marine ecosystems. The marine seabed sustains important ecosystem functions, and so understanding the sensitivity to increased pCO2 within benthic invertebrates is critical for informing future management strategies. Here, we explore a traits-based approach for estimating the sensitivity of benthic taxa to ocean acidification, using data from the western area of the North Sea. We selected 56 taxa across 11 taxonomic groups representative of the various habitats found in the region. Biological traits considered sensitive to elevated pCO2 were identified from literature review, and the taxa were scored for each trait to produce a total relative sensitivity (TRS) index. We investigated differences in sensitivity between the taxa and across habitats and explored whether sensitivity was spatially aggregated. Our analyses indicated that benthic species are sensitive to acidification, with 51% of the taxa scoring in the top three TRS bands overall, and hot spots of sensitivity being more widely distributed across the region than corresponding “cold spots” (low sensitivity). The opportunities and limitations of the approach are discussed.

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Effects of the ocean acidification on the functional structure of coral reef nematodes

A mesocosm experiment was designed to study the effects of acidification on the phytal nematofauna of a coral reef. We hypothesized that phytal nematodes are responsive to different seawater acidification levels and that their assemblage structure and functional indicators (combination of maturity index and trophic diversity index) are useful to evaluate the effects of acidification. Artificial substrate units (ASU) were first colonized in a coral reef zone (Recife de Fora Municipal Marine Park, Porto Seguro, Bahia, Brazil) to obtain standardized assemblage samples. ASUs were transferred to laboratory and exposed to control and three levels of seawater acidification (pH reduced by 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 units below field levels) and collected after 15 and 30 d. Contrary to our expectations that acidification may change the taxonomic structure of nematodes, while the functional structure may deviate from the expected under high levels of acidification, we found that univariate functional indicators of the community (index of trophic diversity and maturity index) did not show significant differences between the control and experimental treatments throughout the exposure period. It is probably because the frequent exposure of shallow-water nematodes to rather large environmental variations leads the faunal response to acidification to be complex and subtle. On the other hand, the density of the life-history strategy groups 3 and 4 and the structure of nematode assemblages were significantly affected by different pH levels throughout the exposure period. Both history strategy groups include all kinds of feeding groups. These results suggest that the impact of pH changes predicted by the years 2100 and 2300 may be strong enough to provide different traits or life-history strategies of nematodes to take advantage under changing conditions.

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Impacts of warming and acidification on coral calcification linked to photosymbiont loss and deregulation of calcifying fluid pH

Corals are globally important calcifiers that exhibit complex responses to anthropogenic warming and acidification. Although coral calcification is supported by high seawater pH, photosynthesis by the algal symbionts of zooxanthellate corals can be promoted by elevated pCO2. To investigate the mechanisms underlying corals’ complex responses to global change, three species of tropical zooxanthellate corals (Stylophora pistillataPocillopora damicornis, and Seriatopora hystrix) and one species of asymbiotic cold-water coral (Desmophyllum pertusum, syn. Lophelia pertusa) were cultured under a range of ocean acidification and warming scenarios. Under control temperatures, all tropical species exhibited increased calcification rates in response to increasing pCO2. However, the tropical species’ response to increasing pCO2 flattened when they lost symbionts (i.e., bleached) under the high-temperature treatments—suggesting that the loss of symbionts neutralized the benefit of increased pCO2 on calcification rate. Notably, the cold-water species that lacks symbionts exhibited a negative calcification response to increasing pCO2, although this negative response was partially ameliorated under elevated temperature. All four species elevated their calcifying fluid pH relative to seawater pH under all pCO2 treatments, and the magnitude of this offset (Δ[H+]) increased with increasing pCO2. Furthermore, calcifying fluid pH decreased along with symbiont abundance under thermal stress for the one species in which calcifying fluid pH was measured under both temperature treatments. This observation suggests a mechanistic link between photosymbiont loss (‘bleaching’) and impairment of zooxanthellate corals’ ability to elevate calcifying fluid pH in support of calcification under heat stress. This study supports the assertion that thermally induced loss of photosymbionts impairs tropical zooxanthellate corals’ ability to cope with CO2-induced ocean acidification.

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Phytoplankton community shift in response to experimental Cu addition at the elevated CO2 levels (Arabian Sea, winter monsoon)

Understanding phytoplankton community shifts under multiple stressors is becoming increasingly important. Among other combinations of stressors, the impact of trace metal toxicity on marine phytoplankton under the ocean acidification scenario is an important aspect to address. Such multiple stressor studies are rare from the Arabian Sea, one of the highest productive oceanic provinces within the North Indian Ocean. We studied the interactive impacts of copper (Cu) and CO2 enrichment on two natural phytoplankton communities from the eastern and central Arabian Sea. Low dissolved silicate (DSi < 2 µM) favoured smaller diatoms (e.g. Nitzschia sp.) and non-diatom (Phaeocystis). CO2 enrichment caused both positive (Nitzschia sp. and Phaeocystis sp.) and negative (Cylindrotheca closterium, Navicula sp., Pseudo-nitzschia sp., Alexandrium sp., and Gymnodinium sp.) growth impacts. The addition of Cu under the ambient CO2 level (A-CO2) hindered cell division in most of the species, whereas Chla contents were nearly unaffected. Interestingly, CO2 enrichment seemed to alleviate Cu toxicity in some species (Nitzschia sp., Cylindrotheca closterium, Guinardia flaccida, and Phaeocystis) and increased their growth rates. This could be related to the cellular Cu demand and energy budget at elevated CO2 levels. Dinoflagellates were more sensitive to Cu supply compared to diatoms and prymnesiophytes and could be related to the unavailability of prey. Such community shifts in response to the projected ocean acidification, oligotrophy, and Cu pollution may impact trophic transfer and carbon cycling in this region.

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Calcification response of planktic foraminifera to environmental change in the western Mediterranean Sea during the industrial era

The aim of this work is to investigate the variability of planktic foraminifera calcification in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea on seasonal, interannual and pre-industrial Holocene time scales. This study is based on data from a 12-year-long sediment trap record retrieved in the in the Gulf of Lions and seabed sediment samples from the Gulf of Lions and the promontory of Menorca. Three different planktic foraminifera species were selected based on their different ecology and abundance: Globigerina bulloides, Neogloboquadrina incompta, and Globorotalia truncatulinoides. A total of 273 samples were weighted in both sediment trap and seabed samples. As the traditionally used sieve fractions method is considered unreliable because of the effect of morphometric parameters on the foraminifera weight, we measured area and diameter to constrain the effect of these parameters. The results of our study show substantial different seasonal calcification patterns across species: G. bulloides showed a slight calcification increase during the high productivity period, while both N. incompta and G. truncatulinoides display a higher calcification during the low productivity period. The comparison of these patterns with environmental parameters revealed that Optimum Growth Conditions temperature and carbonate system parameters are the most likely to influence seasonal calcification in the Gulf of Lions. Interannual analysis suggest that both G. bulloides and N. incompta slightly reduced their calcification between 1994 and 2005, while G. truncatulinoides exhibited a constant and pronounced increase in its calcification that translated in an increase of 20 % of its shell weight for the 400–500 µm narrow size class. While our data suggest that carbonate system parameters are the most likely environmental parameter driving foraminifera calcification changes over the years.

Finally, comparison between sediment trap data and seabed sediments allowed us to assess the changes of planktic foraminifera calcification during the late Holocene, including the preindustrial era. Several lines of evidence strongly indicate that selective dissolution did not bias the results in any of our data sets. Our results showed a clear calcification reduction between pre-industrial Holocene and recent data with G. truncatulinoides experiencing the largest calcification decrease (32–40 %) followed by N. incompta (20–27 %) and G. bulloides (18–24 %). Overall, our results provide evidence of clear reduction in planktic foraminifera calcification in the Mediterranean most likely associated with ongoing ocean acidification and consistent with previous observations in other settings of the world’s oceans.

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Offshore extinctions: ocean acidification impacting interstitial fauna

As problematic as global warming, ocean acidification is a widespread problem, but the consequences of the interstitial fauna are still underrated. The biodiversity within sandy beaches is out of measurement, and its loss will be significantly felt. Estimations of the number of species are still vague. Acting as a key role in the trophic net, the interstitial organisms are threatened by pH value changes. Changing the pH values is already linked with less species richness and weakness of the sea community. The sediments may not be a sufficient buffer. Beyond this, there is another environmental problem aggravating the scenario. The decreasing complexity in the sand structure generated by the destruction of biological-generated sediments will impact the local biodiversity. Other environmental situations such as lack of sufficient O2 levels may be an aggravating combination. Here, I propose a protocol to observe if occur offshore extinctions, the veiled extinctions of interstitial fauna.

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Shallow water records of the PETM: novel insights From NE India (eastern Tethys)


The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is associated with major extinctions in the deep ocean, and significant paleogeographic and ecological changes in surface ocean and terrestrial environments. However, the impact of the associated environmental change on shelf biota is less well understood. Here, we present a new PETM record of a low paleolatitude shallow-marine carbonate platform from Meghalaya, NE India (eastern Tethys). The biotic assemblage was distinctly different to other Tethyan PETM records dominated by larger benthic foraminifera and calcareous algae both in the Paleocene and Eocene. A change in taxa and forms indicating deeper waters with a concurrent decrease in abundance of shallow water algae suggests a sea-level rise during the onset of the PETM. The record is lacking the ecological change from corals to larger foraminiferal assemblages and the Lockhartia dominance, characteristic of several other sections in the Tethys. Comparison with a global circulation model (GCM) indicates high regional temperatures in the Thanetian which may have excluded corals from the region. Furthermore, the regional circulation pattern is isolating the site from the wider Paratethys. Our study highlights the need for a diverse global perspective on shallow-marine response to the PETM and the strength of coupling data to global climate models for interpretation.

Key Points

  • Shallow-marine Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) successions are rare; here, we presented from the low paleolatitude NE India (eastern Tethys)
  • The absence of coral reefs in NE India, in contrast to other Tethyan records, was driven by very high temperatures
  • Linking biotic records of this section with climate modeling allow to interpret the biotic differences across the Tethyan region
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The indirect effects of ocean acidification on corals and coral communities

Ocean acidification (OA) is a major threat to marine calcifying organisms. This manuscript gives an overview of the physiological effects of acidification on reef-building corals from a cellular to population scale. In addition, we present the first review of the indirect effects resulting from altered species interactions. We find that the direct effects of acidification are more consistently negative at larger spatial scales, suggesting an accumulation of sub-lethal physiological effects can result in notable changes at a population and an ecosystem level. We identify that the indirect effects of acidification also have the potential to contribute to declines in coral cover under future acidified conditions. Of particular concern for reef persistence are declines in the abundance of crustose coralline algae which can result in loss of stable substrate and settlement cues for corals, potentially compounding the direct negative effects on coral recruitment rates. In addition, an increase in the abundance of bioeroders and bioerosive capacity may compound declines in calcification and result in a shift towards net dissolution. There are significant knowledge gaps around many indirect effects, including changes in herbivory and associated coral–macroalgal interactions, and changes in habitat provision of corals to fish, invertebrates and plankton, and the impact of changes to these interactions for both individual corals and reef biodiversity as structural complexity declines. This research highlights the potential of indirect effects to contribute to alterations in reef ecosystem functions and processes. Such knowledge will be critical for scaling-up the impacts of OA from individual corals to reef ecosystems and for understanding the effects of OA on reef-dependent human societies.

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Phytoplankton growth and community shift over a short-term high-CO2 simulation experiment from the southwestern shelf of India, Eastern Arabian Sea (summer monsoon)

The southwestern shelf water of India (eastern Arabian Sea) experiences high seasonality. This area is one of the understudied regions in terms of phytoplankton response to the projected ocean acidification, particularly, during the summer monsoon when phytoplankton abundance is high. Here we present the results of a short-term simulated ocean acidification experiment (ambient CO2 424 µatm; high CO2, 843, 1138 µatm) on the natural phytoplankton assemblages conducted onboard (R. V. Sindhu Sadhana) during the summer monsoon (Aug 2017). Among the dissolved inorganic nutrients, dissolved silicate (DSi) and nitrate + nitrite levels were quite low (< 2 µM). Phytoplankton biomass did not show any net enhancement after the incubation in any treatment. Both marker pigment analysis and microscopy revealed the dominance of diatoms in the phytoplankton community, and a significant restructuring was noticed over the experimental period. Divinyl chlorophylla (DVChla) containing picocyanobacteria and 19‘-hexanoyloxyfucoxanthin (19′HF) containing prymnesiophytes did not show any noticeable change in response to CO2 enrichment. A CO2-induced positive growth response was noticed in some diatoms (Guinardia flaccidaCylindrotheca closterium, and Pseudo-nitzschia sp.) and dinoflagellates (Protoperidinium sp. and Peridinium sp.) indicating their efficiency to quickly acclimatize at elevated CO2 levels. This is important to note that the positive growth response of toxigenic pennate diatoms like Pseudo-nitzschia as well as a few dinoflagellates at elevated CO2 levels can be expected in the future-ocean scenario. The proliferation of such non-palatable phytoplankton may impact grazing, the food chain, and carbon cycling in this region.

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Role of coral symbiont in coral resilience under future ocean conditions

Anthropogenic climate change is leading to severe consequences for coral reefs because it disrupts the mutualistic partnership between the coral host and their dinoflagellate endosymbionts (Family: Symbiodiniaceae). Ocean acidification (OA) and ocean warming lead to reduced coral growth, causes coral bleaching, and increases coral mortality. One mechanism of long-term acclimatization to thermal stress by corals is to acquire more thermally tolerant symbiont lineages or increase the proportion of thermally tolerant lineages in the symbiont community. Using a combination of field and long-term mesocosm experiments this research investigated the main drivers of Symbiodiniaceae community composition in some of the main corals in Hawai‘i. The first chapter elucidates the baseline symbiont community composition of 600 colonies of Montipora capitata sampled from 30 reefs across the range of environmental conditions that occur in Kāne‘ohe Bay. Symbiodiniaceae community differed markedly across sites, with M. capitata in the most open-ocean (northern) site hosting few or none of the genus Durusdinium, whereas individuals at other sites had a mix of Durusdinium and Cladocopium. The second chapter then investigates how the symbiont composition of those same individually marked colonies responded to the 2019 bleaching event. The relative proportion of the heat-tolerant symbiont Durusdinium increased in most parts of the bay, but despite this significant increase in abundance, the overall algal symbiont community composition was largely unchanged. Rather than bleaching stress, symbiont community composition was driven by environmentally designated regions across the bay, and remained differentiated and similar to pre-bleaching composition. Among measured variables, depth and variability in temperature were the most significant drivers of Symbiodiniaceae community composition among sites, regardless of bleaching intensity or change in relative proportion of Durusdinium. The final chapter investigates the role of specificity in the symbiont community composition for eight of the main Hawaiian corals sampled from six different locations around O‘ahu. Corals were then maintained for ~2.5 years under temperature and acidification conditions predicted by the end of the century in a mesocosm experiment to determine the response of their symbiont communities to climate change and test for environmental memory. Symbiodiniaceae communities were highly specific in each of the eight coral species-, and site-specific differences in community composition were lost by the end of the experiment in the common garden ambient treatment. Future ocean conditions lead to an increase in stress resilient symbionts (e.g., Durusdinium) in some species, whereas others became more vulnerable to the infection of opportunistic symbionts (e.g., Symbiodinium or Breviolum). Temperature was found to be the main driver of change, whereas there was no significant effect of acidification on symbiont community composition. Provenance of corals mattered, because corals from some locations responded differently than conspecifics from other locations confirming an environmental memory effect. Together these results highlight the complexity in predicting coral response to future ocean conditions. Algal symbiont community composition of corals changes in response to their environment, and that this response is dependent on both the coral species and their site of origin, highlighting the role of symbiont specificity and environmental memory in shaping coral resilience.

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Impact of atmospheric dry deposition of nutrients on phytoplankton pigment composition and primary production in the coastal Bay of Bengal

Atmospheric deposition of pollutants decreases pH and increases the nutrient concentration in the surface water. To examine its impact on coastal phytoplankton composition and primary production, monthly atmospheric aerosol samples were mixed with coastal waters in the microcosm experiments. These experiments suggested that the biomass of Bacillariophyceae, Dinophyceae and Chlorophyceae were increased and primary production of the coastal waters increased by 3 to 19% due to the addition of aeolian nutrients. The increase in primary production displayed significant relation with a concentration of sulphate and nitrate in the atmospheric aerosols suggesting that both decreases in pH and fertilization enhanced primary production. The impact of acidification on primary production was found to be 22%, whereas 78% was contributed by the nutrient increase. The atmospheric pollution is increasing rapidly over the northern Indian Ocean since past two decades due to rapid industrialization. Hence, it is suggested that the impact of atmospheric pollution on the coastal ecosystem must be included in the numerical models to predict possible changes in the coastal ecosystem due to climate change.

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Amino acid nitrogen stable isotopes as biomarkers of coastal phytoplankton assemblages and food web interactions

Marine phytoplankton and zooplankton face rapidly changing environments in the face of global warming and climate change. We investigated the effect of warmer water and lower pH conditions—projected for New Zealand coastal waters at the start of the next century—on both phytoplankton and zooplankton in a 20 d mesocosm experiment to determine whether amino acid stable isotopes could be used as biomarkers of environmental change. We also assessed whether key environmental drivers, such as those linked to climate change, altered the processing of amino acids at the base of the food web. Despite changes in phytoplankton biomass and community composition, we found no significant difference in either particulate organic matter (POM) bulk or amino acid-specific δ15N values, indicating that the trophic status of POM was not significantly influenced by lower pH and warming. Threonine δ15N values were the most sensitive to changes in the phytoplankton community and showed correlations with diatoms (positive) and small flagellates (negative), demonstrating potential as a biomarker for detecting changes related to these phytoplankton groups and thus making threonine a promising indirect indicator of climate change. Finally, δ15NPhe values tracked changes in the lower food web, likely due to faster turnover times, showing its valuable role as a tracer of the nitrogen baseline, even during accelerated metabolism in zooplankton.

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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.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification alters the predator – prey relationship between hydrozoa and fish larvae’

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