Posts Tagged 'communitymodeling'

Potential sources of variability in mesocosm experiments on the response of phytoplankton to ocean acidification (update)

Mesocosm experiments on phytoplankton dynamics under high CO2 concentrations mimic the response of marine primary producers to future ocean acidification. However, potential acidification effects can be hindered by the high standard deviation typically found in the replicates of the same CO2 treatment level. In experiments with multiple unresolved factors and a sub-optimal number of replicates, post-processing statistical inference tools might fail to detect an effect that is present. We propose that in such cases, data-based model analyses might be suitable tools to unearth potential responses to the treatment and identify the uncertainties that could produce the observed variability. As test cases, we used data from two independent mesocosm experiments. Both experiments showed high standard deviations and, according to statistical inference tools, biomass appeared insensitive to changing CO2 conditions. Conversely, our simulations showed earlier and more intense phytoplankton blooms in modeled replicates at high CO2 concentrations and suggested that uncertainties in average cell size, phytoplankton biomass losses, and initial nutrient concentration potentially outweigh acidification effects by triggering strong variability during the bloom phase. We also estimated the thresholds below which uncertainties do not escalate to high variability. This information might help in designing future mesocosm experiments and interpreting controversial results on the effect of acidification or other pressures on ecosystem functions.

Continue reading ‘Potential sources of variability in mesocosm experiments on the response of phytoplankton to ocean acidification (update)’

Risks of ocean acidification in the California Current food web and fisheries: ecosystem model projections

The benefits and ecosystem services that humans derive from the oceans are threatened by numerous global change stressors, one of which is ocean acidification. Here, we describe the effects of ocean acidification on an upwelling system that already experiences inherently low pH conditions, the California Current. We used an end-to-end ecosystem model (Atlantis), forced by downscaled global climate models and informed by a meta-analysis of the pH sensitivities of local taxa, to investigate the direct and indirect effects of future pH on biomass and fisheries revenues. Our model projects a 0.2-unit drop in pH during the summer upwelling season from 2013 to 2063, which results in wide-ranging magnitudes of effects across guilds and functional groups. The most dramatic direct effects of future pH may be expected on epibenthic invertebrates (crabs, shrimps, benthic grazers, benthic detritivores, bivalves), and strong indirect effects expected on some demersal fish, sharks, and epibenthic invertebrates (Dungeness crab) because they consume species known to be sensitive to changing pH. The model’s pelagic community, including marine mammals and seabirds, was much less influenced by future pH. Some functional groups were less affected to changing pH in the model than might be expected from experimental studies in the empirical literature due to high population productivity (e.g., copepods, pteropods). Model results suggest strong effects of reduced pH on nearshore state-managed invertebrate fisheries, but modest effects on the groundfish fishery because individual groundfish species exhibited diverse responses to changing pH. Our results provide a set of projections that generally support and build upon previous findings and set the stage for hypotheses to guide future modeling and experimental analysis on the effects of OA on marine ecosystems and fisheries.

Continue reading ‘Risks of ocean acidification in the California Current food web and fisheries: ecosystem model projections’

Spatial competition dynamics between reef corals under ocean acidification

Climate change, including ocean acidification (OA), represents a major threat to coral-reef ecosystems. Although previous experiments have shown that OA can negatively affect the fitness of reef corals, these have not included the long-term effects of competition for space on coral growth rates. Our multispecies year-long study subjected reef-building corals from the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea) to competitive interactions under present-day ocean pH (pH 8.1) and predicted end-of-century ocean pH (pH 7.6). Results showed coral growth is significantly impeded by OA under intraspecific competition for five out of six study species. Reduced growth from OA, however, is negligible when growth is already suppressed in the presence of interspecific competition. Using a spatial competition model, our analysis indicates shifts in the competitive hierarchy and a decrease in overall coral cover under lowered pH. Collectively, our case study demonstrates how modified competitive performance under increasing OA will in all likelihood change the composition, structure and functionality of reef coral communities.

Continue reading ‘Spatial competition dynamics between reef corals under ocean acidification’

Assessing the effects of ocean acidification in the Northeast US using an end-to-end marine ecosystem model

The effects of ocean acidification on living marine resources present serious challenges for managers of these resources. An understanding of the ecosystem consequences of ocean acidification is required to assess tradeoffs among ecosystem components (e.g. fishery yield, protected species conservation, sensitive habitat) and adaptations to this perturbation. We used a marine ecosystem model for the Northeast US continental shelf to address direct and indirect effects of species responses to ocean acidification. Focusing on upper trophic level groups that are primary targets of fishing activity, we projected changes for systemic ecological and fisheries indicators. We modeled effects of ocean acidification as either fixed changes in mortality rate or production for select species groups over twenty years. Biomass and fishery yield of species groups that were modeled to have direct acidification impacts and groups that were not directly impacted both declined, due to both increased mortality/decreased growth and a decrease in availability of food for groups that prey on shelled invertebrates. Our analyses show that food web consequences of ocean acidification can extend beyond groups thought most vulnerable, and to fishery yield and ecosystem structure. However, the magnitude and precise nature of ocean acidification effects depend on understanding likely species’ responses to decrease in pH. While predicting the effects of ocean acidification is difficult, the potential impacts on ecosystem structure and function need to be evaluated now to provide scientists and managers preliminary assessments for planning and priority setting. Scenario analysis using simulation models like ours provides a framework for testing hypotheses about ecosystem consequences of acidification, and for integrating results of experiments and monitoring.

Continue reading ‘Assessing the effects of ocean acidification in the Northeast US using an end-to-end marine ecosystem model’

Coral biomineralization, climate proxies and the sensitivity of coral reefs to CO2-driven climate change

Scleractinian corals extract calcium (Ca2+) and carbonate (CO2−3) ions from seawater to construct their calcium carbonate (CaCO3) skeletons. Key to the coral biomineralization process is the active elevation of the CO2−3 concentration of the calcifying fluid to achieve rapid nucleation and growth of CaCO3 crystals. Coral skeletons contain valuable records of past climate variability and contribute to the formation of coral reefs. However, limitations in our understanding of coral biomineralization hinder the accuracy of (1) coral-based reconstructions of past climate, and (2) predictions of coral reef futures as anthropogenic CO2 emissions drive declines in seawater CO2−3 concentration. In this thesis, I investigate the mechanism of coral biomineralization and evaluate the sensitivity of coral reef CaCO3 production to seawater carbonate chemistry. First, I conducted abiogenic CaCO3 precipitation experiments that identified the U/Ca ratio as a proxy for fluid CO2−3 concentration. Based on these experimental results, I developed a quantitative coral biomineralization model that predicts temperature can be reconstructed from coral skeletons by combining Sr/Ca – which is sensitive to both temperature and CO2−3 – with U/Ca into a new proxy called “Sr-U”. I tested this prediction with 14 corals from the Pacific Ocean and the Red Sea spanning mean annual temperatures of 25.7-30.1°C and found that Sr-U has uncertainty of only 0.5°C, twice as accurate as conventional coral-based thermometers. Second, I investigated the processes that differentiate reef-water and open-ocean carbonate chemistry, and the sensitivity of ecosystem-scale calcification to these changes. On Dongsha Atoll in the northern South China Sea, metabolic activity of resident organisms elevates reef-water CO2−3 twice as high as the surrounding open ocean, driving rates of ecosystem calcification higher than any other coral reef studied to date. When high temperatures stressed the resident coral community, metabolic activity slowed, with dramatic effects on reef-water chemistry and ecosystem calcification. Overall, my thesis highlights how the modulation of CO2−3, by benthic communities on the reef and individual coral polyps in the colony, controls the sensitivity of coral reefs to future ocean acidification and influences the climate records contained in the skeleton.

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Molecular and physiological evidence of genetic assimilation to high CO2 in the marine nitrogen fixer Trichodesmium

Most investigations of biogeochemically important microbes have focused on plastic (short-term) phenotypic responses in the absence of genetic change, whereas few have investigated adaptive (long-term) responses. However, no studies to date have investigated the molecular progression underlying the transition from plasticity to adaptation under elevated CO2 for a marine nitrogen-fixer. To address this gap, we cultured the globally important cyanobacterium Trichodesmium at both low and high CO2 for 4.5 y, followed by reciprocal transplantation experiments to test for adaptation. Intriguingly, fitness actually increased in all high-CO2 adapted cell lines in the ancestral environment upon reciprocal transplantation. By leveraging coordinated phenotypic and transcriptomic profiles, we identified expression changes and pathway enrichments that rapidly responded to elevated CO2 and were maintained upon adaptation, providing strong evidence for genetic assimilation. These candidate genes and pathways included those involved in photosystems, transcriptional regulation, cell signaling, carbon/nitrogen storage, and energy metabolism. Conversely, significant changes in specific sigma factor expression were only observed upon adaptation. These data reveal genetic assimilation as a potentially adaptive response of Trichodesmium and importantly elucidate underlying metabolic pathways paralleling the fixation of the plastic phenotype upon adaptation, thereby contributing to the few available data demonstrating genetic assimilation in microbial photoautotrophs. These molecular insights are thus critical for identifying pathways under selection as drivers in plasticity and adaptation.

Continue reading ‘Molecular and physiological evidence of genetic assimilation to high CO2 in the marine nitrogen fixer Trichodesmium’

Size-dependent response of foraminiferal calcification to seawater carbonate chemistry

The response of the marine carbon cycle to changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations will be determined, in part, by the relative response of calcifying and non-calcifying organisms to global change. Planktonic foraminifera are responsible for a quarter or more of global carbonate production, therefore understanding the sensitivity of calcification in these organisms to environmental change is critical. Despite this, there remains little consensus as to whether, or to what extent, chemical and physical factors affect foraminiferal calcification. To address this, we directly test the effect of multiple controls on calcification in culture experiments and core-top measurements of Globigerinoides ruber. We find that two factors, body size and the carbonate system, strongly influence calcification intensity in life, but that exposure to corrosive bottom waters can overprint this signal post mortem. Using a simple model for the addition of calcite through ontogeny, we show that variable body size between and within datasets could complicate studies that examine environmental controls on foraminiferal shell weight. In addition, we suggest that size could ultimately play a role in determining whether calcification will increase or decrease with acidification. Our models highlight that knowledge of the specific morphological and physiological mechanisms driving ontogenetic change in calcification in different species will be critical in predicting the response of foraminiferal calcification to future change in atmospheric pCO2.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book