Posts Tagged 'communitymodeling'

Coral reefs will transition to net dissolving before end of century

Ocean acidification refers to the lowering of the ocean’s pH due to the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere. Coral reef calcification is expected to decrease as the oceans become more acidic. Dissolving calcium carbonate (CaCO3) sands could greatly exacerbate reef loss associated with reduced calcification but is presently poorly constrained. Here we show that CaCO3 dissolution in reef sediments across five globally distributed sites is negatively correlated with the aragonite saturation state (Ωar) of overlying seawater and that CaCO3 sediment dissolution is 10-fold more sensitive to ocean acidification than coral calcification. Consequently, reef sediments globally will transition from net precipitation to net dissolution when seawater (Ωar) reaches 2.92 ± 0.16 (expected circa 2050 CE). Notably, some reefs are already experiencing net sediment dissolution.

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Climate change could drive marine food web collapse through altered trophic flows and cyanobacterial proliferation

Global warming and ocean acidification are forecast to exert significant impacts on marine ecosystems worldwide. However, most of these projections are based on ecological proxies or experiments on single species or simplified food webs. How energy fluxes are likely to change in marine food webs in response to future climates remains unclear, hampering forecasts of ecosystem functioning. Using a sophisticated mesocosm experiment, we model energy flows through a species-rich multilevel food web, with live habitats, natural abiotic variability, and the potential for intra- and intergenerational adaptation. We show experimentally that the combined stress of acidification and warming reduced energy flows from the first trophic level (primary producers and detritus) to the second (herbivores), and from the second to the third trophic level (carnivores). Warming in isolation also reduced the energy flow from herbivores to carnivores, the efficiency of energy transfer from primary producers and detritus to herbivores and detritivores, and the living biomass of detritivores, herbivores, and carnivores. Whilst warming and acidification jointly boosted primary producer biomass through an expansion of cyanobacteria, this biomass was converted to detritus rather than to biomass at higher trophic levels—i.e., production was constrained to the base of the food web. In contrast, ocean acidification affected the food web positively by enhancing trophic flow from detritus and primary producers to herbivores, and by increasing the biomass of carnivores. Our results show how future climate change can potentially weaken marine food webs through reduced energy flow to higher trophic levels and a shift towards a more detritus-based system, leading to food web simplification and altered producer–consumer dynamics, both of which have important implications for the structuring of benthic communities.

Continue reading ‘Climate change could drive marine food web collapse through altered trophic flows and cyanobacterial proliferation’

Influence of diatom diversity on the ocean biological carbon pump

Diatoms sustain the marine food web and contribute to the export of carbon from the surface ocean to depth. They account for about 40% of marine primary productivity and particulate carbon exported to depth as part of the biological pump. Diatoms have long been known to be abundant in turbulent, nutrient-rich waters, but observations and simulations indicate that they are dominant also in meso- and submesoscale structures such as fronts and filaments, and in the deep chlorophyll maximum. Diatoms vary widely in size, morphology and elemental composition, all of which control the quality, quantity and sinking speed of biogenic matter to depth. In particular, their silica shells provide ballast to marine snow and faecal pellets, and can help transport carbon to both the mesopelagic layer and deep ocean. Herein we show that the extent to which diatoms contribute to the export of carbon varies by diatom type, with carbon transfer modulated by the Si/C ratio of diatom cells, the thickness of the shells and their life strategies; for instance, the tendency to form aggregates or resting spores. Model simulations project a decline in the contribution of diatoms to primary production everywhere outside of the Southern Ocean. We argue that we need to understand changes in diatom diversity, life cycle and plankton interactions in a warmer and more acidic ocean in much more detail to fully assess any changes in their contribution to the biological pump.

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Socioeconomic risk from ocean acidification and climate change impacts on Atlantic Canadian fisheries

Ocean acidification (OA) is an emerging consequence of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. The full extent of the biological impacts are currently not well understood. However, it is expected that invertebrate species that rely on the mineral calcium carbonate will be among the first and most severely affected. Despite the limited understanding of impacts there is a need to identify potential pathways for human societies to be affected by OA. Research on these social implications is a small but developing field of literature. This thesis contributes to this field by using a risk assessment framework, informed by a biophysical model of future species distributions, to investigate Atlantic Canadian risk from changes in shellfish fisheries. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are expected to see declines in resource accessibility. While Newfoundland and Labrador and PEI are more socially vulnerable to losses in fisheries, they are expected to experience relatively minor changes in access.

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Environmental controls on modern scleractinian coral and reef-scale calcification

Modern reef-building corals sustain a wide range of ecosystem services because of their ability to build calcium carbonate reef systems. The influence of environmental variables on coral calcification rates has been extensively studied, but our understanding of their relative importance is limited by the absence of in situ observations and the ability to decouple the interactions between different properties. We show that temperature is the primary driver of coral colony (Porites astreoides and Diploria labyrinthiformis) and reef-scale calcification rates over a 2-year monitoring period from the Bermuda coral reef. On the basis of multimodel climate simulations (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5) and assuming sufficient coral nutrition, our results suggest that P. astreoides and D. labyrinthiformis coral calcification rates in Bermuda could increase throughout the 21st century as a result of gradual warming predicted under a minimum CO2 emissions pathway [representative concentration pathway (RCP) 2.6] with positive 21st-century calcification rates potentially maintained under a reduced CO2 emissions pathway (RCP 4.5). These results highlight the potential benefits of rapid reductions in global anthropogenic CO2 emissions for 21st-century Bermuda coral reefs and the ecosystem services they provide.

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Using fuzzy logic to determine the vulnerability of marine species to climate change

Marine species are being impacted by climate change and ocean acidification, although their level of vulnerability varies due to differences in species’ sensitivity, adaptive capacity and exposure to climate hazards. Due to limited data on the biological and ecological attributes of many marine species, as well as inherent uncertainties in the assessment process, climate change vulnerability assessments in the marine environment frequently focus on a limited number of taxa or geographic ranges. As climate change is already impacting marine biodiversity and fisheries, there is an urgent need to expand vulnerability assessment to cover a large number of species and areas. Here, we develop a modelling approach to synthesize data on species-specific estimates of exposure, and ecological and biological traits to undertake an assessment of vulnerability (sensitivity and adaptive capacity) and risk of impacts (combining exposure to hazards and vulnerability) of climate change (including ocean acidification) for global marine fishes and invertebrates. We use a fuzzy logic approach to accommodate the variability in data availability and uncertainties associated with inferring vulnerability levels from climate projections and species’ traits. Applying the approach to estimate the relative vulnerability and risk of impacts of climate change in 1074 exploited marine species globally, we estimated their index of vulnerability and risk of impacts to be on average 52 ± 19 SD and 66 ± 11 SD, scaling from 1 to 100, with 100 being the most vulnerable and highest risk, respectively, under the ‘business-as-usual’ greenhouse gas emission scenario (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5). We identified 157 species to be highly vulnerable while 294 species are identified as being at high risk of impacts. Species that are most vulnerable tend to be large-bodied endemic species. This study suggests that the fuzzy logic framework can help estimate climate vulnerabilities and risks of exploited marine species using publicly and readily available information.

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Using multiple lines of evidence to assess the risk of ecosystem collapse

Effective ecosystem risk assessment relies on a conceptual understanding of ecosystem dynamics and the synthesis of multiple lines of evidence. Risk assessment protocols and ecosystem models integrate limited observational data with threat scenarios, making them valuable tools for monitoring ecosystem status and diagnosing key mechanisms of decline to be addressed by management. We applied the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems criteria to quantify the risk of collapse of the Meso-American Reef, a unique ecosystem containing the second longest barrier reef in the world. We collated a wide array of empirical data (field and remotely sensed), and used a stochastic ecosystem model to backcast past ecosystem dynamics, as well as forecast future ecosystem dynamics under 11 scenarios of threat. The ecosystem is at high risk from mass bleaching in the coming decades, with compounding effects of ocean acidification, hurricanes, pollution and fishing. The overall status of the ecosystem is Critically Endangered (plausibly Vulnerable to Critically Endangered), with notable differences among Red List criteria and data types in detecting the most severe symptoms of risk. Our case study provides a template for assessing risks to coral reefs and for further application of ecosystem models in risk assessment.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book