Posts Tagged 'corals'

Impact of ocean acidification on ecosystem functioning and services in habitat-forming species and marine ecosystems

Ocean acidification (OA) is expected to impact habitat-forming species (HFS), with cascading effects on the whole marine ecosystem and related services that are seldom quantified. Here, the changes in HFSs biomass due to OA are modeled using a food web ecosystem model, and the trophic and non-trophic cascading effects on the marine community are investigated. The food web model represents a well-studied coastal marine protected area in the NW Mediterranean Sea where coralligenous reefs and Posidonia oceanica meadows constitute important HFS. The model is used to implement 5 scenarios of habitat degradation, that is, reduction of HFS biomass, induced by increasing OA and to quantify the potential changes in ecosystem properties and indicators of ecosystem services over the next 100 years. The changes in ecosystem indicators highlight a decrease in the size of the system and a reorganization of energy flows suggesting a high degree of ecosystem development. All the proxies for ecosystem services show significant decreases in their values. Although representing only a portion of the possible impacts of OA, the findings are consistent with the idea that ecological systems can react to OA effects to maintain the level of ecosystem development, but the new organization might not be optimal from an anthropocentric viewpoint.

Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean acidification on ecosystem functioning and services in habitat-forming species and marine ecosystems’

Feedback mechanisms stabilise degraded turf algal systems at a CO2 seep site

Human activities are rapidly changing the structure and function of coastal marine ecosystems. Large-scale replacement of kelp forests and coral reefs with turf algal mats is resulting in homogenous habitats that have less ecological and human value. Ocean acidification has strong potential to substantially favour turf algae growth, which led us to examine the mechanisms that stabilise turf algal states. Here we show that ocean acidification promotes turf algae over corals and macroalgae, mediating new habitat conditions that create stabilising feedback loops (altered physicochemical environment and microbial community, and an inhibition of recruitment) capable of locking turf systems in place. Such feedbacks help explain why degraded coastal habitats persist after being initially pushed past the tipping point by global and local anthropogenic stressors. An understanding of the mechanisms that stabilise degraded coastal habitats can be incorporated into adaptive management to better protect the contribution of coastal systems to human wellbeing.

Continue reading ‘Feedback mechanisms stabilise degraded turf algal systems at a CO2 seep site’

Transgenerational effects on the coral Pocillopora damicornis microbiome under ocean acidification

Reef-building corals are inhabited by functionally diverse microorganisms which play important roles in coral health and persistence in the Anthropocene. However, our understanding of the complex associations within coral holobionts is largely limited, particularly transgenerational exposure to environmental stress, like ocean acidification. Here we investigated the microbiome development of an ecologically important coral Pocillopora damicornis following transgenerational exposure to moderate and high pCO2 (partial pressure of CO2) levels, using amplicon sequencing and analysis. Our results showed that the Symbiodiniaceae community structures in adult and juvenile had similar patterns, all of which were dominated by Durusdinium spp., previously known as clade D. Conversely, prokaryotic communities varied between adults and juveniles, possibly driven by the effect of host development. Surprisingly, there were no significant changes in both Symbiodiniaceae and prokaryotic communities with different pCO2 treatments, which was independent of the life history stage. This study shows that ocean acidification has no significant effect on P. damicornis microbiome, and warrants further research to test whether transgenerational acclimation exists in coral holobiont to projected future climate change.

Continue reading ‘Transgenerational effects on the coral Pocillopora damicornis microbiome under ocean acidification’

Unexpected high abundance of aragonite-forming Nanipora (Octocorallia: Helioporacea) at an acidified volcanic reef in southern Japan

Nanipora Miyazaki & Reimer, 2015 is a recently discovered genus of aragonite-skeleton producing octocorals closely related to the blue coral genus Heliopora de Blainville, 1830. Since its discovery, Nanipora has been reported from coral reefs in Okinawa, Japan, and Thailand, and from seagrass beds in the northern South China Sea. However, it remains little known and studied. Here, we report on the unexpected discovery of an abundance of Nanipora colonies in shallow waters less than 2-m deep around a CO2 vent from the uninhabited volcanic island of Iwotorishima, Okinawa, in southern Japan. Nanipora colonies were found covering both coral rubble and hard substrates, alongside a few soft coral and zoantharian species. Polyps were pale white in color with none brown or darker in coloration as in some recent reports. As the original description of Nkamurai from Zamami Island in Okinawa describes the species as azooxanthellate, as the current Iwotorishima specimens also appear to be, and recently reported specimens from Thailand, Dongsha Atoll, and Yaeyama are zooxanthellate, it may be that there are more than one Nanipora species; the type species Nkamurai that is also likely at Iwotorishima, and a zooxanthellate species that constitutes the other records. Although Nanipora is not well studied, its presence at this volcanic CO2 seep suggests it has the ability to survive under unique and extreme environmental conditions, rendering it as a potentially important subject of study in the face of increasing ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Unexpected high abundance of aragonite-forming Nanipora (Octocorallia: Helioporacea) at an acidified volcanic reef in southern Japan’

Potential local adaptation of corals at acidified and warmed Nikko Bay, Palau

Ocean warming and acidification caused by the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide are now thought to be major threats to coral reefs on a global scale. Here we evaluated the environmental conditions and benthic community structures in semi-closed Nikko Bay at the inner reef area in Palau, which has high p CO 2 and seawater temperature conditions with high zooxanthellate coral coverage. This bay is a highly sheltered system with organisms showing low connectivity with surrounding environments, making this bay a unique site for evaluating adaptation and acclimatization responses of organisms to warmed and acidified environments. Seawater p CO 2 /Ω arag showed strong graduation ranging from 380 to 982 µatm (Ω arag : 1.79-3.66) and benthic coverage, including soft corals and turf algae, changed along with Ω arag while hard coral coverage did not. In contrast to previous studies, net calcification was maintained in Nikko Bay even under very low mean Ω arag (2.44). Reciprocal transplantation of the dominant coral Porites cylindrica showed that the calcification rate of corals from Nikko Bay did not change when transplanted to a reference site, while calcification of reference site corals decreased when transplanted to Nikko Bay. Corals transplanted out of their origin sites also showed the highest interactive respiration (R) and lower photosynthesis (P) to respiration (P:R). The results of this study give important insights about the potential local acclimatization and adaptation capacity of corals to different environmental conditions including p CO 2 and temperature.

Continue reading ‘Potential local adaptation of corals at acidified and warmed Nikko Bay, Palau’

Late afternoon seasonal transition to dissolution in a coral reef: an early warning of a net dissolving ecosystem?

There are concerns that reefs will transition from net calcifying to net dissolving in the near future due to decreasing calcification and increasing dissolution rates. Here we present in situ rates of net ecosystem calcification (NEC) and net ecosystem production (NEP) on a coral reef flat using a slack‐water approach. Up until dusk, the reef was net calcifying in most months but shifted to net dissolution in austral summer, coinciding with high respiration rates and a lower aragonite saturation state (Ωarag). The estimated sediment contribution to NEC ranged from 8 – 21 % during the day and 45 – 78 % at night, indicating that high rates of sediment dissolution may cause the transition to reef dissolution. This late afternoon seasonal transition to negative NEC may be an early warning sign of the reef shifting to a net dissolving state and may be occurring on other reefs.

Continue reading ‘Late afternoon seasonal transition to dissolution in a coral reef: an early warning of a net dissolving ecosystem?’

Greater mitochondrial energy production provides resistance to ocean acidification in “winning” hermatypic corals

Coral communities around the world are projected to be negatively affected by ocean acidification. Not all coral species will respond in the same manner to rising CO2 levels. Evidence from naturally acidified areas such as CO2 seeps have shown that although a few species are resistant to elevated CO2, most lack sufficient resistance resulting in their decline. This has led to the simple grouping of coral species into “winners” and “losers,” but the physiological traits supporting this ecological assessment are yet to be fully understood. Here using CO2 seeps, in two biogeographically distinct regions, we investigated whether physiological traits related to energy production [mitochondrial electron transport systems (ETSAs) activities] and biomass (protein contents) differed between winning and losing species in order to identify possible physiological traits of resistance to ocean acidification and whether they can be acquired during short-term transplantations. We show that winning species had a lower biomass (protein contents per coral surface area) resulting in a higher potential for energy production (biomass specific ETSA: ETSA per protein contents) compared to losing species. We hypothesize that winning species inherently allocate more energy toward inorganic growth (calcification) compared to somatic (tissue) growth. In contrast, we found that losing species that show a higher biomass under reference pCO2 experienced a loss in biomass and variable response in area-specific ETSA that did not translate in an increase in biomass-specific ETSA following either short-term (4–5 months) or even life-long acclimation to elevated pCO2 conditions. Our results suggest that resistance to ocean acidification in corals may not be acquired within a single generation or through the selection of physiologically resistant individuals. This reinforces current evidence suggesting that ocean acidification will reshape coral communities around the world, selecting species that have an inherent resistance to elevated pCO2.

Continue reading ‘Greater mitochondrial energy production provides resistance to ocean acidification in “winning” hermatypic corals’

Dichotomy between regulation of coral bacterial communities and calcification physiology under ocean acidification conditions

Ocean acidification (OA) threatens the growth and function of coral reef ecosystems. A key component to coral health is the microbiome, but little is known about the impact of OA on coral microbiomes. A submarine CO2 vent at Maug Island in the Northern Marianas Islands provides a natural pH gradient to investigate coral responses to long-term OA conditions. Three coral species (Pocillopora eydouxiPorites lobata, and Porites rus) were sampled from three sites where mean seawater pH is 8.04, 7.98, and 7.94. We characterized coral bacterial communities (using 16S rRNA gene sequencing) and determined pH of the extracellular calcifying fluid (ECF) (using skeletal boron isotopes) across the seawater pH gradient. Bacterial communities of both Porites species stabilized (decreases in community dispersion) with decreased seawater pH, coupled with large increases in the abundance of Endozoicomonas, an endosymbiont. P. lobata experienced a significant decrease in ECF pH near the vent, whereas P. rus experienced a trending decrease in ECF pH near the vent. By contrast, Pocillopora exhibited bacterial community destabilization (increases in community dispersion), with significant decreases in Endozoicomonas abundance, while its ECF pH remained unchanged across the pH gradient. Our study shows that OA has multiple consequences on Endozoicomonas abundance and suggests that Endozoicomonas abundance may be an indicator of coral response to OA. We reveal an interesting dichotomy between two facets of coral physiology (regulation of bacterial communities and regulation of calcification), highlighting the importance of multidisciplinary approaches to understanding coral health and function in a changing ocean.

Continue reading ‘Dichotomy between regulation of coral bacterial communities and calcification physiology under ocean acidification conditions’

Effects of ocean acidification on coral endolithic bacterial communities in Isopora palifera and Porites lobata

Endolithic microbes in coral reefs may act as a nutrient source for their coral hosts. Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations are causing ocean acidification (OA), which may affect marine organisms and ecosystems, especially calcifying organisms such as reef-building corals. However, knowledge of how OA affects marine microbes remains limited, and little research has been done on how coral endolithic communities respond to shifting environmental baselines. In this study, the endolithic communities of two common shallow water coral species, Isopora palifera and Porites lobata, were examined to investigate the microbial community dynamics under OA treatments. The colonies were placed in an environment with a partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) of 1,000 or 400 ppm (control) for 2 months. Several I. palifera colonies bleached and died at 1,000 ppm pCO2, but the P. lobata colonies remained unaffected. Inversely, the endolithic community in P. lobata skeletons showed significant changes after OA treatment, whereas no significant dynamics were observed among the I. palifera endoliths. Our findings suggest that the skeletal structures of different coral species may play a key role in corals host and endoliths under future high-OA scenarios.

Continue reading ‘Effects of ocean acidification on coral endolithic bacterial communities in Isopora palifera and Porites lobata’

Thermal stress reduces pocilloporid coral resilience to ocean acidification by impairing control over calcifying fluid chemistry

The combination of thermal stress and ocean acidification (OA) can more negatively affect coral calcification than an individual stressors, but the mechanism behind this interaction is unknown. We used two independent methods (microelectrode and boron geochemistry) to measure calcifying fluid pH (pHcf) and carbonate chemistry of the corals Pocillopora damicornis and Stylophora pistillata grown under various temperature and pCO2 conditions. Although these approaches demonstrate that they record pHcf over different time scales, they reveal that both species can cope with OA under optimal temperatures (28°C) by elevating pHcf and aragonite saturation state (Ωcf) in support of calcification. At 31°C, neither species elevated these parameters as they did at 28°C and, likewise, could not maintain substantially positive calcification rates under any pH treatment. These results reveal a previously uncharacterized influence of temperature on coral pHcf regulation—the apparent mechanism behind the negative interaction between thermal stress and OA on coral calcification.

Continue reading ‘Thermal stress reduces pocilloporid coral resilience to ocean acidification by impairing control over calcifying fluid chemistry’

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