Posts Tagged 'corals'



Ocean acidification impacts in select Pacific Basin coral reef ecosystems

In the vast tropical Pacific Basin islands, corals reef ecosystems are one of the defining marine habitats, critical for maintaining biodiversity and supporting highly productive fisheries. These reefs are also vital for tourism and armoring exposed shorelines against erosion and other storm-related effects. Since the 1980’s, there has been growing evidence that these Pacific Basin coral reef ecosystems are highly vulnerable to the combined effects of both climatic and non-climatic stressors. Observations of widespread bleaching in the region has been linked to acute temperature stress, and the heightened recurrence intervals and intensity of storms has been correlated to recent climate-change induced impacts. Ocean acidification is another ubiquitous stressor with dramatic consequences to biological systems. In this paper we describe what sets this region apart from other coral reef regions around the world, and highlight some examples of the diverse response to ocean acidification threats and associated socio-economic impacts.

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Ocean acidification impacts on coral reefs: from sciences to solutions

Coral reefs distinctly illustrate the close relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services. They are rich marine ecosystems, hosting extensive biological diversity, and yet that diversity and the ecosystem services provided are among the most endangered because of global changes. By reducing and altering coral reef biodiversity, global changes are endangering the lives of hundreds of millions of people. It was therefore appropriate that the ongoing workshop series ”Bridging the gap between Ocean Acidification and Economic Valuation” dedicated, during the International Year of Coral Reefs, its 4edition in search of solutions inspired by the most recent data of the Natural, Economic and Social Sciences. This article summarizes the ecological and human importance of coral reefs, the reasons for their sensitivity to global changes, and presents the major conclusions of the workshop as well as policy options.

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Environmental and biological controls on Na / Ca ratios in scleractinian cold-water corals

Here we present a comprehensive attempt to correlate aragonitic Na / Ca ratios from Lophelia pertusa, Madrepora oculata and a caryophylliid cold-water coral (CWC) species with different seawater parameters such as temperature, salinity and pH. Living CWC specimens were collected from 16 different locations and analyzed for their Na / Ca content using solution-based inductively coupled plasma-optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) measurements. The results reveal no apparent correlation with salinity (30.1–40.57 g/kg) but a significant inverse correlation with temperature (−0.31 mmol/mol/°C). Other marine aragonitic organisms such as Mytilus edulis (inner aragonitic shell portion) and Porites sp. exhibit similar results highlighting the consistency of the calculated CWC regressions. Corresponding Na / Mg ratios show a similar temperature sensitivity to Na / Ca ratios, but the combination of two ratios appear to reduce the impact of vital effects and domain-dependent geochemical variation. The high degree of scatter and elemental heterogeneities between the different skeletal features in both Na / Ca and Na / Mg however limit the use of these ratios as a proxy and/or make a high number of samples necessary. Additionally, we explore two models to explain the observed temperature sensitivity of Na / Ca ratios for an open and semi-enclosed calcifying space based on temperature sensitive Na and Ca pumping enzymes and transport proteins that change the composition of the calcifying fluid and consequently the skeletal Na / Ca ratio.

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Ecological and physiological constraints of deep-sea corals in a changing environment

Deep-water or cold-water corals are abundant and highly diverse, greatly increase habitat heterogeneity and species richness, thereby forming one of the most significant ecosystems in the deep sea. Despite this remote location, they are not removed from the different anthropogenic disturbances that commonly impact their shallow-water counterparts. The global decrease in seawater pH due to increases in atmospheric CO2 are changing the chemical properties of the seawater, decreasing the concentration of carbonate ions that are important elements for different physiological and ecological processes. Predictive models forecast a shoaling of the carbonate saturation in the water column due to OA, and suggest that cold-water corals are at high risk, since large areas of suitable habitat will experience suboptimal conditions by the end of the century. The main objective of this study was to explore the fate of the deep-water coral community in time of environmental change. To better understand the impact of climate change this study focused in two of the most important elements of dee-sea coral habitat, the reef forming coral Lophelia pertusa and the octocoral community, particularly the gorgonian Callogorgia delta. By means of controlled experiments, I examined the effects of longand short-term exposures to seawater simulating future scenarios of ocean acidification on calcification and feeding efficiency. Finally In order to understand how the environment influences the community assembly, and ultimately how species cope with particular ecological filters, I integrated different aspects of biology such functional diversity and ecology into a more evolutionary context in the face of changing environment. My results suggest that I) deep-water corals responds negatively to future OA by lowering the calcification rates, II) not all individuals respond in the same way to OA with high intra-specific variability providing a potential for adaptation in the longterm III) there is a disruption in the balance between accretion and dissolution that in the long term can shift from net accretion to net dissolution, and IV) there is an evolutionary implication for certain morphological features in the coral community that can give an advantage under stresfull conditions. Nevertheless, the suboptimal conditions that deepwater corals will experience by the end of the century could potentially threaten their persistence, with potentially negative consequences for the future stability of this already fragile ecosystem.

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Effects of light and darkness on pH regulation in three coral species exposed to seawater acidification

The resilience of corals to ocean acidification has been proposed to rely on regulation of extracellular calcifying medium pH (pHECM), but few studies have compared the capacity of coral species to control this parameter at elevated pCO2. Furthermore, exposure to light and darkness influences both pH regulation and calcification in corals, but little is known about its effect under conditions of seawater acidification. Here we investigated the effect of acidification in light and darkness on pHECM, calcifying cell intracellular pH (pHI), calcification, photosynthesis and respiration in three coral species: Stylophora pistillata, Pocillopora damicornis and Acropora hyacinthus. We show that S. pistillata was able to maintain pHECM under acidification in light and darkness, but pHECM decreased in P. damicornis and A. hyacinthus to a much greater extent in darkness than in the light. Acidification depressed calcifying cell pHI in all three species, but we identified an unexpected positive effect of light on pHI. Calcification rate and pHECM decreased together under acidification, but there are inconsistencies in their relationship indicating that other physiological parameters are likely to shape how coral calcification responds to acidification. Overall our study reveals interspecies differences in coral regulation of pHECM and pHI when exposed to acidification, influenced by exposure to light and darkness.

Continue reading ‘Effects of light and darkness on pH regulation in three coral species exposed to seawater acidification’

Indirect effects of ocean warming and acidification on the realized recruitment of Agaricia agaricites

Over the past few decades, coral cover has declined worldwide due to overfishing, disease, and storms, and these effects have been exacerbated by ocean warming and acidification. Corals are extremely susceptible to these changes because they are already living close to their thermal and aragonite saturation thresholds. Ocean warming and acidification (OAW) may also impact coral survival and growth by impacting their settlement cues. Coral larvae use crustose coralline algae (CCA) and their associated biofilms as cues for settlement, i.e., habitat selection. Settlement cues can also be negatively affected by increased water temperature and acidity. It was hypothesized that the impacts of OAW on settlement substrate can further threaten coral persistence by altering/inhibiting larval settlement and potentially decreasing the post-settlement survival and growth of coral recruits. In this study, we 1) assessed the effect of substrate quality (substrate conditioned in ambient or OAW conditions) on settlement of A. agaricites larvae, 2) determined the effect of substrate quality on post-settlement survival and growth of A. agaricites recruits, and 3) determined the effect of ocean warming and acidification on the post-settlement survival and growth of A. agaricites recruits. Aragonite settlement tiles were placed offshore for one month to accrue CCA and associated biofilms, and were then conditioned in either ambient (29°C, 8.2 pH) or predicted future oceanic conditions (31°C, 7.9 pH) conditions for 7 – 10 days. Agaricia agaricites larvae were then introduced to the settlement tiles, and their settlement percentage was calculated. Once a week for 12 weeks after larval settlement, the size, survival, and pigmentation of A. agaricites recruits was recorded. Larvae settled marginally more on optimally conditioned tiles than on tiles previously exposed to OAW conditions (p=0.053). The survival of coral recruits in OAW conditions was greatly reduced, their growth was very limited, and they became paler over time. When reared in ambient conditions, recruits on OAW treated substrate initially displayed higher survival rates than recruits on ambient treated substrate. After 3 weeks in ambient conditions, however, survival rates were similar for recruits on ambient and OAW treated substrate; their growth curves were very similar, and coral recruits became more pigmented over time. Ocean warming and acidification conditions not only directly impacted the growth, survival, and pigmentation of A. agaricites recruits, but it also indirectly affected larval 5 settlement by likely altering microbial composition in bacterial biofilms on the settlement tiles. These results indicate that future conditions of ocean warming and acidification can be deleterious for A. agaricites, particularly after settlement. If the early life stages of scleractinian corals are negatively affected by OAW conditions, successful recruitment throughout the Caribbean and Florida Reef Tract could decrease. As a result, recovery from disturbances could be hindered, thus compromising the sustainability of many coral species and other marine ecosystems that depend on coral reefs for protection, habitat, and food.

Continue reading ‘Indirect effects of ocean warming and acidification on the realized recruitment of Agaricia agaricites’

Differential responses to ocean acidification between populations of Balanophyllia elegans corals from high and low upwelling environments

Ocean acidification (OA), the global decrease in surface water pH from absorption of anthropogenic CO2, may put many marine taxa at risk. However, populations that experience extreme localized conditions, and are adapted to these conditions predicted in the global ocean in 2100, may be more tolerant to future OA. By identifying locally adapted populations, researchers can examine the mechanisms used to cope with decreasing pH. One oceanographic process that influences pH, is wind driven upwelling. Here we compare two Californian populations of the coral Balanophyllia elegans from distinct upwelling regimes, and test their physiological and transcriptomic responses to experimental seawater acidification. We measured respiration rates, protein and lipid content, and gene expression in corals from both populations exposed to pH levels of 7.8 and 7.4 for 29 days. Corals from the population that experiences lower pH due to high upwelling, maintained the same respiration rate throughout the exposure. In contrast, corals from the low upwelling site had reduced respiration rates, protein content, and lipid‐class content at low pH exposure, suggesting they have depleted their energy reserves. Using RNA‐Seq, we found that corals from the high upwelling site upregulated genes involved in calcium ion binding and ion transport, most likely related to pH homeostasis and calcification. In contrast, corals from the low upwelling site downregulated stress response genes at low pH exposure. Divergent population responses to low pH observed in B. elegans highlight the importance of multi‐population studies for predicting a species’ response to future OA.

Continue reading ‘Differential responses to ocean acidification between populations of Balanophyllia elegans corals from high and low upwelling environments’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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