Posts Tagged 'crustaceans'

Epigenetic plasticity enables copepods to cope with ocean acidification

Plasticity enhances species fitness and survival under climate change. Ocean acidification poses a potential threat to copepods, a major zooplankton group that serves as a key link between the lower and higher trophic levels in the marine environment, yet the mechanisms underlying different adaptive responses remain poorly understood. Here we show that although elevated CO2 can exert negative effects on reproduction of Paracyclopina nana, multigenerational plasticity can enable recovery after three generations. By integrating the methylome and transcriptome with the draft genome and undertaking DNA methylation treatments, we demonstrate the vital role of epigenetic modifications in ocean acidification responses and identify regions associated with reproductive resilience. Our results demonstrate that DNA methylation might play an important role in enhancing species fitness of copepods and that failing to consider phenotypic plasticity could lead to overestimation of species’ vulnerabilities.

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Immune defense in hypoxic waters: impacts of CO2 acidification

Periodic episodes of low oxygen (hypoxia) and elevated CO2 (hypercapnia) accompanied by low pH occur naturally in estuarine environments. Under the influence of climate change, the geographic range and intensity of hypoxia and hypercapnic hypoxia are predicted to increase, potentially jeopardizing the survival of economically and ecologically important organisms that use estuaries as habitat and nursery grounds. In this review we synthesize data from published studies that evaluate the impact of hypoxia and hypercapnic hypoxia on the ability of crustaceans and bivalve molluscs to defend themselves against potential microbial pathogens. Available data indicate that hypoxia generally has suppressive effects on host immunity against bacterial pathogens as measured by in vitro and in vivo assays. Few studies have documented the effects of hypercapnic hypoxia on crustaceans or bivalve immune defense, with a range of outcomes suggesting that added CO2 might have additive, negative, or no interactions with the effects of hypoxia alone. This synthesis points to the need for more partial pressure of O2 × low pH factorial design experiments and recommends the development of new host∶pathogen challenge models incorporating natural transmission of a wide range of viruses, bacteria, and parasites, along with novel in vivo tracking systems that better quantify how pathogens interact with their hosts in real time under laboratory and field conditions.

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How does CO2-induced acidification affect post-ecydsial exoskeletal mineralization in the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) enrichment in seawater because of increased use of fossil fuels can possibly cause detrimental effects on the physiological processes of marine life, especially shell builders, due to CO2-induced ocean acidification. We investigated, for the first time, specifically the effect of CO2 enrichment on post-ecydsial shell mineralization in Crustacea using the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus, as the model crustacean. It was hypothesized that CO2 enrichment of seawater would adversely affect exoskeletal mineralization in the blue crab. This experiment used two groups of post-ecydsial crabs, with one group exposed to seawater at a pH of 8.20 and the other group treated with CO2-acidified seawater with a pH of 7.80 – 7.90. After a period of 7 days, samples of exoskeleton and hemolymph were collected from the survivors. CO2 enrichment was found to significantly increase exoskeletal magnesium content by 104% relative to control, while a statistically non-significant elevation of 31% in exoskeletal calcium was registered. Because CO2 treatment did not change the content of magnesium and calcium in the hemolymph, we postulate herein that increased exoskeletal mineralization in post-ecydsial blue crabs must stem from an increased influx of bicarbonate ions from the medium through the gill, to the hemolymph, and across the epidermis. Additionally, the observed significant increase in the mass of exoskeleton following CO2 treatment must be at least partly accounted for by enhanced postmolt carbonate salt deposition to the shell.

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Intergenerational effects of ocean acidification on reproductive traits of an estuarine copepod

Graphical abstract

Copepods are an important part of the marine food web because of their high biomass productivity and nutrient turnover rate compared to other zooplankton in the marine ecosystem. Despite their great ecological role in the ocean, there is only limited information available on the consequences of ocean acidification (OA) induced by the future increase in CO2 on the planet. More specifically, there is almost no information about the impact of OA on the European copepod Calanipeda aquaedulcis Kritschagin, 1873. Therefore, the present investigation hypothesized that OA would not produce negative multigenerational effects on the survival and reproductive performance of this copepod species. Here we assessed, the multigenerational (F1 and F2) effect of OA on eight important reproductive traits (maturity, prosome length, fertility, egg release, hatching success, survival rate, reproductive performance, and the total number of adults per generation). For this study, C. aquaedulcis were collected from the Guadalquivir River (southwest of Spain) and were exposed to four different pH gradients (pH 8.1 as control and pH 7.5, 7.0, 6.5 as acidified conditions) to mimic the future seawater acidification scenarios. The survival rate from nauplius to adult, C. aquaedulcis was significantly reduced by pHs and across generations. Besides, results also indicated that there were marked effects on fertility, reflected by a significantly lower number of eggs per female in each generation. Similarly, hatching success also showed a decreasing pattern towards low pH, and importantly, F1 females had lower hatching success than F0 females. While a beneficial parental effect was detected in the offspring in response to OA, it was insufficient to offset the negative effects caused by it. The findings presented here appear to have ecological significance, as decreasing the reproductive performance of copepods may have a negative impact on the marine food web, as ichthyofaunal feeding and growth are heavily reliant on this component of the food web.

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Effect of CO2 driven ocean acidification on the mud crab Scylla serrata instars

Graphical abstract


  • Ocean acidification (OA) affected feed intake and growth of Scylla serrata.
  • OA reduced minerals content in S. serrata.
  • OA disturbs the chitin production and alkaline phosphatase activity in S.serrata.
  • OA increased the antioxidants and metabolic enzymes in S. serrata.


The decreasing ocean pH seems to adversely affect marine organisms, including crustaceans, which leads to potential threats to seafood safety. The present investigation evaluated the effect of seawater acidification on the edible marine mud crab Scylla serrata instars. The experimental setup was designed using a multi-cell cage based system assembled with 20 pre holed PVC pipes containing 20 individual crabs to avoid cannibalism. The crab instars were exposed to CO2 driven acidified seawater at pH 7.8 (IPCC forecast pH at the end of the 21st century), 7.6, 7.4, 7.2, and 7.0 for 60 days. The crabs reared in seawater without acidification at pH 8.2 served as control. The present study revealed a notable decrease in survival, feed intake, growth, molting, tissue biochemical constituents, minerals, chitin, and alkaline phosphatase in S. serrata instar reared in acidified seawater, denotes the adverse effect of seawater acidification on crabs. The significant elevations in antioxidants, lipid peroxidation, and metabolic enzymes in all acidified seawater compared to ambient pH indicates the physiological stress of the crabs’ instars. The changes in the metabolic enzymes reveal the metabolism of protein and glucose for additional energy required by the crabs to tolerate the acidic stress. Hence, the present study provides insight into the seawater acidification can adversely affect the crab S. serrata.

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Differential effects of warming and acidification on chemosensory transmission and detection may strengthen non-consumptive effects of blue crab predators (Callinectes sapidus) on mud crab prey (Panopeus herbstii)

Predators control prey abundance and behavior, both of which strongly influence community dynamics. However, the relative importance of these predator effects may shift with climate change stressors, suggesting understanding the potential effects on these different processes is critical to predicting effects of climate change on community function. We investigated the effects of global warming and ocean acidification on the transmission and detection of chemical cues from blue crab predators (Callinectes sapidus) by mud crab prey (Panopeus herbstii). We measured mud crab feeding rates in the presence of blue crab predator cues, using either predator cues stressed in acidified conditions or mud crabs stressed in warmed and acidified conditions. Mud crabs consumed less food in the presence of predator cues, but acidifying the cues or subjecting mud crabs receiving the cues to acidified environment did not affect this antipredator response. Mud crabs in warmed conditions consumed significantly less food regardless of predator cue, but this effect was reversed in ambient conditions. Therefore, climate change may produce shifts in community regulation as warming potentially compromises consumptive effects of predators by reducing motor function, whereas non-consumptive effects mediated by sensory transmission and detection remain unaffected by acidification. Overall, warming may have stronger effects than acidification on community dynamics in oyster reefs as global temperatures continue to rise.

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Exoskeletal predator defenses of juvenile California spiny lobsters (Panulirus interruptus) are affected by fluctuating ocean acidification-like conditions

Spiny lobsters rely on multiple biomineralized exoskeletal predator defenses that may be sensitive to ocean acidification (OA). Compromised mechanical integrity of these defensive structures may tilt predator-prey outcomes, leading to increased mortality in the lobsters’ environment. Here, we tested the effects of OA-like conditions on the mechanical integrity of selected exoskeletal defenses of juvenile California spiny lobster, Panulirus interruptus. Young spiny lobsters reside in kelp forests with dynamic carbonate chemistry due to local metabolism and photosynthesis as well as seasonal upwelling, yielding daily and seasonal fluctuations in pH. Lobsters were exposed to a series of stable and diurnally fluctuating reduced pH conditions for three months (ambient pH/stable, 7.97; reduced pH/stable 7.67; reduced pH with low fluctuations, 7.67 ± 0.05; reduced pH with high fluctuations, 7.67 ± 0.10), after which we examined the intermolt composition (Ca and Mg content), ultrastructure (cuticle and layer thickness), and mechanical properties (hardness and stiffness) of selected exoskeletal predator defenses. Cuticle ultrastructure was consistently robust to pH conditions, while mineralization and mechanical properties were variable. Notably, the carapace was less mineralized under both reduced pH treatments with fluctuations, but with no effect on material properties, and the rostral horn had lower hardness in reduced/high fluctuating conditions without a corresponding difference in mineralization. Antennal flexural stiffness was lower in reduced, stable pH conditions compared to the reduced pH treatment with high fluctuations and not correlated with changes in cuticle structure or mineralization. These results demonstrate a complex relationship between mineralization and mechanical properties of the exoskeleton under changing ocean chemistry, and that fluctuating reduced pH conditions can induce responses not observed under the stable reduced pH conditions often used in OA research. Furthermore, this study shows that some juvenile California spiny lobster exoskeletal defenses are responsive to changes in ocean carbonate chemistry, even during the intermolt period, in ways that can potentially increase susceptibility to predation among this critical life stage.

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Is ocean acidification really a threat to marine calcifiers? A systematic review and meta-analysis of 980+ studies spanning two decades

Ocean acidification is considered detrimental to marine calcifiers, but mounting contradictory evidence suggests a need to revisit this concept. This systematic review and meta-analysis aim to critically re-evaluate the prevailing paradigm of negative effects of ocean acidification on calcifiers. Based on 5153 observations from 985 studies, many calcifiers (e.g., echinoderms, crustaceans, and cephalopods) are found to be tolerant to near-future ocean acidification (pH ≈ 7.8 by the year 2100), but coccolithophores, calcifying algae, and corals appear to be sensitive. Calcifiers are generally more sensitive at the larval stage than adult stage. Over 70% of the observations in growth and calcification are non-negative, implying the acclimation capacity of many calcifiers to ocean acidification. This capacity can be mediated by phenotypic plasticity (e.g., physiological, mineralogical, structural, and molecular adjustments), transgenerational plasticity, increased food availability, or species interactions. The results suggest that the impacts of ocean acidification on calcifiers are less deleterious than initially thought as their adaptability has been underestimated. Therefore, in the forthcoming era of ocean acidification research, it is advocated that studying how marine organisms persist is as important as studying how they perish, and that future hypotheses and experimental designs are not constrained within the paradigm of negative effects.

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Higher survival but smaller size of juvenile Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) in high CO2


  • Ocean acidification conditions do not affect Dungeness crab megalopae survival.
  • Dungeness crab juveniles reared in high CO2 have higher survival but are smaller.
  • Dungeness crab zoea more susceptible to ocean acidification than juveniles.


Dungeness crab (Metacarcinus magister) are the most valuable fishery on the U.S. West Coast and both larval and adult Dungeness crabs are important components of regional food webs. Previous experiments have shown decreased survival and a slower development rate for Dungeness crab zoea reared in water with high CO2, indicating a susceptibility to ocean acidification. In this study we reared late-stage megalopae and juvenile Dungeness crabs in both ambient and high CO2 conditions for over 300 days. Counter to expectations, crabs reared in high CO2 had a higher survival rate than those reared in ambient conditions and crabs in high CO2 transitioned more quickly in one of the stages (J5 to J6). However, crabs reared in high CO2 were generally smaller and had a higher resting metabolic rate than crabs in ambient CO2. We hypothesized that two separate mechanisms were in effect, with one process driving survival and a second process driving size and respiration rate. We further hypothesized that increased mortality in ambient CO2 could be caused by a CO2-sensitive microbial pathogen, but that size and respiration differences were caused by the direct effects of CO2 on the crabs themselves. Overall, the zoea stages seem more sensitive to CO2 than the megalopae and juvenile stages.

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Context-dependent effects of ocean acidification on the interaction between a crab predator and its oyster prey

Ocean acidification affects the fitness of species in coastal and estuarine systems, although interactions among species may alleviate or elevate the responses. Acidification effects on predator-prey interactions were evaluated between the blue crab Callinectes sapidus and eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica. Animals were exposed to 5 pH treatments: (1) control (pH ~8.00), constant pH at (2) 7.10 and (3) 6.75, and cycling pH from (4) 7.10 and (5) 6.75 to ~8.00, respectively. Crab foraging behavior, oyster size, and their defensive response against crabs (i.e. shell thickening) were compared among pH treatments. Results showed that predation rates of crabs tended to decrease with pH and from cycling to constant conditions, though statistical differences were only found at the lowest pH value and when consuming the larger oysters offered. Also, crab interest in oysters decreased with decreasing pH. In contrast, prey handling times and foraging motivation triggered by an odor stimulus were not affected by pH. In oysters, size metrics decreased with pH and also from cycling to constant conditions. Additionally, shells were thicker in the presence of predators, although the defensive strategy of oysters was weakened at the lowest pH level examined. Results indicate that although impaired foraging behavior of blue crabs may compensate for the negative effects on oysters under extreme acidification conditions, net effects are difficult to predict depending on the conditions to which animals are exposed and the size and behavioral variables considered.

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Biological sensitivities to high-resolution climate change projections in the California current marine ecosystem

The California Current Marine Ecosystem is a highly productive system that exhibits strong natural variability and vulnerability to anthropogenic climate trends. Relating projections of ocean change to biological sensitivities requires detailed synthesis of experimental results. Here, we combine measured biological sensitivities with high-resolution climate projections of key variables (temperature, oxygen, and pCO2) to identify the direction, magnitude, and spatial distribution of organism-scale vulnerabilities to multiple axes of projected ocean change. Among 12 selected species of cultural and economic importance, we find that all are sensitive to projected changes in ocean conditions through responses that affect individual performance or population processes. Response indices were largest in the northern region and inner shelf. While performance traits generally increased with projected changes, fitness traits generally decreased, indicating that concurrent stresses can lead to fitness loss. For two species, combining sensitivities to temperature and oxygen changes through the Metabolic Index shows how aerobic habitat availability could be compressed under future conditions. Our results suggest substantial and specific ecological susceptibility in the next 80 years, including potential regional loss of canopy-forming kelp, changes in nearshore food webs caused by declining rates of survival among red urchins, Dungeness crab, and razor clams, and loss of aerobic habitat for anchovy and pink shrimp. We also highlight fillable gaps in knowledge, including specific physiological responses to stressors, variation in responses across life stages, and responses to multistressor combinations. These findings strengthen the case for filling information gaps with experiments focused on fitness-related responses and those that can be used to parameterize integrative physiological models, and suggest that the CCME is susceptible to substantial changes to ecosystem structure and function within this century.

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European lobster larval development and fitness under a temperature gradient and ocean acidification

Climate change combined with anthropogenic stressors (e.g. overfishing, habitat destruction) may have particularly strong effects on threatened populations of coastal invertebrates. The collapse of the population of European lobster (Homarus gammarus) around Helgoland constitutes a good example and prompted a large-scale restocking program. The question arises if recruitment of remaining natural individuals and program-released specimens could be stunted by ongoing climate change. We examined the joint effect of ocean warming and acidification on survival, development, morphology, energy metabolism and enzymatic antioxidant activity of the larval stages of the European lobster. Larvae from four independent hatches were reared from stage I to III under a gradient of 10 seawater temperatures (13–24°C) combined with moderate (∼470 µatm) and elevated (∼1160 µatm) seawater pCO2 treatments. Those treatments correspond to the shared socio-economic pathways (SSP), SSP1-2.6 and SSP5-8.5 (i.e. the low and the very high greenhouse gas emissions respectively) projected for 2100 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Larvae under the elevated pCO2 treatment had not only lower survival rates, but also significantly smaller rostrum length. However, temperature was the main driver of energy demands with increased oxygen consumption rates and elemental C:N ratio towards warmer temperatures, with a reducing effect on development time. Using this large temperature gradient, we provide a more precise insight on the aerobic thermal window trade-offs of lobster larvae and whether exposure to the worst hypercapnia scenario may narrow it. This may have repercussions on the recruitment of the remaining natural and program-released specimens and thus, in the enhancement success of future lobster stocks.

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Climate change will fragment Florida stone crab communities

Many marine species have been shown to be threatened by both ocean acidification and ocean warming which are reducing survival, altering behavior, and posing limits on physiology, especially during earlier life stages. The commercially important Florida stone crab, Menippe mercenaria, is one species that is affected by reduced seawater pH and elevated seawater temperatures. In this study, we determined the impacts of reduced pH and elevated temperature on the distribution of the stone crab larvae along the West Florida Shelf. To understand the dispersion of the larvae, we coupled the multi-scale ocean model SLIM with a larval dispersal model. We then conducted a connectivity study and evaluated the impacts of climate stressors by looking at four different scenarios which included models that represented the dispersion of stone crab larvae under: 1) present day conditions as modelled by SLIM for the temperature and NEMO-PISCES for the pH, 2) SSP1-2.6 scenario (-0.037 reduction in pH and +0.5°C compared to present-day conditions), 3) SSP2-4.5 scenario(-0.15 reduction in pH and +1.5°C) and 4) SSP5-8.5 scenario (-0.375 reduction in pH and +3.5°C). Our results show a clear impact of these climate change stressors on larval dispersal and on the subsequent stone crab distribution. Our results indicate that future climate change could result in stone crabs moving north or into deeper waters. We also observed an increase in the number of larvae settling in deeper waters (defined as the non-fishing zone in this study with depths exceeding 30 m) that are not typically part of the commercial fishing zone. The distance travelled by larvae, however, is likely to decrease, resulting in an increase of self-recruitment and decrease of the size of the sub-populations. A shift of the spawning period, to earlier in the spring, is also likely to occur. Our results suggest that habitats in the non-fishing zone cannot serve as a significant source of larvae for the habitats in the fishing zone (defined as water depth< 30 m) since there is very little exchange (< 5% of all exchanges) between the two zones. These results indicate that the stone crab populations in Florida may be susceptible to community fragmentation and that the management of the fishery should consider the potential impacts of future climate change scenarios.

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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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A regional view of the response to climate change: a meta-analysis of European benthic organisms’ responses

Climate change is impacting organisms in every region of the world ocean by acting though on individuals in response to their local environments. Given projected future risks derived from these changes, it is becoming increasingly important to understand regional signals of how organisms respond to facilitate their governance and protection. Benthic organisms structure ecological compositions and ecosystem dynamics, therefore not only providing insights into their own response to climate change but also how ecosystems might respond to future conditions. European seas are transitional areas including boreal, warm-temperate, and subarctic waters with organisms frequently at limits of their distributions. Here, we use a meta-analytical approach to assess how calcification, growth, metabolism, photosynthesis, reproduction, and survival in European benthic organisms respond to ocean acidification and warming. Using meta-regression, we examine how study design factors influence effect-size outcomes. Longer experimental periods generally amplified the effects of climate change on taxonomic groupings and related physiological traits and against expectation do not result in acclimation. In agreement with global studies, we find that impacts vary considerably on different taxonomic groupings and their physiological traits. We found calcifying organisms are an at-risk taxon in European waters, with climate stressors decreasing growth rates, reproduction, and survival rates. Fleshy algal species demonstrate resilience to climate stressors, suggesting future European benthic ecosystems will undergo restructuring based on current climate emission pathways.

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Access to cleaning services alters fish physiology under parasite infection and ocean acidification

Cleaning symbioses are key mutualistic interactions where cleaners remove ectoparasites and tissues from client fishes. Such interactions elicit beneficial effects on clients’ ecophysiology, with cascading effects on fish diversity and abundance. Ocean acidification (OA), resulting from increasing CO2 concentrations, can affect the behavior of cleaner fishes making them less motivated to inspect their clients. This is especially important as gnathiid fish ectoparasites are tolerant to ocean acidification. Here, we investigated how access to cleaning services, performed by the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus, affect individual client’s (damselfish, Pomacentrus amboinensis) aerobic metabolism in response to both experimental parasite infection and OA. Access to cleaning services was modulated using a long-term removal experiment where cleaner wrasses were consistently removed from patch reefs around Lizard Island (Australia) for 17 years or left undisturbed. Only damselfish with access to cleaning stations had a negative metabolic response to parasite infection (maximum metabolic rate—O2Max; and both factorial and absolute aerobic scope). Moreover, after an acclimation period of 10 days to high CO2 (∼1,000 µatm CO2), the fish showed a decrease in factorial aerobic scope, being the lowest in fish without the access to cleaners. We propose that stronger positive selection for parasite tolerance might be present in reef fishes without the access to cleaners, but this might come at a cost, as readiness to deal with parasites can impact their response to other stressors, such as OA.

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Meta-analysis suggests negative, but pCO2 specific, effects of ocean acidification on the structural and functional properties of crustacean biomaterials

Crustaceans comprise an ecologically and morphologically diverse taxonomic group. They are typically considered resilient to many environmental perturbations found in marine and coastal environments, due to effective physiological regulation of ions and hemolymph pH, and a robust exoskeleton. Ocean acidification can affect the ability of marine calcifying organisms to build and maintain mineralized tissue and poses a threat for all marine calcifying taxa. Currently, there is no consensus on how ocean acidification will alter the ecologically relevant exoskeletal properties of crustaceans. Here, we present a systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of ocean acidification on the crustacean exoskeleton, assessing both exoskeletal ion content (calcium and magnesium) and functional properties (biomechanical resistance and cuticle thickness). Our results suggest that the effect of ocean acidification on crustacean exoskeletal properties varies based upon seawater pCO2 and species identity, with significant levels of heterogeneity for all analyses. Calcium and magnesium content was significantly lower in animals held at pCO2 levels of 1500–1999 µatm as compared with those under ambient pCO2. At lower pCO2 levels, however, statistically significant relationships between changes in calcium and magnesium content within the same experiment were observed as follows: a negative relationship between calcium and magnesium content at pCO2 of 500–999 µatm and a positive relationship at 1000–1499 µatm. Exoskeleton biomechanics, such as resistance to deformation (microhardness) and shell strength, also significantly decreased under pCO2 regimes of 500–999 µatm and 1500–1999 µatm, indicating functional exoskeletal change coincident with decreases in calcification. Overall, these results suggest that the crustacean exoskeleton can be susceptible to ocean acidification at the biomechanical level, potentially predicated by changes in ion content, when exposed to high influxes of CO2. Future studies need to accommodate the high variability of crustacean responses to ocean acidification, and ecologically relevant ranges of pCO2 conditions, when designing experiments with conservation-level endpoints.

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Becoming nose-blind—climate change impacts on chemical communication

Chemical communication via infochemicals plays a pivotal role in ecological interactions, allowing organisms to sense their environment, locate predators, food, habitats, or mates. A growing number of studies suggest that climate change-associated stressors can modify these chemically mediated interactions, causing info-disruption that scales up to the ecosystem level. However, our understanding of the underlying mechanisms is scarce. Evidenced by a range of examples, we illustrate in this opinion piece that climate change affects different realms in similar patterns, from molecular to ecosystem-wide levels. We assess the importance of different stressors for terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems and propose a systematic approach to address highlighted knowledge gaps and cross-disciplinary research avenues.

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Resilient consumers accelerate the plant decomposition in a naturally acidified seagrass ecosystem

Anthropogenic stressors are predicted to alter biodiversity and ecosystem functioning worldwide. However, scaling up from species to ecosystem responses poses a challenge, as species and functional groups can exhibit different capacities to adapt, acclimate, and compensate under changing environments. We used a naturally acidified seagrass ecosystem (the endemic Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica) as a model system to examine how ocean acidification (OA) modifies the community structure and functioning of plant detritivores, which play vital roles in the coastal nutrient cycling and food web dynamics. In seagrass beds associated with volcanic CO2 vents (Ischia, Italy), we quantified the effects of OA on seagrass decomposition by deploying litterbags in three distinct pH zones (i.e., ambient, low, extreme low pH), which differed in the mean and variability of seawater pH. We replicated the study in two discrete vents for 117 days (litterbags sampled on day 5, 10, 28, 55, and 117). Acidification reduced seagrass detritivore richness and diversity through the loss of less abundant, pH-sensitive species but increased the abundance of the dominant detritivore (amphipod Gammarella fucicola). Such compensatory shifts in species abundance caused more than a three-fold increase in the total detritivore abundance in lower pH zones. These community changes were associated with increased consumption (52-112%) and decay of seagrass detritus (up to 67% faster decomposition rate for the slow-decaying, refractory detrital pool) under acidification. Seagrass detritus deployed in acidified zones showed increased N content and decreased C:N ratio, indicating that altered microbial activities under OA may have affected the decay process. The findings suggest that OA could restructure consumer assemblages and modify plant decomposition in blue carbon ecosystems, which may have important implications for carbon sequestration, nutrient recycling, and trophic transfer. Our study highlights the importance of within-community response variability and compensatory processes in modulating ecosystem functions under extreme global change scenarios.

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Effect of different pCO2 concentrations in seawater on meiofauna: abundance of communities in sediment and survival rate of harpacticoid copepods

The amount of CO2 dissolved in the ocean has been increasing continuously, and the results using climate change models show that the CO2 concentration of the ocean will increase by over 1000 ppm by 2100. Ocean acidification is expected to have a considerable impact on marine ecosystems. To find out about the impacts of ocean acidification on meiofaunal communities and copepod groups, we analyzed the differences in the abundance of meiofauna communities in sediment and the survival rate of harpacticoid copepod assemblages separated from the sediment, between 400 and 1000 ppm pCO2 for a short period of 5 days. In experiments with communities in sediments exposed to different pCO2 concentrations, there was no significant difference in the abundance of total meiofauna and nematodes. However, the abundance of the harpacticoid copepod community was significantly lower at 1000 ppm than that at 400 ppm pCO2. On the other hand, in experiments with assemblages of harpacticoid copepods directly exposed to seawater, there was no significant difference in their survival rates between the two concentrations. Our findings suggest that a CO2 concentration of 1000 ppm in seawater can cause changes in the abundance of specific taxa such as harpacticoid copepods among the meiofauna communities in sediments.

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