Posts Tagged 'dissolution'

Nutrient pollution disrupts key ecosystem functions on coral reefs

There is a long history of examining the impacts of nutrient pollution and pH on coral reefs. However, little is known about how these two stressors interact and influence coral reef ecosystem functioning. Using a six-week nutrient addition experiment, we measured the impact of elevated nitrate (NO−3) and phosphate (PO3−4) on net community calcification (NCC) and net community production (NCP) rates of individual taxa and combined reef communities. Our study had four major outcomes: (i) NCC rates declined in response to nutrient addition in all substrate types, (ii) the mixed community switched from net calcification to net dissolution under medium and high nutrient conditions, (iii) nutrients augmented pH variability through modified photosynthesis and respiration rates, and (iv) nutrients disrupted the relationship between NCC and aragonite saturation state documented in ambient conditions. These results indicate that the negative effect of NO−3 and PO3−4 addition on reef calcification is likely both a direct physiological response to nutrients and also an indirect response to a shifting pH environment from altered NCP rates. Here, we show that nutrient pollution could make reefs more vulnerable to global changes associated with ocean acidification and accelerate the predicted shift from net accretion to net erosion.

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Ocean acidification reduces mechanical properties of the Portuguese oyster shell with impaired microstructure: a hierarchical analysis

The rapidly intensifying process of ocean acidification (OA) in coastal areas due to anthropogenic CO2 is not only depleting carbonate ions necessary for calcification but also causing acidosis and disrupting internal pH homeostasis in several marine organisms. These negative consequences of OA on marine communities, particularly to shellfish oyster species, has been very well documented in recent studies, however, the consequences of these reduced or impaired calcification processes on the end-product, shells or skeletons, still remains one of the major research gaps. Shells produced by marine organisms under OA are expected to be corroded with disorganized or impaired crystal orientation or microstructures with reduced mechanical property. To bridge this knowledge gap and to test the above hypothesis, we investigated the effect of OA on shell of the commercially important oyster species (Crassostrea angulata) at ecologically and climatically relevant OA levels (using pH 8.1, 7.8, 7.5, 7.2 as proxies). In decreased pH conditions, a drop of shell hardness and stiffness was revealed by nanoindentation tests, while an evident loosened internal microstructure was detected by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). In contrary, the crystallographic orientation of oyster shell showed no significant difference with decreasing pH by Electron Back Scattered Diffraction (EBSD) analyses. These results indicate the loosened internal microstructure may be the cause of the OA induced reduction in shell hardness and stiffness. Micro-computed tomography analysis (Micro-CT) indicated that an overall “down-shifting” of mineral density in the shell with decreasing pH, which implied the loosened internal microstructure may run through the shell, thus inevitably limiting the effectiveness of the shell defensive function. This study surfaces potential bottom-up deterioration induced by OA on oyster shells, especially in their early juvenile life stage. This knowledge is critical to forecast the survival and production of edible oysters in future ocean.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification reduces mechanical properties of the Portuguese oyster shell with impaired microstructure: a hierarchical analysis’

The interactive effects of ocean acidification, food availability, and source location on the growth and physiology of the California mussel

Research shows ocean acidification (OA) can have largely negative impacts on marine organisms and ecosystems. Prior laboratory studies show that shelled marine invertebrates (e.g., molluscs) exhibit reduced growth rates and weaker shells when experiencing OA-related stress. However, populations of the critical intertidal mussel species, Mytilus californianus, which experience naturally acidic water due to upwelling in certain parts of Northern California have been observed to have relatively stronger and thicker shells and higher growth rates than those that experience less frequent exposure to upwelling. To address the discrepancies between negative effects of OA exposure in the laboratory and seemingly positive effects off OA exposure in the field we collected juvenile mussels from four separate locations on the northern California coast that vary in exposure to upwelling-driven OA and raised them under ambient, constantly acidified, or intermittently acidified seawater conditions. Half of the mussels in each of the experimental treatments were given access to either ambient or elevated food concentrations. Although higher food availability increased shell and overall mussel growth, variation in mussel life-history traits among locations appears to be driven primarily by inherent differences (i.e. genetics or epigenetics). In particular, overall growth, soft tissue mass, and shell dissolution in mussels were associated with source-specific upwelling strength while adductor muscle mass along with shell growth and strength of mussels were associated with source-specific levels of predation risk. Oxygen consumption of mussels did not significantly vary among food, pH or source location treatments, suggesting that differences in growth rates were not due to differences in differences in metabolic or energetic efficiencies between individuals. Although not statistically significant, mussels from areas of high crab predation risk tended to survive crab attacks in the lab better than mussels from other areas. My data suggests that the adaptive potential of M. californianus to respond to future OA conditions is dependent on local environmental factors such as upwelling strength, food availability, and predation risk. My study addresses a significant gap in our understanding of the mechanism behind conflicting observations of increased growth in the field associated with low pH and previous laboratory results, demonstrating the importance of environmental context in shaping the organismal response to current and future OA conditions.

Continue reading ‘The interactive effects of ocean acidification, food availability, and source location on the growth and physiology of the California mussel’

Natural ocean acidification at Papagayo upwelling system (north Pacific Costa Rica): implications for reef development

Numerous experiments have shown that ocean acidification impedes coral calcification, but knowledge about in situ reef ecosystem response to ocean acidification is still scarce. Bahía Culebra, situated at the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, is a location naturally exposed to acidic conditions due to the Papagayo seasonal upwelling. We measured pH and pCO2 in situ during two non-upwelling seasons (June 2012, May–June 2013), with a high temporal resolution of every 15 and 30 min, respectively, using two Submersible Autonomous Moored Instruments (SAMI-pH, SAMI-CO2). These results were compared with published data from the 2009 upwelling season. Findings revealed that the carbonate system in Bahía Culebra shows a high temporal variability. Incoming offshore waters drive intra- and interseasonal changes. Lowest pH (7.8) and highest pCO2 (658.3 µatm) values measured during a cold-water intrusion event in the non-upwelling season were similar to those minimum values reported from upwelling season (pH  =  7.8, pCO2  =  643.5 µatm), unveiling that natural acidification also occurs sporadically in the non-upwelling season. This affects the interaction of photosynthesis, respiration, calcification and carbonate dissolution and the resulting diel cycle of pH and pCO2 in the reefs of Bahía Culebra. During the non-upwelling season, the aragonite saturation state (Ωa) rises to values of  >  3.3 and during the upwelling season falls below 2.5. The Ωa threshold values for coral growth were derived from the correlation between measured Ωa and coral linear extension rates which were obtained from the literature and suggest that future ocean acidification will threaten the continued growth of reefs in Bahía Culebra. These data contribute to building a better understanding of the carbonate system dynamics and coral reefs’ key response (e.g., coral growth) to natural low-pH conditions, in upwelling areas in the eastern tropical Pacific and beyond. Continue reading ‘Natural ocean acidification at Papagayo upwelling system (north Pacific Costa Rica): implications for reef development’

Bivalves in the face of ocean acidification

Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are leading to a gradual decrease in ocean pH and changes in seawater carbonate chemistry, a process known as ocean acidification (OA). Such changes in oceanic environmental conditions will have negative consequences for marine life and organisms producing calcium carbonate (CaCO3) structures are amongst the most vulnerable due to the additional costs associated with calcification and maintenance of calcified structures under more acidic conditions. As calcifying animals of particular commercial and ecological relevance, bivalve molluscs have frequently been the object of OA research. In this thesis, responses to changes in seawater acidity in commercially important bivalve species were investigated with the aim of understanding their adaptation potential to OA. As the main focus was on blue mussels, the first part of the thesis provided an introduction to blue musselspecies complex in Europe which is characterized by the three species Mytilus edulis, M. galloprovincialis and M. trossulus. An analysis of potential consequences of interspecies hybridization for the aquaculture industry, especially in the context of changing environmental conditions, was provided. Possible positive and negative effects of hybridization were identified, the complexity of the blue mussel-species complex was highlighted and the implications of hybridization for adaptation were discussed. In the following section of the thesis, responses of Mytilus edulis larvae from a Swedish west coast population to elevated seawater acidity were investigated. By exposing larvae to a wide range of seawater acidity, the physiological tolerance threshold for normal shell development was identified and corresponded to pHT (pH on the total scale) ~ 7.8 which approximates the lower extremes of the local pH range naturally experienced by the larvae. This suggests that these mussels are well adapted to their local environment characterized by considerable fluctuations in seawater pH. Additionally, this result allowed selecting an appropriate pH level (pHT ~ 7.5, beyond the present range of natural variability), representing a realistic OA scenario for the investigated population and driving enough biological response to further investigate adaptation potential. This was achieved by measuring genetic variance and heritability of larval fitness-related traits (i.e. size and malformation of shell) through a crossbreeding experimental design and quantitative genetic techniques. Results showed high trait heritability under elevated seawater acidity, an indication of the potential of adapting to OA. Finally, in order to understand what functions and genes may be targeted by natural selection in the context of OA, genes involved in the initial phases of shell formation in Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) larvae were identified. With a genome available, the Pacific oyster was an ideal candidate for this task. The identified genes were attributed to four categories (metabolic genes, transmembrane proteins, shell matrix proteins and protease inhibitors) and are candidates for genes under selection in the context of an acidifying ocean. Altogether the results of this thesis contribute to a better understanding of bivalve adaptation potential to global changes and provide critical information for future work (e.g. investigation of allelespecific associated tolerance to changes in environmental parameters).

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Decalcification and survival of benthic foraminifera under the combined impacts of varying pH and salinity


  • Coastal ocean acidification did not enhance apparent test dissolution or affect survival in the short term of the benthic foraminifera species Ammonia sp. and Elphidium crispum.
  • Ωcalc <1 caused by low salinity decreases resistance to dissolution of the foraminifera.
  • The response of foraminifera to the combined impact of low pH and desalination was species-specific.
  • Living, decalcified juvenile specimens of Ammonia sp. were observed after one month at salinity 5.


Coastal areas display natural large environmental variability such as frequent changes in salinity, pH, and carbonate chemistry. Anthropogenic impacts – especially ocean acidification – increase this variability, which may affect the living conditions of coastal species, particularly, calcifiers. We performed culture experiments on living benthic foraminifera to study the combined effects of lowered pH and salinity on the calcification abilities and survival of the coastal, calcitic species Ammonia sp. and Elphidium crispum. We found that in open ocean conditions (salinity ∼35) and lower pH than usual values for these species, the specimens displayed resistance to shell (test) dissolution for a longer time than in brackish conditions (salinity ∼5 to 20). However, the response was species specific as Ammonia sp. specimens survived longer than E. crispum specimens when placed in the same conditions of salinity and pH. Living, decalcified juveniles of Ammonia sp. were observed and we show that desalination is one cause for the decalcification. Finally, we highlight the ability of foraminifera to survive under Ωcalc < 1, and that high salinity and [Ca2+] as building blocks are crucial for the foraminiferal calcification process.

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Influence of acidification on carbonate sediments of Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands

Influence of acidification on carbonate sediments in Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands was studied by chemical and mineralogical methods coupled with synchrotron-based X-ray µ-CT. We found that the lowering of soil pH near the surface layer caused decrease of Mg concentration and increase of porosity of foraminifera (Calcarina spp.) due to the selective dissolution of magnesian calcite in Calcarina spp.test.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book