Posts Tagged 'dissolution'

Predicting potential impacts of ocean acidification on marine calcifiers from the Southern Ocean

Understanding the vulnerability of marine calcifiers to ocean acidification is a critical issue, especially in the Southern Ocean (SO), which is likely to be the one of the first, and most severely affected regions. Since the industrial revolution, ~30% of anthropogenic CO2 has been absorbed by the oceans. Seawater pH levels have already decreased by 0.1 and are predicted to decline by ~ 0.3 by the year 2100. This process, known as ocean acidification (OA), is shallowing the saturation horizon, which is the depth below which calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dissolves, likely increasing the vulnerability of many marine calcifiers to dissolution. The negative impact of OA may be seen first in species depositing more soluble CaCO3 mineral phases such as aragonite and high-Mg calcite (HMC). These negative effects may become even exacerbated by increasing sea temperatures. Here we combine a review and a quantitative meta-analysis to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge about skeletal mineralogy of major taxonomic groups of SO marine calcifiers and to make predictions about how OA might affect different taxa. We consider their geographic range, skeletal mineralogy, biological traits and potential strategies to overcome OA. The meta-analysis of studies investigating the effects of the OA on a range of biological responses such as shell state, development and growth rate shows response variation depending on mineralogical composition. Species-specific responses due to mineralogical composition suggest taxa with calcitic, aragonitic and HMC skeletons may be more vulnerable to the expected carbonate chemistry alterations, and low magnesium calcite (LMC) species may be mostly resilient. Environmental and biological control on the calcification process and/or Mg content in calcite, biological traits and physiological processes are also expected to influence species specific responses.

Continue reading ‘Predicting potential impacts of ocean acidification on marine calcifiers from the Southern Ocean’

Irradiance, photosynthesis and elevated pCO2 effects on net calcification in tropical reef macroalgae


  • Most species from high-light environments are not able to calcifying under OA at night
  • Low-light species may be more susceptible to OA compared to high-light
  • Some species exhibit light-triggered calcification independent of photosystem II
  • Photosystem II independent calcification not sustained under OA


Calcifying tropical macroalgae produce sediment, build three-dimensional habitats, and provide substrate for invertebrate larvae on reefs. Thus, lower calcification rates under declining pH and increasing ocean pCO2, or ocean acidification, is a concern. In the present study, calcification rates were examined experimentally under predicted end-of-the-century seawater pCO2 (1116 μatm) and pH (7.67) compared to ambient controls (pCO2 409 μatm; pH 8.04). Nine reef macroalgae with diverse calcification locations, calcium carbonate structure, photophysiology, and site-specific irradiance were examined under light and dark conditions. Species included five from a high light patch reef on the Florida Keys Reef Tract (FKRT) and four species from low light reef walls on Little Cayman Island (LCI). Experiments on FKRT and LCI species were conducted at 500 and 50 μmol photons m−2 s−1 in situ irradiance, respectively. Calcification rates independent of photosystem-II (PSII) were also investigated for FKRT species. The most consistent negative effect of elevated pCO2 on calcification rates in the tropical macroalgae examined occurred in the dark. Most species (89%) had net calcification rates of zero or net dissolution in the dark at low pH. Species from the FKRT that sustained positive net calcification rates in the light at low pH also maintained ~30% of their net calcification rates without PSII at ambient pH. However, calcification rates in the light independent of PSII were not sustained at low pH. Regardless of these low pH effects, most FKRT species daily net calcification rates, integrating light/dark rates over a 24h period, were not significantly different between low and ambient pH. This was due to a 10-fold lower dark, compared to light, calcification rate, and a strong correspondence between calcification and photosynthetic rates. Interestingly, low-light species sustained calcification rates on par with high-light species without high rates of photosynthesis. Low-light species’ morphology and physiology that promote high calcification rates at ambient pH, may increase their vulnerability to low pH. Our data indicate that the negative effect of elevated pCO2 and low pH on tropical macroalgae at the organismal level is their impact on dark net calcification, probably enhanced dissolution. However, elevated pCO2 and low pH effects on macroalgae daily calcification rates are greatest in species with lower net calcification rates in the light. Thus, macroalgae able to maintain high calcification rates in the light (high and low irradiance) at low pH, and/or sustain strong biotic control with high [H+] in the bulk seawater, are expected to dominate under global change.

Continue reading ‘Irradiance, photosynthesis and elevated pCO2 effects on net calcification in tropical reef macroalgae’

Differential sensitivity of a symbiont‐bearing foraminifer to seawater carbonate chemistry in a decoupled DIC‐pH experiment

Larger benthic foraminifera (LBF) are unicellular eukaryotic calcifying organisms and an important component of tropical and subtropical modern and ancient oceanic ecosystems. They are major calcium carbonate producers and important contributors to primary production due to the photosynthetic activity of their symbiotic algae. Studies investigating the response of LBF to seawater carbonate chemistry changes are therefore essential for understanding the impact of climate changes and ocean acidification (OA) on shallow marine ecosystems. In this study, calcification, respiration, and photosynthesis of the widespread diatom‐bearing LBF Operculina ammonoides were measured in laboratory experiments that included manipulation of carbonate chemistry parameters. pH was altered while keeping dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) constant, and DIC was altered while keeping pH constant. The results show clear vulnerability of O. ammonoides to low pH and CO32− under constant DIC conditions, and no increased photosynthesis or calcification under high DIC concentrations. Our results call into question previous hypotheses, suggesting that mechanisms such as the degree of cellular control on calcification site pH/DIC and/or enhanced symbiont photosynthesis in response to OA may render the hyaline (perforate and calcitic‐radial) LBF to be less responsive to OA than porcelaneous LBF. In addition, manipulating DIC did not affect calcification when pH was close to present seawater levels in a model encompassing the total population size range. In contrast, larger individuals (>1,200 μm, >1 mg) were sensitive to changes in DIC, a phenomenon we attribute to their physiological requirement to concentrate large quantities of DIC for their calcification process.

Continue reading ‘Differential sensitivity of a symbiont‐bearing foraminifer to seawater carbonate chemistry in a decoupled DIC‐pH experiment’

Effects of low pH and low salinity induced by meltwater inflow on the behavior and physical condition of the Antarctic limpet, Nacella concinna

Seawater acidification and freshening in the intertidal zone of Marian Cove, Antarctica, which occurs by the freshwater inflow from snow fields and glaciers, could affect the physiology and behavior of intertidal marine organisms. In this study, we exposed Antarctic limpets, Nacella concinna, to two different pH (8.00 and 7.55) and salinity (34.0 and 27.0 psu) levels and measured their righting ability after being flipped over, mortality, condition factor, and shell dissolution. During the 35-day exposure, there was no significant difference in behavior and mortality between different treatments. However, the condition factor was negatively affected by low salinity. Both low pH and low salinity negatively influenced shell formation by decreasing the aragonite saturation state (Ωarg) and enhancing shell dissolution. Our results suggest that, though limpets can tolerate short-term low pH and salinity conditions, intrusions of meltwater accompanied by the glacial retreat may act as a serious threat to the population of N. concinna.

Continue reading ‘Effects of low pH and low salinity induced by meltwater inflow on the behavior and physical condition of the Antarctic limpet, Nacella concinna’

Coral reef sediment dissolution in a changing ocean: insights from a temporal field study

Calcium carbonate sediments form an essential part of coral reefs yet have often been overlooked when studying the effects of future ocean acidification (OA). This original field-based research aims to assess the temporal variability of organic and inorganic sediment metabolism under ambient and elevated pCO2. OA caused a shift from net precipitation to net dissolution, but the sensitivity to OA varied seasonally, depending on interactions with temperature and benthic productivity. A slack-water approach of net ecosystem calcification revealed that sediments can play an important role in carbonate budgets, particularly at night, and become increasingly important as the oceans continue acidifying.

Continue reading ‘Coral reef sediment dissolution in a changing ocean: insights from a temporal field study’

Crumbling reefs and cold-water coral habitat loss in a future ocean: evidence of “coralporosis” as an indicator of habitat integrity

Ocean acidification is a threat to the net growth of tropical and deep-sea coral reefs, due to gradual changes in the balance between reef growth and loss processes. Here we go beyond identification of coral dissolution induced by ocean acidification and identify a mechanism that will lead to a loss of habitat in cold-water coral reef habitats on an ecosystem-scale. To quantify this, we present in situ and year-long laboratory evidence detailing the type of habitat shift that can be expected (in situ evidence), the mechanisms underlying this (in situ and laboratory evidence), and the timescale within which the process begins (laboratory evidence). Through application of engineering principals, we detail how increased porosity in structurally critical sections of coral framework will lead to crumbling of load-bearing material, and a potential collapse and loss of complexity of the larger habitat. Importantly, in situ evidence highlights that cold-water corals can survive beneath the aragonite saturation horizon, but in a fundamentally different way to what is currently considered a biogenic cold-water coral reef, with a loss of the majority of reef habitat. The shift from a habitat with high 3-dimensional complexity provided by both live and dead coral framework, to a habitat restricted primarily to live coral colonies with lower 3-dimensional complexity represents the main threat to cold-water coral reefs of the future and the biodiversity they support. Ocean acidification can cause ecosystem-scale habitat loss for the majority of cold-water coral reefs.

Continue reading ‘Crumbling reefs and cold-water coral habitat loss in a future ocean: evidence of “coralporosis” as an indicator of habitat integrity’

Evidence for stage-based larval vulnerability and resilience to acidification in Crassostrea virginica

Using image analysis of scanning electron micrographs (SEMs), we compared differences in growth of D-stage veligers [i.e. prodissoconch I and II (PI and PII) larvae] of eastern oysters Crassostrea virginica grown in mesohaline water under high- and low-CO2 conditions. We found SEMs to reveal no evidence of dissolution or shell structure deformity for larval shells in either of the CO2 treatments but detected prominent growth lines in the PII regions of larval shells. The number of growth lines closely approximated the duration of the experiment, suggesting that growth lines are generated daily. Mean growth line interval widths were 20% greater for larval shells cultured in low- vs high-CO2 conditions. Crassostrea virginica veliger larvae were shown to tolerate high CO2 levels and aragonite saturation states (Ωarag) < 1.0, but larval growth was slowed substantially under these conditions. Differences in growth line interval width translate into substantial changes in shell area and account for previously observed differences in total shell area between the treatments, as determined by light microscopy and image analysis. Other studies have documented high mortality and malformation of D-stage larvae in bivalves when pre-veliger life stages (i.e. eggs, gastrula and trochophores) were exposed to elevated CO2. Our experiments revealed statistical differences in rates of larval survival, settlement and subsequent early-stage spat mortality for veligers reared in high- and low-CO2 conditions. Although each of these rates was measurably affected by high CO2, the magnitude of these differences was small (range across categories = 0.7–6.3%) suggesting that the impacts may not be catastrophic, as implied by several previous studies. We believe the apparent disparity among experimental results may be best explained by differential vulnerability of pre-veliger stage larvae and veligers, whereby PI and PII larvae have greater physiological capacity to withstand environmental conditions that may be thermodynamically unfavourable to calcification (i.e. Ωarag < 1.0).

Continue reading ‘Evidence for stage-based larval vulnerability and resilience to acidification in Crassostrea virginica’

Ocean acidification effects on calcification and dissolution in tropical reef macroalgae

Net calcification rates for coral reef and other calcifiers have been shown to decline as ocean acidification (OA) occurs. However, the role of calcium carbonate dissolution in lowering net calcification rates is unclear. The objective of this study was to distinguish OA effects on calcification and dissolution rates in dominant calcifying macroalgae of the Florida Reef Tract, including two rhodophytes (Neogoniolithon strictum, Jania adhaerens) and two chlorophytes (Halimeda scabra, Udotea luna). Two experiments were conducted: (1) to assess the difference in gross (45Ca uptake) versus net (total alkalinity anomaly) calcification rates in the light/dark and (2) to determine dark dissolution (45CaCO3), using pH levels predicted for the year 2100 and ambient pH. At low pH in the light, all species maintained gross calcification rates and most sustained net calcification rates relative to controls. Net calcification rates in the dark were ~84% lower than in the light. In contrast to the light, all species had lower net calcification rates in the dark at low pH with chlorophytes exhibiting net dissolution. These data are supported by the relationship (R2 = 0.82) between increasing total alkalinity and loss of 45Ca from pre-labelled 45CaCO3 thalli at low pH in the dark. Dark dissolution of 45CaCO3-labelled thalli was ~18% higher in chlorophytes than rhodophytes at ambient pH, and ~ twofold higher at low pH. Only Udotea, which exhibited dissolution in the light, also had lower daily calcification rates integrated over 24 h. Thus, if tropical macroalgae can maintain high calcification rates in the light, lower net calcification rates in the dark from dissolution may not compromise daily calcification rates. However, if organismal dissolution in the dark is additive to sedimentary carbonate losses, reef dissolution may be amplified under OA and contribute to erosion of the Florida Reef Tract and other reefs that exhibit net dissolution.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification effects on calcification and dissolution in tropical reef macroalgae’

The role of gastropod shell composition and microstructure in resisting dissolution caused by ocean acidification


• Two gastropods with different shell microstructure were exposed to low pH (six months).

• Micro-CT scans indicate decreased densities on exterior-most shell in both gastropods.

• Fibrous calcite layers experience more dissolution than homogeneous calcite layers.

• Microstructural crystal arrangement likely determines susceptibility to dissolution.

• Tegula funebralis shells are critically vulnerable to changes in ocean chemistry.


Organisms, such as molluscs, that produce their hard parts from calcium carbonate are expected to show increased difficulties growing and maintaining their skeletons under ocean acidification (OA). Any loss of shell integrity increases vulnerability, as shells provide protection against predation, desiccation, and disease. Not all species show the same responses to OA, which may be due to the composition and microstructural arrangement of their shells. We explore the role of shell composition and microstructure in resisting dissolution caused by decreases in seawater pH using a combination of microCT scans, XRD analysis, and SEM imaging. Two gastropods with different shell compositions and microstructure, Tegula funebralis and Nucella ostrina, were exposed to simulated ocean acidification conditions for six months. Both species showed signs of dissolution on the exterior of their shells, but changes in density were significantly more pronounced in T. funebralis. XRD analysis indicated that the exterior layer of both shell types was made of calcite. T. funebralis may be more prone to dissolution because their outer fibrous calcite layer has more crystal edges and faces exposed, potentially increasing the surface area on which dissolution can occur. These results support a previous study where T. funebralis showed significant decreases in both shell growth and strength, but N. ostrina only showed slight reductions in shell strength, and unaffected growth. We suggest that microstructural arrangement of shell layers in molluscs, more so than their composition alone, is critical for determining the vulnerability of mollusc shells to OA.

Continue reading ‘The role of gastropod shell composition and microstructure in resisting dissolution caused by ocean acidification’

Geochemical reconstructions of Southern Ocean pH and temperature over the last glacial cycle

The Southern Ocean is widely thought to play an important role in atmospheric CO₂ change over glacial-interglacial cycles. It has been suggested that as the region that ventilates the majority of the world’s carbon-rich deep waters today, reduced exchange between deep waters and the atmosphere in the Southern Ocean acted to draw down CO₂ over glacial timescales. However, direct evidence of the Southern Ocean’s role in glacial CO₂ drawdown has been lacking thus far. Here I apply the boron-isotope pH-proxy to foraminifera from the Antarctic Zone sediment core PS1506 over the last glacial cycle. The low boron concentrations in these polar foraminifera makes these samples particularly sensitive to boron blank and so a close examination of the sources of blank, and an assessment of the precision of blank measurements, has been made. The ratios of trace elements to calcium in foraminiferal shells are widely applied as proxies for palaeoenvironmental parameters such as temperature. As Southern Ocean carbonate sediments are particularly prone to dissolution, which can affect trace element concentrations, an assessment of dissolution has been made. Firstly, dissolution experiments were conducted to constrain the impact of dissolution in a controlled setting, and secondly, shell mass and trace elements were evaluated for the downcore record. Imaging reveals similar etching textures in both experimentally dissolved samples and deglacial intervals, when shell mass is also low and several trace elements exhibit an excursion to lower values. Boron isotope data for PS1506 show that during the penultimate interglacial, surface water pH was low. At the onset of atmospheric CO₂ drawdown, pH increased, indicating low CO₂ surface waters. This is consistent with the signature predicted for a more stratified Southern Ocean, and is evidence that stratification in the Antarctic Zone acted to contribute to CO₂ drawdown early in the transition to a glacial state.

Continue reading ‘Geochemical reconstructions of Southern Ocean pH and temperature over the last glacial cycle’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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