Posts Tagged 'dissolution'

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?’

Pteropods make thinner shells in the upwelling region of the California Current ecosystem

Shelled pteropods are widely regarded as bioindicators for ocean acidification, because their fragile aragonite shells are susceptible to increasing ocean acidity. While short-term incubations have demonstrated that pteropod calcification is negatively impacted by ocean acidification, we know little about net calcification in response to varying ocean conditions in natural populations. Here, we examine in situ calcification of Limacina helicina pteropods collected from the California Current Ecosystem, a coastal upwelling system with strong spatial gradients in ocean carbonate chemistry, dissolved oxygen and temperature. Depth-averaged pH ranged from 8.03 in warmer offshore waters to 7.77 in cold CO2-rich waters nearshore. Based on high-resolution micro-CT technology, we showed that shell thickness declined by ~ 37% along the upwelling gradient from offshore to nearshore water. Dissolution marks covered only ~ 2% of the shell surface area and were not associated with the observed variation in shell thickness. We thus infer that pteropods make thinner shells where upwelling brings more acidified and colder waters to the surface. Probably the thinner shells do not result from enhanced dissolution, but are due to a decline in calcification. Reduced calcification of pteropods is likely to have major ecological and biogeochemical implications for the cycling of calcium carbonate in the oceans.

Continue reading ‘Pteropods make thinner shells in the upwelling region of the California Current ecosystem’

Ocean acidification alters properties of the exoskeleton in adult tanner crabs, Chionoecetes bairdi

Ocean acidification can affect the ability of calcifying organisms to build and maintain mineralized tissue. In decapod crustaceans, the exoskeleton is a multilayered structure composed of chitin, protein, and mineral, predominately magnesian calcite or amorphous calcium carbonate (ACC). We investigated the effects of acidification on the exoskeleton of mature (post-terminal-molt) female southern Tanner crabs, Chionoecetes bairdi. Crabs were exposed to one of three pH levels—8.1, 7.8, or 7.5—for two years. Reduced pH led to a suite of body-region-specific effects on the exoskeleton. Microhardness of the claw was 38% lower in crabs at pH 7.5 compared with those at pH 8.1, but carapace microhardness was unaffected by pH. In contrast, reduced pH altered elemental content in the carapace (reduced calcium, increased magnesium), but not the claw. Diminished structural integrity and thinning of the exoskeleton was observed at reduced pH in both body regions; internal erosion of the carapace was present in most crabs at pH 7.5, and the claws of these crabs showed substantial external erosion, with tooth-like denticles nearly or completely worn away. Using infrared spectroscopy, we observed a shift in the phase of calcium carbonate present in the carapace of pH-7.5 crabs: a mix of ACC and calcite was found in the carapace of crabs at pH 8.1, whereas the bulk of calcium carbonate had transformed to calcite in pH-7.5 crabs. With limited capacity for repair, the exoskeleton of long-lived crabs that undergo a terminal molt, such as Cbairdi, may be especially susceptible to ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification alters properties of the exoskeleton in adult tanner crabs, Chionoecetes bairdi’

Acidification stress effect on umbonate veliger larval development in Panopea globosa


  • The pH significantly influenced the biometric variables in Panopea globosa larvae.
  • Larvae exposed to lower pH showed shell dissolution at the umbo level.
  • The metabolic rate was higher in larvae exposed to acidification compared to the control.
  • Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide dehydrogenase expression levels to pH 7.5 suggest a higher energy requirement.


Ocean acidification generates a decrease in calcium carbonate availability essential for biomineralization in organisms such as mollusks. This effect was evaluated on Panopea globosa exposing for 7 days umbonate veliger larvae to two pH treatments: experimental (pH 7.5) and control (pH 8.0). Exposure to pH 7.5 affected growth, reducing larval shell length from 5.15–13.34% compared to the control group. This size reduction was confirmed with electron microscopy, also showing shell damage. The physiological response showed an increase in oxygen consumption in larvae exposed to low pH with a maximum difference of 1.57 nmol O2 h−1 larvae−1 at day 7. The gene expression analyses reported high expression values for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) dehydrogenase and Perlucin in larvae at pH 7.5, suggesting a higher energetic cost in this larval group to maintain homeostasis. In conclusion, this study showed that acidification affected development of P. globosa umbonate veliger larvae.

Continue reading ‘Acidification stress effect on umbonate veliger larval development in Panopea globosa’

Juvenile Eastern oysters more resilient to extreme ocean acidification than their mud crab predators

Ocean acidification is predicted to impair marine calcifiers’ abilities to produce shells and skeletons. We conducted laboratory experiments investigating the impacts of CO2‐induced ocean acidification (pCO2 = 478 – 519, 734 – 835, 8980 – 9567; Ωcalcite = 7.3 – 5.7, 5.6 – 4.3, 0.6 – 0.7) on calcification rates of two estuarine calcifiers involved in a classic predator‐prey model system: adult Panopeus herbstii (Atlantic mud crab) and juvenile Crassostrea virginica (eastern oyster). Both oyster and crab calcification rates significantly decreased at the highest pCO2 level. Notably, however, oysters maintained positive net calcification rates in the highest pCO2 treatment that was undersaturated with respect to calcite, while mud crabs exhibited net dissolution (i.e., net loss of shell mass) in calcite‐undersaturated conditions. Secondary electron imaging of oyster shells revealed minor microstructural alterations in the moderate‐pCO2 treatment, and major micro‐ and macro‐structural changes (including shell dissolution, delamination of periostracum) in the high‐pCO2 treatment. These results underscore the threat that ocean acidification poses for marine organisms that produce calcium carbonate shells, illustrate the strong biological control that some marine calcifiers exert over their shell‐building process, and shows that ocean acidification differentially impacts the crab and oyster species involved in this classical predator‐prey model system.

Continue reading ‘Juvenile Eastern oysters more resilient to extreme ocean acidification than their mud crab predators’

Futureproofing the green-lipped mussel aquaculture industry against ocean acidification

Two mitigation strategies – waste shell and aeration – were tested in field experiments to see how effective they are at mitigating acidification around mussel farms. This report outlines the results and recommendations from this research. 

Primary results:

  • The inner Firth of Thames currently experiences the lowest seasonal pH of the sites monitored, with a daily minimum of 7.84 (7.79–7.96) in autumn, with short-term (15-minute) pH minima as low as 7.2. Time-series data in the inner and outer Firth of Thames, and also on a mussel farm in the western Firth, show episodic declines in carbonate saturation to the critical carbonate saturation state ΩAR = 1.0 at which solid aragonite (the form of carbonate in mussel shells) will start to dissolve. Consequently, mussels in the Firth of Thames experience episodic corrosive conditions.
  • The mean pH in the Marlborough Sounds region is projected to decrease by 0.15–0.4 by 2100 depending on future emission scenario. The corresponding decline of 0.5–1.25 in the saturation state of aragonite (ΩAR), results in the critical threshold of ΩAR =1 being reached by 2100 under the worst-case scenario. These projections are based only on future CO2 emission scenarios and do not consider other coastal sources of acidity in coastal waters which may also alter in the future.

Continue reading ‘Futureproofing the green-lipped mussel aquaculture industry against ocean acidification’

Ocean warming and acidification uncouple calcification from calcifier biomass which accelerates coral reef decline

Global climate change will drive declines in coral reefs over coming decades. Yet, the relative role of temperature versus acidification, and the ability of resultant ecosystems to retain core services such as coastal protection, are less clear. Here, we investigate changes to the net chemical balances of calcium carbonate within complex experimental coral reefs over 18 months under conditions projected for 2100 if CO2 emissions continue unmitigated. We reveal a decoupling of calcifier biomass and calcification under the synergistic impact of warming and acidification, that combined with increased night-time dissolution, leads to an accelerated loss of carbonate frameworks. Climate change induced degradation will limit the ability of coral reefs to keep-up with sea level rise, possibly for thousands of years. We conclude that instead of simply transitioning to alternate states that are capable of buffering coastlines, reefs are at risk of drowning leading to critical losses in ecosystem functions.

Continue reading ‘Ocean warming and acidification uncouple calcification from calcifier biomass which accelerates coral reef decline’

Ocean acidification and short‐term organic matter enrichment alter coral reef sediment metabolism through different pathways

Ocean acidification (OA) and organic matter (OM) enrichment (due to coastal eutrophication) could act in concert to shift coral reef carbonate sediments from a present state of net calcification to a future state of net dissolution, but no studies have examined the combined effect of these stressors on sediment metabolism and dissolution. This study used 22‐hour incubations in flume aquaria with captive sediment communities to measure the combined effect of elevated pCO2 (representing Ocean Acidification) and particulate organic carbon (representing coastal eutrophication) on coral reef sediment gross primary productivity (GPP), respiration (R), and net calcification (Gnet). Relative to control sediment communities, both OA (pCO2 ~ 1000 μatm) and OM enrichment (~ + 40 μmol C L‐1) significantly decreased rates of sediment Gnet by 1.16 and 0.18 mmol CaCO3 m‐2 h‐1, respectively, but the mechanism behind this decrease differed. The OA‐mediated transition to net dissolution was physiochemical, as rates of GPP and R remained unaffected and dissolution was solely enhanced by a decline in the aragonite saturation state (Ωarg) of the overlying water column and the physical factors governing the porewater exchange rate with this overlying water column. In contrast, the OM‐mediated decline in Gnet was due to a decline in the overlying seawater Ωarg due to the increased respiratory addition of CO2. The decrease in Gnet in response to a combination of both stressors was additive (‐ 0.09 mmol CaCO3 m‐2 h‐1 relative to OA alone) but this decrease did not significantly differ from the individual effect of either stressor. In this study OA was the primary driver of future carbonate sediment dissolution, but longer‐term experiments with chronic organic matter enrichment are required.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification and short‐term organic matter enrichment alter coral reef sediment metabolism through different pathways’

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’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book