Posts Tagged 'echinoderms'

Effects of ocean acidification on the larval settlement and metamorphosis of marine invertebrates

Future Ocean acidification (OA) has the potential to negatively affect marine ecosystems and the organisms they support, with the early life-history stages particularly sensitive to reduced seawater pH and carbonate saturation states. Most marine organisms reproduce through an indirect lifecycle, which includes a free-swimming larval stage. In benthic or sessile taxa, the lifecycle is marked by the larval settlement and metamorphosis processes. Here, at the end of the free-living (generally planktonic) stage, larvae selectively search for a preferred settlement substrate for attachment, with metamorphosis occurring before or after it. Larval settlement and metamorphosis are arguably the most important processes in the life cycle of marine invertebrates, since they determine and optimize the final location of the organisms. Altered larval settlement rates will therefore influence the ecology, abundances and distributions of future coastal communities.

The aim of this thesis was to investigate whether OA could affect the larval settlement success of marine invertebrates, and whether these impacts would be mediated through direct, indirect or carry-over mechanisms. Three key New Zealand coastal marine invertebrates were used as model organisms: the sea urchin Evechinus chloroticus, the black-footed abalone (Haliotis iris) or pāua and the serpulid polychaete Galeolaria hystrix.

Continue reading ‘Effects of ocean acidification on the larval settlement and metamorphosis of marine invertebrates’

Short-term effects of hypoxia are more important than effects of ocean acidification on grazing interactions with juvenile giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera)

Species interactions are crucial for the persistence of ecosystems. Within vegetated habitats, early life stages of plants and algae must survive factors such as grazing to recover from disturbances. However, grazing impacts on early stages, especially under the context of a rapidly changing climate, are largely unknown. Here we examine interaction strengths between juvenile giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) and four common grazers under hypoxia and ocean acidification using short-term laboratory experiments and field data of grazer abundances to estimate population-level grazing impacts. We found that grazing is a significant source of mortality for juvenile kelp and, using field abundances, estimate grazers can remove on average 15.4% and a maximum of 73.9% of juveniles per m2 per day. Short-term exposure to low oxygen, not acidification, weakened interaction strengths across the four species and decreased estimated population-level impacts of grazing threefold, from 15.4% to 4.0% of juvenile kelp removed, on average, per m2 per day. This study highlights potentially high juvenile kelp mortality from grazing. We also show that the effects of hypoxia are stronger than the effects of acidification in weakening these grazing interactions over short timescales, with possible future consequences for the persistence of giant kelp and energy flow through these highly productive food webs.

Continue reading ‘Short-term effects of hypoxia are more important than effects of ocean acidification on grazing interactions with juvenile giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera)’

Resistance of seagrass habitats to ocean acidification via altered interactions in a tri-trophic chain

Despite the wide knowledge about prevalent effects of ocean acidification on single species, the consequences on species interactions that may promote or prevent habitat shifts are still poorly understood. Using natural CO2 vents, we investigated changes in a key tri-trophic chain embedded within all its natural complexity in seagrass systems. We found that seagrass habitats remain stable at vents despite the changes in their tri-trophic components. Under high pCO2, the feeding of a key herbivore (sea urchin) on a less palatable seagrass and its associated epiphytes decreased, whereas the feeding on higher-palatable green algae increased. We also observed a doubled density of a predatory wrasse under acidified conditions. Bottom-up CO2 effects interact with top-down control by predators to maintain the abundance of sea urchin populations under ambient and acidified conditions. The weakened urchin herbivory on a seagrass that was subjected to an intense fish herbivory at vents compensates the overall herbivory pressure on the habitat-forming seagrass. Overall plasticity of the studied system components may contribute to prevent habitat loss and to stabilize the system under acidified conditions. Thus, preserving the network of species interactions in seagrass ecosystems may help to minimize the impacts of ocean acidification in near-future oceans.

Continue reading ‘Resistance of seagrass habitats to ocean acidification via altered interactions in a tri-trophic chain’

State and trends of Australia’s ocean report: ocean acidification and calcifying zooplankton

There is no evidence of a decline in calcifying zooplankton at the IMOS National
Reference Stations over the past 10 years, suggesting ocean acidification
over this time span is unlikely to be having a substantial impact on calcifying
zooplankton. However, there is some evidence that calcifying zooplankton
might at Maria Island and Yongala be sensitive to the aragonite saturation state
at the range of values currently observed.

Continue reading ‘State and trends of Australia’s ocean report: ocean acidification and calcifying zooplankton’

Ocean acidification: calcifying marine organisms

This document is one in a series on ocean acidification (OA). The series Introduction, Ocean Acidification: An Introduction, contains a general overview and information on the causes and chemistry of OA. Because OA is very large-scale and complex, each document in the series addresses a specific aspect of this issue. Florida, with an extensive coastline and deep cultural and economic ties to marine resources, will be directly affected by changes in seawater chemistry. Thus, each topic in the series also highlights information of specific relevance for Florida.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification: calcifying marine organisms’

Responses of sea urchin larvae to field and laboratory acidification


• We deploy identical populations of sea urchin embryos in lab and field ocean acidification scenarios.

• Acidification had opposite effects on larval growth in the lab and in the field.

• Results of ocean acidification lab studies may not necessarily scale to field conditions.


Understanding the extent to which laboratory findings of low pH on marine organisms can be extrapolated to the natural environment is key towards making better projections on the impacts of global change on marine ecosystems. We simultaneously exposed larvae of the sea urchin Arbacia lixula to ocean acidification in laboratory and natural CO2 vents and assessed the arm growth response as a proxy of net calcification. Populations of embryos were simultaneously placed at both control and volcanic CO2 vent sites in Ischia (Italy), with a parallel group maintained in the laboratory in control and low pH treatments corresponding to the mean pH levels of the field sites. As expected, larvae grown at constant low pH (pHT 7.8) in the laboratory exhibited reduced arm growth, but counter to expectations, the larvae that developed at the low pH vent site (pHT 7.33–7.99) had the longest arms. The larvae at the control field site (pHT 7.87–7.99) grew at a similar rate to laboratory controls. Salinity, temperature, oxygen and flow regimes were comparable between control and vent sites; however, chlorophyll a levels and particulate organic carbon were higher at the vent site than at the control field site. Thus, increased food availability may have modulated the effects of low pH, creating an opposite calcification response in the laboratory and the field. Divergent responses of the same larval populations developing in laboratory and field environments show the importance of considering larval phenotypic plasticity and complex interactions between decreased pH, food availability and larval responses.

Continue reading ‘Responses of sea urchin larvae to field and laboratory acidification’

Key biological responses over two generations of the sea urchin Echinometra sp. A under future ocean conditions

Few studies have investigated the effects of ocean warming and acidification on marine benthic organisms over ecologically relevant time scales. We used an environmentally controlled coral reef mesocosm system to assess growth and physiological responses of the sea urchin species Echinometra sp. A over 2 generations. Each mesocosm was controlled for temperature and pCO2 over 29 mo under 3 climate change scenarios (present day and predicted states in 2050 and 2100 under RCP 8.5). The system maintained treatment conditions including annual temperature cycles and a daily variation in pCO2. Over 20 mo, adult Echinometra exhibited no significant difference in size and weight among the treatments. Growth rates and respiration rates did not differ significantly among treatments. Urchins from the 2100 treatment had elevated ammonium excretion rates and reduced O2:N ratios, suggesting a change in catabolism. We detected no difference in spawning index scores or oocyte size after 20 mo in the treatments, suggesting that gonad development was not impaired by variations in pCO2 and temperature reflecting anticipated climate change scenarios. Larvae produced from experimentally exposed adults were successfully settled from all treatments and raised for 5 mo inside the mesocosm. The final size of these juveniles exhibited no significant difference among treatments. Overall, we demonstrated that the mesocosm system provided a near natural environment for this urchin species. Climate change and ocean acidification did not affect the benthic life stages investigated here. Importantly, in previous short-term (weeks to months) experiments, this species exhibited reductions in growth and gonad development, highlighting the potential for short-term experiments with non-acclimated animals to yield contrasting, possibly erroneous results.

Continue reading ‘Key biological responses over two generations of the sea urchin Echinometra sp. A under future ocean conditions’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book