Posts Tagged 'field'

Predation in high CO2 waters: prey fish from high-risk environments are less susceptible to ocean acidification

Most studies investigating the effects of anthropogenic environmental stressors do so in conditions that are often optimal for their test subjects, ignoring natural stressors such as competition or predation. As such, the quantitative results from such studies may often underestimate the lethality of certain toxic compounds. A well-known example of this concept is illustrated by the marked increase in the lethality of pesticides when larval amphibians are concurrently exposed to the odor of potential predators. Here, we investigated the interaction between background levels of environmental predation risk (high vs. low) and ocean acidification (ambient vs. elevated CO2) in 2 × 2 design. Wild-caught juvenile damselfish, Pomacentrus amboinensis, were exposed in the laboratory to the different risk and CO2 conditions for 4 days and released onto coral reef patches. Using a well-established field assay, we monitored the in situ behavior and mortality of the damselfish for 2 days. We predicted that juvenile fish exposed to elevated CO2 and high-risk conditions would display more severe behavioral impairments and increased mortality compared to fish exposed to elevated CO2 maintained under low-risk conditions. As expected, elevated CO2 exposure led to impaired antipredator responses and increased mortality in low-risk fish compared to ambient CO2 controls. However, we failed to find an effect of elevated CO2 on the behavior and survival of the high-risk fish. We hypothesized that the results may stem from either a behavioral compensation or a physiological response to high risk. Our results provide insights into the interactive nature of environmental and natural stressors and advance our understanding of the predicted effect of ocean acidification on aquatic ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Predation in high CO2 waters: prey fish from high-risk environments are less susceptible to ocean acidification’

Carbonate system properties in the Gerlache Strait, Northern Antarctic Peninsula (February 2015): II. Anthropogenic CO2 and seawater acidification


  • Anthropogenic carbon has reached the deep waters (≥ 100 m) of Gerlache Strait, Antarctica.
  • The main intrusion of anthropogenic carbon in the deep basin of the Gerlache Strait is through the advection of HSSW-derived water into the region.
  • A small additional input of anthropogenic carbon at depth can trigger the dissolution of aragonite.


During the NAUTILUS I cruise in February 2015, the carbonate and associated physical properties were measured throughout the water column in the Gerlache Strait—off the southern coast of the Northern Antarctic Peninsula (NAP). Part I of this study (Kerr et al., 2017, this issue) focused on the net sea–air carbon dioxide (CO2) flux, whereas the same dataset was used here to estimate the extent of anthropogenic carbon (Cant) storage in the Gerlache Strait deep basin. In addition, the impact of Cant increases on pH and calcium carbonate saturation states for calcite and aragonite (ΩCa and ΩAr, respectively) were evaluated. The results indicate that, up to the present, 21.2 ± 16.7 μmol kg−1 of Cant have been injected to the deep and bottom layers of the Gerlache Strait. Two mechanisms may have contributed to that fact: (i) the pathway of the Cant follows that of the high salinity shelf waters inflow coming from both the Bransfield Strait and the Northwestern Weddell Sea shelf, and (ii) the Gerlache Strait is absorbing a significant amount of Cant from the atmosphere. Therefore, pH, ΩAr and ΩCa are decreasing in the deep waters of the Gerlache Strait. Since ΩAr is already very close to 1 at depth, any small additional input of Cant will trigger the dissolution of aragonite.

Continue reading ‘Carbonate system properties in the Gerlache Strait, Northern Antarctic Peninsula (February 2015): II. Anthropogenic CO2 and seawater acidification’

Exposure history determines pteropod vulnerability to ocean acidification along the US West Coast

The pteropod Limacina helicina frequently experiences seasonal exposure to corrosive conditions (Ωar  < 1) along the US West Coast and is recognized as one of the species most susceptible to ocean acidification (OA). Yet, little is known about their capacity to acclimatize to such conditions. We collected pteropods in the California Current Ecosystem (CCE) that differed in the severity of exposure to Ωar conditions in the natural environment. Combining field observations, high-CO2 perturbation experiment results, and retrospective ocean transport simulations, we investigated biological responses based on histories of magnitude and duration of exposure to Ωar < 1. Our results suggest that both exposure magnitude and duration affect pteropod responses in the natural environment. However, observed declines in calcification performance and survival probability under high CO2 experimental conditions do not show acclimatization capacity or physiological tolerance related to history of exposure to corrosive conditions. Pteropods from the coastal CCE appear to be at or near the limit of their physiological capacity, and consequently, are already at extinction risk under projected acceleration of OA over the next 30 years. Our results demonstrate that Ωar exposure history largely determines pteropod response to experimental conditions and is essential to the interpretation of biological observations and experimental results.

Continue reading ‘Exposure history determines pteropod vulnerability to ocean acidification along the US West Coast’

Defying dissolution: discovery of deep-sea scleractinian coral reefs in the North Pacific

Deep-sea scleractinian coral reefs are protected ecologically and biologically significant areas that support global fisheries. The absence of observations of deep-sea scleractinian reefs in the Central and Northeast Pacific, combined with the shallow aragonite saturation horizon (ASH) and high carbonate dissolution rates there, fueled the hypothesis that reef formation in the North Pacific was improbable. Despite this, we report the discovery of live scleractinian reefs on six seamounts of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and Emperor Seamount Chain at depths of 535–732 m and aragonite saturation state (Ωarag) values of 0.71–1.33. Although the ASH becomes deeper moving northwest along the chains, the depth distribution of the reefs becomes shallower, suggesting the ASH is having little influence on their distribution. Higher chlorophyll moving to the northwest may partially explain the geographic distribution of the reefs. Principle Components Analysis suggests that currents are also an important factor in their distribution, but neither chlorophyll nor the available current data can explain the unexpected depth distribution. Further environmental data is needed to elucidate the reason for the distribution of these reefs. The discovery of reef-forming scleractinians in this region is of concern because a number of the sites occur on seamounts with active trawl fisheries.

Continue reading ‘Defying dissolution: discovery of deep-sea scleractinian coral reefs in the North Pacific’

Trade-offs in a high CO2 habitat on a subsea volcano: condition and reproductive features of a bathymodioline mussel

Northwest Eifuku submarine volcano (Mariana Volcanic Arc) emits very high concentrations of CO2 at a vent where the mussel Bathymodiolus septemdierum experiences pH as low as 5.2. We examined how this natural setting of high pCO2 influences shell, body, and reproductive condition. Calcification is highly compromised: at a given shell volume, shells from NW Eifuku weigh about half those from reference sites in the south Pacific, and dissolution of the inner shell is evident. However, the condition indices of some NW Eifuku mussels were equal to or higher than those from Lau back-arc basin and the New Hebrides Island Arc. NW Eifuku mussels in pH 5.2 fluids had the highest symbiont abundances in gill bacteriocytes, probably due to greater dissolved sulphide access. Excess energy demands imposed by high pCO2 conditions appears moderated by adequate food availability through symbiont chemosynthesis. In the sample with the lowest body condition, gametogenesis was lagging, although all mussels in high pCO2 had developing gonads and the complete gametogenic cycle was present in our samples. Gamete development is synchronous between sexes and is possibly periodic. While mussels are functionally dioecious, protogynous hermaphroditism can occur—a first record for the genus—which may be an adaptation to resource availability. B. septemdierum likely makes energy allocation trade-offs among calcification, body mass maintenance, reproduction and other processes to maximize fitness. We suggest that flexibility to divert energy from shell formation, combined with good food supply, can mitigate the manifestation of high CO2 stress on B. septemdierum.

Continue reading ‘Trade-offs in a high CO2 habitat on a subsea volcano: condition and reproductive features of a bathymodioline mussel’

Effect of ocean acidification and elevated temperature on growth of calcifying tubeworm shells (Spirorbis spirorbis): an in-situ benthocosm approach

The calcareous tubeworm Spirorbis spirorbis is a wide-spread serpulid species in the Baltic Sea, where it commonly grows as an epibiont on brown macroalgae (genus Fucus). It lives within a Mg-calcite shell and could be affected by ocean acidification and temperature rise induced by the predicted future atmospheric CO2 increase. However, Spirorbis tubes grow in a chemically modified boundary layer around the algae, which may mitigate acidification. In order to investigate how increasing temperature and rising pCO2 may influence S. spirorbis shell growth we carried out four seasonal experiments in the ‘Kiel Outdoor Benthocosms’ at elevated pCO2 and temperature conditions. Compared to laboratory batch culture experiments the benthocosm approach provides a better representation of natural conditions for physical and biological ecosystem parameters, including seasonal variations. We find that growth rates of S. spirorbis are significantly controlled by ontogenetic and seasonal effects. The length of the newly grown tube is inversely related to the initial diameter of the shell. Our study showed no significant difference of the growth rates between ambient atmospheric and elevated (1100 ppm) pCO2 conditions. No influence of daily average CaCO3 saturation state on the growth rates of S. spirorbiswas observed. We found, however, net growth of the shells even in temporarily undersaturated bulk solutions, under conditions that concurrently favored selective shell surface dissolution. The results suggest an overall resistance of S. spirorbis growth to acidification levels predicted for the year 2100 in the Baltic Sea. In contrast, S. spirorbis did not survive at mean seasonal temperatures exceeding 24 °C during the summer experiments. In the autumn experiments at ambient pCO2, the growth rates of juvenile S. spirorbis were higher under elevated temperature conditions. The results reveal that S. spirorbis may prefer moderately warmer conditions during their early life stages but will suffer from an excessive temperature increase and from increasing shell corrosion as a consequence of progressing ocean acidification.
Continue reading ‘Effect of ocean acidification and elevated temperature on growth of calcifying tubeworm shells (Spirorbis spirorbis): an in-situ benthocosm approach’

Species interactions drive fish biodiversity loss in a high-CO2 world


  • Elevated CO2 did not alter competitive hierarchies of fish at volcanic vents
  • Enhanced food and reduced predation boosted density of behaviorally dominant fish
  • Population increases of dominant fish suppressed subordinate species
  • Ocean acidification can reduce local fish diversity and homogenize fish communities


Accelerating climate change is eroding the functioning and stability of ecosystems by weakening the interactions among species that stabilize biological communities against change [1]. A key challenge to forecasting the future of ecosystems centers on how to extrapolate results from short-term, single-species studies to community-level responses that are mediated by key mechanisms such as competition, resource availability (bottom-up control), and predation (top-down control) [2]. We used CO2 vents as potential analogs of ocean acidification combined with in situ experiments to test current predictions of fish biodiversity loss and community change due to elevated CO2 [3] and to elucidate the potential mechanisms that drive such change. We show that high risk-taking behavior and competitive strength, combined with resource enrichment and collapse of predator populations, fostered already common species, enabling them to double their populations under acidified conditions. However, the release of these competitive dominants from predator control led to suppression of less common and subordinate competitors that did not benefit from resource enrichment and reduced predation. As a result, local biodiversity was lost and novel fish community compositions were created under elevated CO2. Our study identifies the species interactions most affected by ocean acidification, revealing potential sources of natural selection. We also reveal how diminished predator abundances can have cascading effects on local species diversity, mediated by complex species interactions. Reduced overfishing of predators could therefore act as a key action to stall diversity loss and ecosystem change in a high-CO2 world.

Continue reading ‘Species interactions drive fish biodiversity loss in a high-CO2 world’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book