Posts Tagged 'individualmodeling'

The combined effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on the early life history stages of Caribbean coral and its implication for the recovery potential of Florida reefs

The early life history stages of coral are an essential component determining the recovery potential of coral reefs through sexual reproduction and recruitment. The pelagic larval phase is inherent in all coral species regardless of differing reproductive strategies and is the only time in coral life history where large scale movement is possible allowing for the repopulation of reef areas both within and outside the natal reef habitat. In the face of climate change, the larval dispersal and recruitment phase will take place in a warmer more acidic ocean if we continue on the path of unabated fossil fuel emissions. While much research has focused on how increased temperature or ocean acidification affect coral larvae independently, our understanding of how these factors interact to shape larval response is limited, especially in regards to Caribbean coral species.

To gain a better understanding of how the early life history stages of Caribbean coral may be affected by climate change, this dissertation investigates the effects of increased temperature (2.5 °C above historical averages in the Florida Keys) and carbon dioxide levels (900-1000 parts per million CO2) on corals from the Florida Reef tract by investigating the effects on larval metabolism, survivorship, settlement, and post-settlement growth and survival. Additionally, a coupled biophysical model was developed to determine the potential changes in connectivity that may result from the biological effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on the larval phase. The larval respiratory response of three Caribbean coral species revealed Orbicella faveolata as the most environmentally responsive with significant increases in respiration after 1 day exposure to increased temperature (68% greater than control conditions) with a counteracting effect of ocean acidification significantly decreasing respiration. The changes in metabolism over time correlated with decreased time to competency under elevated temperature in O. faveolata larvae, resulting in a greater number of settlers (76% greater than control) and a relative increase in local retention and self-recruitment rates as revealed by the biophysical model (5 and 7% greater than control respectively). However, when increased temperature occurred in combination with elevated CO2 levels, respiration was not significantly increased relative to control conditions and development of competency is minimally impacted. This resulted in a smaller increase in settlers (13% greater than control) and no significant changes in connectivity patterns. The post-settlement phase was similarly impacted with counteracting effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on recruit growth.

Overall, this dissertation reveals the potential for adaptation to increased temperature in at least one important coral species (Orbicella faveolata) that is greatly diminished when encountered in combination with ocean acidification. These results encourage the reduction of carbon emissions to give coral species the chance to adapt to elevated temperatures through the recruitment of more resilient individuals without the additional stress of ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘The combined effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on the early life history stages of Caribbean coral and its implication for the recovery potential of Florida reefs’

Climate change and tropical sponges: The effect of elevated pCO₂ and temperature on the sponge holobiont

As atmospheric CO₂ concentrations rise, associated ocean warming (OW) and ocean acidification (OA) are predicted to cause declines in reef-building corals globally, shifting reefs from coral-dominated systems to those dominated by less sensitive species. Sponges are important structural and functional components of coral reef ecosystems, but despite increasing field-based evidence that sponges may be ‘winners’ in response to environmental degradation, our understanding of how they respond to the combined effects of OW and OA is limited. This PhD thesis explores the response of four abundant Great Barrier Reef species – the phototrophic Carteriospongia foliascens and Cymbastela coralliophila and the heterotrophic Stylissa flabelliformis and Rhopaloeides odorabile to OW and OA levels predicted for 2100, under two CO₂ Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). The overall aim of this research is to bridge gaps in our understanding of how these important coral reef organisms will respond to projected climate change, to begin to explore whether a sponge dominated state is a possible future trajectory for coral reefs.

To determine the tolerance of adult sponges to climate change, these four species were exposed to OW and OA in the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s (AIMS) National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) in a 3-month experimental study. The first data chapter explores the physiological responses of these sponges to OW and OA to gain a broad understanding of sponge holobiont survival and functioning under these conditions. In this chapter I also address the hypothesis that phototrophic and heterotrophic sponges will exhibit differential responses to climate change. In the second and third data chapters I explore the cellular lipid and fatty acid composition of sponges, and how these biochemical constituents vary with OW and OA. Lipids and fatty acids are not only vital energy stores, they form the major components of cell membranes, and the structure and composition of these biochemical constituents ultimately determines the integrity and physiological competency of a cell. Therefore through these analyses I aimed to determine how OW and OA affects the metabolic balance of sponges, and to understand mechanisms underpinning observed systemic sponge responses. Finally, to provide greater insight into the population level impacts of climate change on tropical sponges, in the last data chapter I explore the response of the phototrophic species Carteriospongia foliascens to OW/OA throughout its developmental stages.

I found that while sponges can generally tolerate climate change scenarios predicted under the RCP6.0 conditions for 2100 (30ºC/ pH 7.8), environmental projections for the end of this century under the RCP8.5 (31.5ºC/ pH 7.6) will have significant implications for their survival. Temperature effects were much stronger than OA effects for all species; however, phototrophic and heterotrophic species responded differently to OA. Elevated pCO₂ exacerbated temperature stress in heterotrophic sponges but somewhat ameliorated thermal stress in phototrophic species. Furthermore, sponges with siliceous spiculated skeletons resisted the RCP 8.5 conditions for longer than the aspiculate species. Biochemical analysis revealed that spiculated species also have greater cell membrane support features, which is likely to contribute to the observed stress tolerance. I also found that the additional energy available to phototrophic sponges under OA conditions may be used for investment into cell membrane support, providing protection against thermal stress. Finally, larval survival and settlement success of C. foliascens was unaffected by OW and OA treatments, and juvenile sponges exhibited greater tolerance than their adult counterparts, again with evidence that OA reduces OW stress for some of these life stages.

Based on the species studied here, this thesis confirms that sponges are better able to deal with OW and OA levels predicted for 2100 under RCP6.0, compared to many corals for which survival in a high CO₂ world requires OW to remain below 1.5°C. This suggests sponges may be future ‘winners’ on coral reefs under global climate change. However, if CO₂ atm concentrations reach levels predicted under RCP8.5, the prognosis for sponge survival by the end of this century changes as inter-species sponge tolerances to OW and OA differ. Under this projection it is likely we will also start to see a shift in sponge populations to those dominated by phototrophic sponges with siliceous spiculated skeletons. Overall, this thesis gives a holistic view of OW and OA impacts on tropical sponges and provides the basis from which to explore the potential for a sponge-coral regime shift in a high CO₂ world.

Continue reading ‘Climate change and tropical sponges: The effect of elevated pCO₂ and temperature on the sponge holobiont’

Independence of nutrient limitation and carbon dioxide impacts on the Southern Ocean coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi

Future oceanic conditions induced by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions include warming, acidification and reduced nutrient supply due to increased stratification. Some parts of the Southern Ocean are expected to show rapid changes, especially for carbonate mineral saturation. Here we compare the physiological response of the model coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi (strain EHSO 5.14, originating from 50oS, 149oE) with pH/CO2 gradients (mimicking ocean acidification ranging from 1 to 4 × current pCO2 levels) under nutrient-limited (nitrogen and phosphorus) and -replete conditions. Both nutrient limitations decreased per cell photosynthesis (particulate organic carbon (POC) production) and calcification (particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) production) rates for all pCO2 levels, with more than 50% reductions under nitrogen limitation. These impacts, however, became indistinguishable from nutrient-replete conditions when normalized to cell volume. Calcification decreased three-fold and linearly with increasing pCO2 under all nutrient conditions, and was accompanied by a smaller ~30% nonlinear reduction in POC production, manifested mainly above 3 × current pCO2. Our results suggest that normalization to cell volume allows the major impacts of nutrient limitation (changed cell sizes and reduced PIC and POC production rates) to be treated independently of the major impacts of increasing pCO2 and, additionally, stresses the importance of including cell volume measurements to the toolbox of standard physiological analysis of coccolithophores in field and laboratory studies.

Continue reading ‘Independence of nutrient limitation and carbon dioxide impacts on the Southern Ocean coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi’

Factors affecting coral recruitment and calcium carbonate accretion rates on a Central Pacific coral reef

Coral recruitment and calcium carbonate (CaCO3) accretion are fundamental processes that help maintain coral reefs. Many reefs worldwide have experienced degradation, including a decrease in coral cover and biodiversity. Successful coral recruitment helps degraded reefs to recover, while CaCO3 accretion by early successional benthic organisms maintains the topographic complexity of a coral reef system. It is therefore important to understand the processes that affect coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion rates in order to understand how coral reefs recover from disturbances.

The aim of this thesis was to determine how biophysical forcing factors affect coral recruitment, calcification and bioerosion on a pristine coral reef. I used artificial settlement tiles to measure coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion at ten sites (four on the fore reef, four on the Western Reef Terrace and two at the Entrance Channel) at Palmyra Atoll. Fungia skeletons and pieces of dead coral rock were used to measure bioerosion rates, which were combined with the CaCO3 accretion rates to obtain a net CaCO3 budget of the reef substratum. Interactions between coral recruits and other benthic organisms on the settlement tiles were recorded to determine the settlement preferences and competitive strength of coral recruits. The settlement preference of Pocillopora damicornis for divots shaped like steephead and bumphead parrotfish bites marks was determined by adding P. damicornis larvae to a container with a settlement tile with the aforementioned divots.

I found that coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion are influenced by biophysical forcing factors. Most pocilloporids likely recruit close to their parents while the origin of poritid larvae is much more distant. Pocilloporid recruitment rates were also significantly correlated with the successional stage of the benthic community on the settlement tiles, especially the cover of biofilm and bryozoa. Biofilm and crustose coralline algae (CCA) were preferred as settlement substrata by coral larvae, however both pocilloporids and poritids settled on a large number of different benthic substrata. P. damicornis larvae showed a significant settlement preference for divots shaped like parrotfish bite marks over a flat settlement surface. Coral recruits were good competitors against encrusting algae but were often outcompeted by filamentous and upright algae. Settlement tiles were almost entirely colonised by benthic organisms within three to twelve months of deployment. The mass of CaCO3 deposited onto the settlement tiles negatively correlated with herbivore grazing pressure on the benthic community. Bioerosion rates within pieces of coral (internal bioerosion) increased over time but overall bioerosion rates (internal and external) rarely exceeded CaCO3 deposition by CCA.

My results show how variability in biophysical forcing factors leads to natural variation in coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion. This thesis highlights the importance of measuring herbivore grazing, CCA and turf algae cover to gain a better understanding of reef resilience. I conclude that models constructed for Caribbean reefs may not be suited to predict resilience in Pacific reefs and that within the Pacific, two different kinds of resilience models need to be constructed, one for human-inhabited coral reefs and one for uninhabited coral reefs.

Continue reading ‘Factors affecting coral recruitment and calcium carbonate accretion rates on a Central Pacific coral reef’

Mediterranean versus Red sea corals facing climate change, a transcriptome analysis

The anthropogenic increase in atmospheric CO2 that drives global warming and ocean acidification raises serious concerns regarding the future of corals, the main carbonate biomineralizers. Here we used transcriptome analysis to study the effect of long-term gradual temperature increase (annual rate), combined with lowered pH values, on a sub-tropical Red Sea coral, Stylophora pistillata, and on a temperate Mediterranean symbiotic coral Balanophyllia europaea. The gene expression profiles revealed a strong effect of both temperature increase and pH decrease implying for synergism response. The temperate coral, exposed to a twice as high range of seasonal temperature fluctuations than the Red Sea species, faced stress more effectively. The compensatory strategy for coping apparently involves deviating cellular resources into a massive up-regulation of genes in general, and specifically of genes involved in the generation of metabolic energy. Our results imply that sub-lethal, prolonged exposure to stress can stimulate evolutionary increase in stress resilience.

Continue reading ‘Mediterranean versus Red sea corals facing climate change, a transcriptome analysis’

Integrated regulatory and metabolic networks of the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum predict the response to rising CO2 levels

Diatoms are eukaryotic microalgae that are responsible for up to 40% of the ocean’s primary productivity. How diatoms respond to environmental perturbations such as elevated carbon concentrations in the atmosphere is currently poorly understood. We developed a transcriptional regulatory network based on various transcriptome sequencing expression libraries for different environmental responses to gain insight into the marine diatom’s metabolic and regulatory interactions and provide a comprehensive framework of responses to increasing atmospheric carbon levels. This transcriptional regulatory network was integrated with a recently published genome-scale metabolic model of Phaeodactylum tricornutum to explore the connectivity of the regulatory network and shared metabolites. The integrated regulatory and metabolic model revealed highly connected modules within carbon and nitrogen metabolism. P. tricornutum’s response to rising carbon levels was analyzed by using the recent genome-scale metabolic model with cross comparison to experimental manipulations of carbon dioxide.

IMPORTANCE: Using a systems biology approach, we studied the response of the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum to changing atmospheric carbon concentrations on an ocean-wide scale. By integrating an available genome-scale metabolic model and a newly developed transcriptional regulatory network inferred from transcriptome sequencing expression data, we demonstrate that carbon metabolism and nitrogen metabolism are strongly connected and the genes involved are coregulated in this model diatom. These tight regulatory constraints could play a major role during the adaptation of P. tricornutum to increasing carbon levels. The transcriptional regulatory network developed can be further used to study the effects of different environmental perturbations on P. tricornutum’s metabolism.

Continue reading ‘Integrated regulatory and metabolic networks of the marine diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum predict the response to rising CO2 levels’

Sensitivity of sea urchin fertilization to pH varies across a natural pH mosaic

In the coastal ocean, temporal fluctuations in pH vary dramatically across biogeographic ranges. How such spatial differences in pH variability regimes might shape ocean acidification resistance in marine species remains unknown. We assessed the pH sensitivity of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus in the context of ocean pH variability. Using unique male–female pairs, originating from three sites with similar mean pH but different variability and frequency of low pH (pHT ≤ 7.8) exposures, fertilization was tested across a range of pH (pHT 7.61–8.03) and sperm concentrations. High fertilization success was maintained at low pH via a slight right shift in the fertilization function across sperm concentration. This pH effect differed by site. Urchins from the site with the narrowest pH variability regime exhibited the greatest pH sensitivity. At this site, mechanistic fertilization dynamics models support a decrease in sperm–egg interaction rate with decreasing pH. The site differences in pH sensitivity build upon recent evidence of local pH adaptation in S. purpuratus and highlight the need to incorporate environmental variability in the study of global change biology.

Continue reading ‘Sensitivity of sea urchin fertilization to pH varies across a natural pH mosaic’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book