Posts Tagged 'laboratory'

The potential of kelp Saccharina japonica in shielding Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas from elevated seawater pCO2 stress

Ocean acidification (OA) caused by elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration is predicted to have negative impacts on marine bivalves in aquaculture. However, to date, most of our knowledge is derived from short-term laboratory-based experiments, which are difficult to scale to real-world production. Therefore, field experiments, such as this study, are critical for improving ecological relevance. Due to the ability of seaweed to absorb dissolved carbon dioxide from the surrounding seawater through photosynthesis, seaweed has gained theoretical attention as a potential partner of bivalves in integrated aquaculture to help mitigate the adverse effects of OA. Consequently, this study investigates the impact of elevated pCO2 on the physiological responses of the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas in the presence and absence of kelp (Saccharina japonica) using in situ mesocosms. For 30 days, mesocosms were exposed to six treatments, consisting of two pCO2 treatments (500 and 900 μatm) combined with three biotic treatments (oyster alone, kelp alone, and integrated kelp and oyster aquaculture). Results showed that the clearance rate (CR) and scope for growth (SfG) of C. gigas were significantly reduced by elevated pCO2, whereas respiration rates (MO2) and ammonium excretion rates (ER) were significantly increased. However, food absorption efficiency (AE) was not significantly affected by elevated pCO2. The presence of S. japonica changed the daytime pHNBS of experimental units by ~0.16 units in the elevated pCO2 treatment. As a consequence, CR and SfG significantly increased and MO2 and ER decreased compared to C. gigas exposed to elevated pCO2 without S. japonica. These findings indicate that the presence of S. japonica in integrated aquaculture may help shield C. gigas from the negative effects of elevated seawater pCO2.

Continue reading ‘The potential of kelp Saccharina japonica in shielding Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas from elevated seawater pCO2 stress’

Multiscale mechanical consequences of ocean acidification for cold-water corals

Ocean acidification is a threat to deep-sea corals and could lead to dramatic and rapid loss of the reef framework habitat they build. Weakening of structurally critical parts of the coral reef framework can lead to physical habitat collapse on an ecosystem scale, reducing the potential for biodiversity support. The mechanism underpinning crumbling and collapse of corals can be described via a combination of laboratory-scale experiments and mathematical and computational models. We synthesise data from electron back-scatter diffraction, micro-computed tomography, and micromechanical experiments, supplemented by molecular dynamics and continuum micromechanics simulations to predict failure of coral structures under increasing porosity and dissolution. Results reveal remarkable mechanical properties of the building material of cold-water coral skeletons of 462 MPa compressive strength and 45–67 GPa stiffness. This is 10 times stronger than concrete, twice as strong as ultrahigh performance fibre reinforced concrete, or nacre. Contrary to what would be expected, CWCs retain the strength of their skeletal building material despite a loss of its stiffness even when synthesised under future oceanic conditions. As this is on the material length-scale, it is independent of increasing porosity from exposure to corrosive water or bioerosion. Our models then illustrate how small increases in porosity lead to significantly increased risk of crumbling coral habitat. This new understanding, combined with projections of how seawater chemistry will change over the coming decades, will help support future conservation and management efforts of these vulnerable marine ecosystems by identifying which ecosystems are at risk and when they will be at risk, allowing assessment of the impact upon associated biodiversity.

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Natural analogues in pH variability and predictability across the coastal Pacific estuaries: extrapolation of the increased oyster dissolution under increased pH amplitude and low predictability related to ocean acidification

Coastal-estuarine habitats are rapidly changing due to global climate change, with impacts influenced by the variability of carbonate chemistry conditions. However, our understanding of the responses of ecologically and economically important calcifiers to pH variability and temporal variation is limited, particularly with respect to shell-building processes. We investigated the mechanisms driving biomineralogical and physiological responses in juveniles of introduced (Pacific; Crassostrea gigas) and native (Olympia; Ostrea lurida) oysters under flow-through experimental conditions over a six-week period that simulate current and future conditions: static control and low pH (8.0 and 7.7); low pH with fluctuating (24-h) amplitude (7.7 ± 0.2 and 7.7 ± 0.5); and high-frequency (12-h) fluctuating (8.0 ± 0.2) treatment. The oysters showed physiological tolerance in vital processes, including calcification, respiration, clearance, and survival. However, shell dissolution significantly increased with larger amplitudes of pH variability compared to static pH conditions, attributable to the longer cumulative exposure to lower pH conditions, with the dissolution threshold of pH 7.7 with 0.2 amplitude. Moreover, the high-frequency treatment triggered significantly greater dissolution, likely because of the oyster’s inability to respond to the unpredictable frequency of variations. The experimental findings were extrapolated to provide context for conditions existing in several Pacific coastal estuaries, with time series analyses demonstrating unique signatures of pH predictability and variability in these habitats, indicating potentially benefiting effects on fitness in these habitats. These implications are crucial for evaluating the suitability of coastal habitats for aquaculture, adaptation, and carbon dioxide removal strategies.

Continue reading ‘Natural analogues in pH variability and predictability across the coastal Pacific estuaries: extrapolation of the increased oyster dissolution under increased pH amplitude and low predictability related to ocean acidification’

Transcriptomic responses of adult versus juvenile Atlantids to ocean acidification

Shelled holoplanktonic gastropods are among the most vulnerable calcifiers to ocean acidification. They inhabit the pelagic environment and build thin and transparent shells of aragonite, a metastable form of calcium carbonate. While shelled pteropods have received considerable attention and are widely regarded as bioindicators of ocean acidification, atlantids have been much less studied. In the open ocean, atlantids are uniquely positioned to address the effects of ocean acidification at distinct trophic levels. From juvenile to adult, they undergo dramatic metamorphosis. As adults they are predatory, feeding primarily on shelled pteropods, copepods and other zooplankton, while as juveniles they feed on algae. Here we investigated the transcriptome and the impact of a three-day CO2 exposure on the gene expression of adults of the atlantid Atlanta ariejansseni and compared these to results previously obtained from juveniles. Individuals were sampled in the Southern Subtropical Convergence Zone (Atlantic Ocean) and exposed to ocean chemistry simulating past (~mid-1960s), present (ambient) and future (2050) conditions. In adults we found that the changes in seawater chemistry had significantly affected the expression of genes involved in biomineralization and the immune response, although there were no significant differences in shell growth between the three conditions. In contrast, juveniles experienced substantial changes in shell growth and a broader transcriptomic response. In adults, 1170 genes had the same direction of expression in the past and future treatments when compared to the ambient. Overall, this type of response was more common in adults (8.6% of all the genes) than in juveniles (3.9%), whereas a linear response with decreasing pH was more common in juveniles (7.7%) than in adults (4.5%). Taken together, these results suggest that juveniles are more sensitive to increased acidification than adults. However, experimental limitations including short incubation times, one carboy used for each treatment and two replicates for transcriptome analysis, require us to be cautious about these conclusions. We show that distinct transcriptome profiles characterize the two life stages, with less than 50% of shared transcripts. This study provides an initial framework to understand how ocean acidification may affect the molecular and calcification responses of adult and juvenile atlantids.

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A triple threat: ocean warming, acidification and rare earth elements exposure triggers a superior antioxidant response and pigment production in the adaptable Ulva rigida


  • La and Gd were accumulated in 24h;
  • Elimination of La and Gd did not occur in U. rigida;
  • La and Gd showed different accumulation and elimination patterns in future predicted scenarios;
  • La and Gd triggered an efficient antioxidant defence response in U. rigida;
  • REE and climate change exposure requested a superior antioxidant response.


Anthropogenic increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations will lead to a drop of 0.4 units of seawater pH and ocean warming up to 4.8°C by 2100. Contaminant’s toxicity is known to increase under a climate change scenario. Rare earth elements (REE) are emerging contaminants, that until now have no regulation regarding maximum concentration and discharge into the environment and have become vital to new technologies such as electric and hybrid-electric vehicle batteries, wind turbine generators and low-energy lighting. Studies of REE, namely Lanthanum (La) and Gadolinium (Gd), bioaccumulation, elimination, and toxicity in a multi-stressor environment (e.g., warming and acidification) are lacking. Hence, we investigated the algae phytoremediation capacity, the ecotoxicological responses and total chlorophyll and carotenoid contents in Ulva rigida during 7 days of co-exposure to La or Gd (15 µg L−1 or 10 µg L−1, respectively), and warming and acidification. Additionally, we assessed these metals elimination, after a 7-day phase. After one day of experiment La and Gd clearly showed accumulation/adsorption in different patterns, at future conditions. Unlikely for Gd, Warming and Acidification contributed to the lowest La accumulation, and increased elimination. Lanthanum and Gd triggered an adequate activation of the antioxidant defence system, by avoiding lipid damage. Nevertheless, REE exposure in a near-future scenario triggered an overproduction of ROS that requested an enhanced antioxidant response. Additionally, an increase in total chlorophyll and carotenoids could also indicate an unforeseen energy expense, as a response to a multi-stressor environment.

Continue reading ‘A triple threat: ocean warming, acidification and rare earth elements exposure triggers a superior antioxidant response and pigment production in the adaptable Ulva rigida’

Understanding the impacts of environment and parasitism on Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) vulnerability to ocean acidification

The global process of ocean acidification caused by the absorption of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide decreases the concentration of carbonate ions and reduces the associated seawater saturation state (ΩCaCO3) – making it more energetically costly for marine calcifying organisms to build their shells or skeletons. Bivalves are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of ocean acidification on calcification, and they inhabit estuaries and coastal zones – regions most susceptible to ocean acidification. However, the response of an individual to elevated pCO2 can depend on the carbonate chemistry dynamics of its current environment and the environment of its parents. Additionally, an organism’s response to ocean acidification can depend on its ability to control the chemistry at the site of calcification. Biotic and abiotic stressors can modify bivalves’ control of calcifying fluid chemistry – known as extrapallial fluid (EPF). Understanding the responses of bivalves – which are foundation species – to ocean acidification is essential for predicting the impacts of oceanic change on marine communities. This dissertation uses a culturally, ecologically, and economically important bivalve in the northwest Atlantic – the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) – to explore the effects of environment and species interactions on responses to elevated pCO2.

Chapter 2 describes a field study that characterized diurnal and seasonal carbonate chemistry dynamics of two estuaries in the Gulf of Maine that support Eastern oyster populations. The estuaries were monitored at high temporal resolution (half-hourly) over four years (2018-2021) using pH and conductivity loggers. Measured pH, salinity, and temperature were used to calculate carbonate chemistry parameters. Both estuaries exhibited strong seasonal and diurnal fluctuations in carbonate chemistry. They also experienced pCO2 values that greatly exceeded current atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and those projected for the year 2100.

Chapter 3 describes a laboratory experiment that examined the capacity of intergenerational exposure to mitigate the adverse effects of ocean acidification on larval growth, shell morphology, and survival. Adult oysters were cultured in control or elevated pCO2 conditions for 30 days then crossed using a North Carolina II cross design. Larvae were grown for three days under control and elevated pCO2 conditions. Intergenerational exposure to elevated pCO2 conditions benefited early larval growth and shell morphology, but not survival. However, parental exposure was insufficient to completely counteract the adverse effects of the elevated pCO2 treatment on shell formation and survival.

Chapter 4 describes a laboratory experiment that examined the interplay between ocean acidification and parasite-host dynamics. Eastern oysters infested and not infested with bioeroding sponge (Cliona sp.) were cultured under three pCO2 conditions (539, 1040, 3294 ppm) and two temperatures (23, 27˚C) for 70 days to assess oyster control of EPF chemistry, growth, and survival. Bioeroding sponge infestation and elevated pCO2 reduced oyster net calcification and EPF pH but did not affect condition or survival. Infested oyster EPF pH was consistently lower than seawater pH, while EPF dissolved inorganic carbon was consistently elevated relative to seawater. These findings suggested that infested oysters effectively precipitated repair shell to prevent seawater intrusion into extrapallial fluid through bore holes across all treatments.

Chapter 5 characterizes the concentration of a suite of 56 elements normalized to calcium in EPF and shell of Crassostrea virginica grown under three pCO2 conditions (570, 990, 2912 ppm) and sampled at four timepoints (days 2, 9, 79, 101) to assess effects of pCO2 on organismal control of EPF and shell elemental composition and EPF-to-shell elemental partitioning. Elevated pCO2 significantly influenced the relative abundance of elements in the EPF (29) and shell (13) and altered EPF-to-shell elemental partitioning for 45 elements. Importantly, elevated pCO2 significantly influenced the concentration of several elements in C. virginica shell that are used in other biogenic carbonates as paleo-proxies for other environmental parameters. This result suggests that elevated pCO2 could influence the accuracy of paleo reconstructions.

Overall, this dissertation provides insights that can help improve our understanding of past, present, and future ocean environments. Understanding current local carbonate chemistry dynamics and the capacity for C. virginica to acclimate intergenerationally to elevated pCO2 can inform site and stock selection for aquaculture and restoration efforts. Studying parasite-host environment interactions provides critical insights into the potential for parasitism to alter responses to future ocean acidification. Finally, exploring the impact of elevated pCO2 on elemental composition of EPF and shell allowed us to understand better biomineralization processes, identify potential proxies for seawater pCO2 in bivalves, and offer insights that could help improve the accuracy of paleo reconstructions.

Continue reading ‘Understanding the impacts of environment and parasitism on Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) vulnerability to ocean acidification’

Ocean acidification impacts fish larvae but warming could compensate juveniles

Related content

A related article has been published: Effects of ocean acidification over successive generations decrease resilience of larval European sea bass to ocean acidification and warming but juveniles could benefit from higher temperatures in the NE Atlantic

A 40 day old European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) larva: Photo credit: Sarah Howald.

As we pump more CO2 into the atmosphere, the pH of the oceans is decreasing and although a reduction of 0.1 pH units may not sound much, the reality is that the acidity of the seas has increased by 30% since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. But no one knew how much of an impact decreasing pH might have on long-lived fish species. ‘Fish had been thought to be less vulnerable to ocean acidification due to well-developed acid–base regulation systems’, says Sarah Howald from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), Germany. However, scientists have recently discovered that fish larvae may be more vulnerable than thought. Some grew faster in more acidic waters, while others suffered tissue and hearing damage in addition to growing more slowly. Yet, no one knew how ocean acidification might impact subsequent generations. Felix Mark from AWI, with colleagues from Germany and France, embarked on an ambitious 5.5 year investigation to find out how European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) larvae and their eventual offspring deal with acidic conditions.

In October 2013, at the Ifremer-Centre de Bretagne, France, Guy Claireaux (University of Brest, France), José Zambonino and David Mazurais (both from Ifremer), Myron Peck (University of Hamburg, Germany) and Mark allocated recently hatched sea bass larvae to small tanks of seawater pumped in from the Bay of Brest at summer temperatures (19°C) while other larvae lived in tanks of seawater where the acidity had been raised to 1700 μatm CO2, the IPCC’s prediction for seawater CO2 concentrations 120 years in the future. Once the larvae had developed into juveniles (∼2.5 months old), the team relocated the youngsters to larger cool (15°C) tanks, maintaining the two different pH levels until the fish were adult (spring 2017), when the researchers selected ∼30 adult fish each from the two water conditions to rehome in palatial 3000 l tanks. Then, in March 2018, the 5 year old adults spawned to produce the next generation of larvae. But this time the scientists added a twist, dividing the offspring of the parents from the modern day (current CO2) seawater conditions and those of the parents raised in the acidic future water conditions (1700 μatm CO2) into cool and warm tanks, to simulate climate change. Meanwhile, the team kept track of the first and the second generations as they grew and developed.

Initially, the first generation of sea bass youngsters didn’t seem to be affected by their acidic start in life and neither did their offspring. However, when the team altered the water temperature as the second generation developed in the acidic future water, they found the larvae from the warmer (20°C) tank were much smaller when they metamorphosed into juveniles than those in cool acidic seawater and those that developed in modern warm water. Mark suspects that the warmer high-CO2 conditions in the future could impair energy production by the youngsters’ mitochondria, limiting their growth. However, once the larvae developed into juvenile fish, they seemed to benefit, growing faster, although the team isn’t sure whether the warmth was accelerating the fish’s growth or whether the acidity failed to impair the growing juveniles.

The team warns that the faster growth of larvae in a warmer more acidic world could place them at risk if there is insufficient food for the rapidly growing youngsters. But it seems that if the youngsters develop successfully into juvenile fish, their chances may improve.

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Effects of seawater pCO2 on the skeletal morphology of massive Porites spp. corals

Ocean acidification alters the dissolved inorganic carbon chemistry of seawater and can reduce the calcification rates of tropical corals. Here we explore the effect of altering seawater pCO2 on the skeletal morphology of 4 genotypes of massive Porites spp. which display widely different calcification rates. Increasing seawater pCO2 causes significant changes in in the skeletal morphology of all Porites spp. studied regardless of whether or not calcification was significantly affected by seawater pCO2. Both the median calyx size and the proportion of skeletal surface occupied by the calices decreased significantly at 750 µatm compared to 400 µatm indicating that polyp size shrinks in this genus in response to ocean acidification. The coenosteum, connecting calices, expands to occupy a larger proportion of the coral surface to compensate for this decrease in calyx area. At high seawater pCO2 the spines deposited at the skeletal surface became more numerous and the trabeculae (vertical skeletal pillars) became significantly thinner in 2 of the 4 genotypes. The effect of high seawater pCO2 is most pronounced in the fastest growing coral and the regular placement of trabeculae and synapticulae is disturbed in this genotype resulting in a skeleton that is more randomly organised. The study demonstrates that ocean acidification decreases the polyp size and fundamentally alters the architecture of the skeleton in this major reef building species from the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

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Single and combined ecotoxicological effects of ocean warming, acidification and lanthanum exposure on the surf clam (Spisula solida)


  • Lanthanum was bioaccumulated after just one day of exposure.
  • Elimination did not occur during the 7-day depuration phase.
  • The biochemical response was triggered, however damage occurred.
  • The La toxic effects are more severe in a changing world.


Lanthanum (La) is one of the most abundant emergent rare earth elements. Its release into the environment is enhanced by its use in various industrial applications. In the aquatic environment, emerging contaminants are one of the stressors with the ability to compromise the fitness of its inhabitants. Warming and acidification can also affect their resilience and are another consequence of the growing human footprint on the planet. However, from information gathered in the literature, a study on the effects of ocean warming, acidification, and their interaction with La was never carried out. To diminish this gap of knowledge, we explored the effects, combined and as single stressors, of ocean warming, acidification, and La (15 μg L−1) accumulation and elimination on the surf clam (Spisula solida). Specimens were exposed for 7 days and depurated for an additional 7-day period. Furthermore, a robust set of membrane-associated, protein, and antioxidant enzymes and non-enzymatic biomarkers (LPO, HSP, Ub, SOD, CAT, GPx, GST, TAC) were quantified. Lanthanum was bioaccumulated after just one day of exposure, in both control and climate change scenarios. A 7-day depuration phase was insufficient to achieve control values and in a warming scenario, La elimination was more efficient. Biochemical response was triggered, as highlighted by enhanced SOD, CAT, GST, and TAC levels, however as lipoperoxidation was observed it was insufficient to detoxify La and avoid damage. The HSP was largely inhibited in La treatments combined with warming and acidification. Concomitantly, lipoperoxidation was highest in clams exposed to La, warming, and acidification combined. The results highlight the toxic effects of La on this bivalve species and its enhanced potential in a changing world.

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Effect of different pCO2 concentrations in seawater on meiofauna: abundance of communities in sediment and survival rate of harpacticoid copepods

The amount of CO2 dissolved in the ocean has been increasing continuously, and the results using climate change models show that the CO2 concentration of the ocean will increase by over 1000 ppm by 2100. Ocean acidification is expected to have a considerable impact on marine ecosystems. To find out about the impacts of ocean acidification on meiofaunal communities and copepod groups, we analyzed the differences in the abundance of meiofauna communities in sediment and the survival rate of harpacticoid copepod assemblages separated from the sediment, between 400 and 1000 ppm pCO2 for a short period of 5 days. In experiments with communities in sediments exposed to different pCO2 concentrations, there was no significant difference in the abundance of total meiofauna and nematodes. However, the abundance of the harpacticoid copepod community was significantly lower at 1000 ppm than that at 400 ppm pCO2. On the other hand, in experiments with assemblages of harpacticoid copepods directly exposed to seawater, there was no significant difference in their survival rates between the two concentrations. Our findings suggest that a CO2 concentration of 1000 ppm in seawater can cause changes in the abundance of specific taxa such as harpacticoid copepods among the meiofauna communities in sediments.

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Adaptive potential of coastal invertebrates to environmental stressors and climate change

Climate change presents multiple stressors that are impacting marine life. As carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase in the atmosphere, atmospheric and sea water temperatures increase. In addition, more carbon dioxide is absorbed into the oceans, reducing pH and aragonite saturation state, resulting in ocean acidification (OA). Tightly coupled with OA is hypoxia due to deep stratified sea water becoming increasingly acidified and deoxygenated. The effects of these climate stressors have been studied in detail for only a few marine animal models. However, there are still many taxa and developmental stages in which we know very little about the impacts. Using genomic techniques, we examine the adaptive potential of three local marine invertebrates under three different climate stressors: marine disease exacerbated by thermal stress, OA, and combined stressors OA with hypoxia (OAH). As sea water temperatures rise, the prevalence of marine diseases increases, as seen in the sea star wasting syndrome (SSWS). The causation of SSWS is still widely debated; however reduced susceptibility to SSWS could aid in understanding disease progression. By examining genetic variation in Pisaster ochraceous collected during the SSWS outbreak, we observed weak separation between symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. OA has been widely studied in many marine organisms, including Crassostrea gigas. However, limited studies have parsed the effects of OA during settlement, with no studies assessing the functionality of settlement and how it is impacted by OA. We investigated the effects of OA on settlement and gene expression during the transition from larval to juvenile stages in Pacific oysters. While OA and hypoxia are common climate stressors examined, the combined effects have scarcely examined. Further, the impacts of OAH have been narrowly focused on a select few species, with many economically important organisms having no baseline information on how they will persist as OAH severity increases. To address these gaps in our knowledge, we measured genetic variation in metabolic rates during OA for the species Haliotis rufescens to assess their adaptive potential through heritability measurements. We discuss caveats and considerations when utilizing similar heritability estimate methods for other understudied organisms. Together, these studies will provide novel information on the biological responses and susceptibility of difference coastal species to stressors associated with global climate change. These experiments provide information on both the vulnerability of current populations and their genetic potential for adaptation to changing ocean conditions.

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CaCO3 dissolution in carbonate-poor shelf sands increases with ocean acidification and porewater residence time

Carbonate-poor sandy sediments comprise much of the shelf area, and—despite their low CaCO3 content—contain a significant pool of CaCO3 base available to neutralize ocean acid. Here, we conducted flow-through column experiments on permeable, carbonate-poor sand obtained from Catalina Island, CA, to quantify CaCO3 dissolution across a range of current and future seawater conditions. Using 13C isotope mass balance, we show that dissolution depends both on the CaCO3 saturation state (Ω) of the inflowing seawater, as well as porewater residence time. At current ocean conditions (Ωaragonite =2.4 and Ωcalcite =3.7 at our field site), dissolution was negligible for porewater residence times <1.8 h, but increased thereafter, following sufficient production of CO2 from aerobic respiration. As Ω of inlet water was lowered, simulating future ocean conditions, dissolution began earlier and rates increased. The response to acidification was similar to previously reported observations in carbonate-rich shelf environments, suggesting that carbonate-poor sediments have the potential to support enhanced dissolution in an acidifying ocean, given sufficient CaCO3 substrate. With continued acidification projected to occur this century, these sediments could transition from a net source of acid to the overlying seawater (production of alkalinity to dissolved inorganic carbon, ΔAlk/ΔDIC<1) to net source of buffering capacity (ΔAlk/ΔDIC>1) when overlying seawater Ωaragonite reaches 0.96 to 0.69 (Ωcalcite = 1.50 and 1.07), depending on porewater residence time. In some areas with naturally acidic water, this threshold has already been reached.

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Caribbean king crab larvae and juveniles show tolerance to ocean acidification and ocean warming

Coastal habitats are experiencing decreases in seawater pH and increases in temperature due to anthropogenic climate change. The Caribbean king crab, Maguimithrax spinosissimus, plays a vital role on Western Atlantic reefs by grazing macroalgae that competes for space with coral recruits. Therefore, identifying its tolerance to anthropogenic stressors is critically needed if this species is to be considered as a potential restoration management strategy in coral reef environments. We examined the effects of temperature (control: 28 °C and elevated: 31 °C) and pH (control: 8.0 and reduced pH: 7.7) on the king crab’s larval and early juvenile survival, molt-stage duration, and morphology in a fully crossed laboratory experiment. Survival to the megalopal stage was reduced (13.5% lower) in the combined reduced pH and elevated temperature treatment relative to the control. First-stage (J1) juveniles delayed molting by 1.5 days in the reduced pH treatment, while second-stage (J2) crabs molted 3 days earlier when exposed to elevated temperature. Juvenile morphology did not differ among treatments. These results suggests that juvenile king crabs are tolerant to changes associated with climate change. Given the important role of the king crab as a grazer of macroalgae, its tolerance to climate stressors suggests that it could benefit restoration efforts aimed at making coral reefs more resilient to increasingly warm and acidic oceans into the future.

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The effects of ocean acidification on microbial nutrient cycling and productivity in coastal marine sediments

Ocean Acidification (OA), commonly referred to as the “other CO₂ problem,” illustrates the current rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels, precipitated in large by human-related activity (e.g., fossil fuel combustion and mass deforestation). The dissolution of atmospheric CO₂ into the surface of the ocean over time has reduced oceanic pH levels by 0.1 units since the start of the pre-industrial era and has resulted in wholesale shifts in seawater carbonate chemistry on a planetary scale. The chemical processes of ocean acidification are increasingly well documented, demonstrating clear rates of increase for global CO₂ emissions predicted by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) under the business-as-usual CO₂ emissions scenario. The ecological impact of ocean acidification alters seawater chemical speciation and disrupts vital biogeochemical cycling processes for various chemicals and compounds. Whereby the unidentified potential fallout of this is the cascading effects on the microbial communities within the benthic sediments. These microorganisms drive the marine ecosystem through a network of vast biogeochemical cycling processes aiding in the moderation of ecosystem-wide primary productivity and fundamentally regulating the global climate. The benthic sediments are determinably one of the largest and most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Marine sediments are also conceivably one of the most productive in terms of microbial activity and nutrient flux between the water-sediment interface (i.e., boundary layer). The absorption and sequestering of CO₂ from the atmosphere have demonstrated significant impacts on various marine taxa and their associated ecological processes. This is commonly observed in the reduction in calcium carbonate saturation states in most shell-forming organisms (i.e., plankton, benthic mollusks, echinoderms, and Scleractinia corals). However, the response of benthic sediment microbial communities to a reduction in global ocean pH remains considerably less well characterized. As these microorganisms operate as the lifeblood of the marine ecosystem, understanding their response and physiological plasticity to increased levels of CO₂ is of critical importance when it comes to investigating regional and global implications for the effects of ocean acidification.

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Otolith development and elemental incorporation in response to seawater acidification in the flounder Paralichthys olivaceus at early life stages


  • Ocean acidification promoted otolith growth but not changed otolith shape.
  • Ocean acidification did not alter somatic growth or otolith elemental incorporation.
  • Ocean acidification induced and increased the occurrence of irregular calcitic otoliths.
  • Elemental incorporation is higher in aragonitic otoliths than in calcitic otoliths.


Ocean acidification can influence the formation, development and functions of calcified structures in marine organisms, such as otoliths, which are mainly composed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and function in orientation, balance, sensory perception and locomotion in fish. This study investigated the impacts of seawater acidification (pH 8.10, 7.70 and 7.30, roughly corresponding to the ocean acidification under RCP 8.5 scenario predicted by the IPCC) on somatic growth, otolith (aragonite) morphology and microchemistry in the flounder Paralichthys olivaceus at early life stages (ELSs, exposed to acidified seawater via pCO2 from embryonic to juvenile stages for 52 days). The results demonstrated that seawater acidification promoted otolith growth (mass and size) but did not change their geometric outlines. Seawater acidification did not alter the somatic growth or otolith elemental incorporation (Sr, Ba and Mg) in the flounder. Seawater acidification increased the occurrence of abnormally developed calcitic otoliths (calcite) which considerably differed from the aragonitic otoliths in surface and crystal structures. Additionally, elemental incorporation (Sr:Ca and Ba:Ca) appeared to be higher in aragonitic otoliths than in calcitic otoliths, which was likely related to their unique manners of formation. Our results agreed with the broad literature, in that seawater acidification showed species-specific influences (positive or no effect) on otolith size but did not affect somatic growth, otolith shape or elemental incorporation of fish at ELSs. These findings provide knowledge for evaluating the ecological effects of ocean acidification on the recruitment and population dynamics of fish in the wild.

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Effect of low pH on growth and shell mechanical properties of the Peruvian scallop Argopecten purpuratus (Lamarck, 1819)


  • Argopecten purpuratus shell growth was reduced by 9% in low pH exposure.
  • A. purpuratus net calcification was reduced about 10% in low pH exposure.
  • Shell microhardness of A. purpuratus was positively affected by low pH.


Dissolution of anthropogenic CO2 modifies seawater pH, leading to ocean acidification, which might affect calcifying organisms such as bivalve mollusks. Along the Peruvian coast, however, natural conditions of low pH (7.6–8.0) are encountered in the habitat of the Peruvian scallop (Argopecten purpuratus), as a consequence of the nearby coastal upwelling influence. To understand the effects of low pH in a species adapted to these environmental conditions, an experiment was performed to test its consequences on growth, calcification, dissolution, and shell mechanical properties in juvenile Peruvian scallops. During 28 days, scallops (initial mean height = 14 mm) were exposed to two contrasted pH conditions: a control with unmanipulated seawater presenting pH conditions similar to those found in situ (pHT = 7.8) and a treatment, in which CO2 was injected to reduce pH to 7.4. At the end of the experiment, shell height and weight, and growth and calcification rates were reduced about 6%, 20%, 9%, and 10% respectively in the low pH treatment. Mechanical properties, such as microhardness were positively affected in the low pH condition and crushing force did not show differences between pH treatments. Final soft tissue weights were not significantly affected by low pH. This study provides evidence of low pH change shell properties increasing the shell microhardness in Peruvian scallops, which implies protective functions. However, the mechanisms behind this response need to be studied in a global change context.

Continue reading ‘Effect of low pH on growth and shell mechanical properties of the Peruvian scallop Argopecten purpuratus (Lamarck, 1819)’

Impact of microplastics and ocean acidification on critical stages of sea urchin (Paracentrotus lividus) early development


  • Ocean acidification and microplastics altered the morphology of P. lividus larvae.
  • Ocean acidification and microplastics reduce growth of P. lividus larvae.
  • Alterations occurred before and after larvae start to feed exogenously.
  • The combined effect of both stressors on P. lividus morphology is non additive.
  • SET is an ideal method to study the impact of ocean acidification at a lab scale.


One of the major consequences of increasing atmospheric CO2 is a phenomenon known as ocean acidification. This alteration of water chemistry can modulate the impact on marine organisms of other stressors also present in the environment, such as microplastics (MP). The objective of this work was to determine the combined impact of microplastic pollution and ocean acidification on the early development of Paracentrotus lividus. To study these multi-stressor impacts on development P. lividus the sea urchin embryo test (SET) was used. Newly fertilised embryos of P. lividus were exposed to a control treatment (filtered natural seawater), MP (3000 particles/mL), acidified sea water (pH = 7.6), and a combination of MP and acidification (3000 particles/mL + pH = 7.6). After 48, 72, and 96 h measurements of growth and morphometric parameters were taken. Results showed that ocean acidification and MP cause alterations in growth and larval morphology both before and after the larvae start to feed exogenously. The exposure to MP under conditions of ocean acidification did not produce any additional effect on growth, but differences were observed at the morphological level related to a decrease in the width of larvae at 24 h. Overall, changes in larvae shape observed at three key points of their development could modify their buoyancy affecting their ability to obtain and ingest food. Therefore, ocean acidification and MP pollution might compromise the chances of P. lividus to survive in the environment under future scenarios of global climate change.

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The diel and seasonal heterogeneity of carbonate chemistry and dissolved oxygen in three types of macroalgal habitats

As concerns about ocean acidification continue to grow, the importance of macroalgal communities in buffering coastal seawater biogeochemistry through their metabolisms is gaining more attention. However, studies on diel and seasonal fluctuations in seawater chemistry within these communities are still rare. Here, we characterized the spatial and temporal heterogeneity in diel and seasonal dynamics of seawater carbonate chemistry and dissolved oxygen (DO) in three types of macroalgal habitats (UAM: ulvoid algal mat dominated, TAM: turf algal mat dominated, and SC: Sargassum horneri and coralline algae dominated). Our results show that diel fluctuations in carbonate parameters and DO varied significantly among habitat types and seasons due to differences in their biological metabolisms (photosynthesis and calcification) and each site’s hydrological characteristics. Specifically, carbonate parameters were most affected by biological metabolisms at the SC site, and by environmental variables at the UAM site. Also, we demonstrate that macroalgal communities reduced ocean acidification conditions when ocean temperatures supported photosynthesis and thereby the absorption of dissolved inorganic carbon. However, once temperatures exceeded the optimum ranges for macroalgae, respiration within these communities exceeded photosynthesis and increased CO2 concentrations, thereby exacerbating ocean acidification conditions. We conclude that the seawater carbonate chemistry is strongly influenced by the metabolisms of the dominant macroalgae within these different habitat types, which may, in turn, alter their buffering capacity against ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘The diel and seasonal heterogeneity of carbonate chemistry and dissolved oxygen in three types of macroalgal habitats’

Effects of shellfish and macro-algae IMTA in North China on the environment, inorganic carbon system, organic carbon system, and sea–air CO2 fluxes

Shellfish and macro-algae integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA) contribute greatly to the sustainability of aquaculture. However, the effects of large-scale shellfish and macro-algae aquaculture on the functions of the ocean carbon sink are not clear. To clarify these effects, we studied the spatial and temporal changes of inorganic and organic carbon systems in seawater under different aquaculture modes (monoculture or polyculture of shellfish and macro-algae) in Sanggou Bay, together with the variation of other environmental factors. The results show that the summertime dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration in the shellfish culture zone was significantly lower than other zones (p < 0.05), with a minimum value of 7.07 ± 0.25 mg/L. The variation of pH and total alkalinity (TA) were large across different culture modes, and the seawater in the shellfish culture zone had the lowest pH and TA than the other zones. Seasonal environment and aquaculture modes significantly affected the variation of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), CO2 partial pressure (pCO2), dissolved organic carbon (DOC), and particulate organic carbon (POC) concentrations. The highest values of DIC, pCO2, and POC appeared in summer, and the lowest appeared in winter. For DOC concentration, the lowest value appeared in autumn. Spatially, DIC and pCO2 were highest in the shellfish culture zone and lowest in the macro-algae culture zone, DOC was highest in the macro-algae culture zone and lowest in the shellfish culture zone, and POC was lower in the shellfish culture zone and macro-algae culture zone and higher in the remaining zones. The results of sea–air CO2 fluxes showed that except for the shellfish culture zone during summertime, which released CO2 to the atmosphere, all culture zones were the sinks of atmospheric CO2 during the culture period, with the whole bay being a strong CO2 sink during autumn and winter. In summary, large-scale shellfish–macro-algae IMTA plays an important role in the local carbon cycle and contributes to mitigating ocean acidification and hypoxia.

Continue reading ‘Effects of shellfish and macro-algae IMTA in North China on the environment, inorganic carbon system, organic carbon system, and sea–air CO2 fluxes’

Metabolic effect of ocean acidification on common cuttlefish Sepia officinalis early stages

Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are continuously increasing due to the growing anthropogenic activities, causing a rise in the sea-surface partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2). This change in turn leads to decreased ocean pH, named ocean acidification, and affects the carbonate-silicate cycle. Such modification of seawater chemistry also affects the physiology and behaviour of marine organisms, impacting their metabolism, growth and development during vulnerable early-life stages. Among them, the embryo of the cephalopod cuttlefish develops for ~2 months) in encapsulated eggs with harsh conditions of hypoxia and hypercapnia, potentially worsen by the environmental ocean acidification. In this study, the development and the growth of early-life stages of Sepia officinalis were followed during the whole embryonic developmental period up to 10 days post-hatchling juveniles. Embryos and juveniles were exposed to five elevated pCO2 conditions controlled with a continuous pH-stat system (pH 8.08; 7.82; 7.65; 7.54; 7.43). Metabolites were determined in ready-to-hatch embryos, just hatched embryos and 10 d-old juveniles, using a 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy as a platform for untargeted metabolomics analysis. Consistent with previous studies, our results showed longer embryonic development and decreased hatching success at the lowest pH, but no effect on juvenile weight upon hatching. Metabolomics analysis revealed a metabolic depression in embryos reared at pH 7.43, non-monotonic changes to pH in 10 d-old juveniles, and no clear pH effect in newly hatched juvenile cuttlefish, likely due to the metabolic stress associated with hatching. Those results reveal possible effect of ocean acidification on the cuttlefish recruitment.

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