Posts Tagged 'light'

O2 and CO2 responses of the synaptic period to under-ice phytoplankton bloom in the eutrophic Razdolnaya River estuary of Amur Bay, the Sea of Japan

Hydrological conditions are an important factor for aquatic ecosystems. Their contribution to stimulating phytoplankton bloom in eutrophic estuaries is not quite clear. We present the results of an outbreak of a phytoplankton bloom event observed in the eutrophic Razdolnaya R. estuary in 2022 from January 22 to February 23, when the estuary was covered by ice. The bloom spreads over 21 km from the river mouth bar to upstream in the near-bottom layer below the halocline. The Chl-a concentration in the bloom area increased from 15 to 100 μg/L, and the dissolved oxygen concentration from 350 to 567 μmol/kg at a rate of 11 μmol/(kg day) over the study period, while the CO2 partial pressure was reduced to 108 µatm in the most oxygen-supersaturated waters. The Thalassiosira nordenskioeldii Cleve sea diatom was the dominant phytoplankton species in the bloom area. The opposite trend was observed near the boundary of the saline water wedge penetration over 29 km from the river mouth bar to upstream where the dissolved oxygen concentration decreased from 140 to 53 μmol/kg over a month, and partial pressure of CO2 reached 4454 μatm. We also present the results obtained in February 2016 before and after a snowfall, when the ability of PAR to penetrate through the ice was impeded by a layer of snow. After the snowfall, photosynthesis in the under-ice water stopped and the oxygen concentration decreased to almost zero due to the microbiological destruction of the phytoplankton biomass. As such, the main effect of phytoplankton bloom is the formation of superoxia/hypoxia (depending on the light conditions), during the period of maximum ice thickness and minimum river discharge. Thus, this study demonstrates that the eutrophication in the future could lead to unstable ecosystems and large synoptic variations of dissolved oxygen and CO2 partial pressure of the estuaries.

Continue reading ‘O2 and CO2 responses of the synaptic period to under-ice phytoplankton bloom in the eutrophic Razdolnaya River estuary of Amur Bay, the Sea of Japan’

A story of resilience: Arctic diatom Chaetoceros gelidus exhibited high physiological plasticity to changing CO2 and light levels

Arctic phytoplankton are experiencing multifaceted stresses due to climate warming, ocean acidification, retreating sea ice, and associated changes in light availability, and that may have large ecological consequences. Multiple stressor studies on Arctic phytoplankton, particularly on the bloom-forming species, may help understand their fitness in response to future climate change, however, such studies are scarce. In the present study, a laboratory experiment was conducted on the bloom-forming Arctic diatom Chaetoceros gelidus (earlier C. socialis) under variable CO2 (240 and 900 µatm) and light (50 and 100 µmol photons m-2 s-1) levels. The growth response was documented using the pre-acclimatized culture at 2°C in a closed batch system over 12 days until the dissolved inorganic nitrogen was depleted. Particulate organic carbon and nitrogen (POC and PON), pigments, cell density, and the maximum quantum yield of photosystem II (Fv/Fm) were measured on day 4 (D4), 6 (D6), 10 (D10), and 12 (D12). The overall growth response suggested that C. gelidus maintained a steady-state carboxylation rate with subsequent conversion to macromolecules as reflected in the per-cell POC contents under variable CO2 and light levels. A substantial amount of POC buildup at the low CO2 level (comparable to the high CO2 treatment) indicated the possibility of existing carbon dioxide concentration mechanisms (CCMs) that needs further investigation. Pigment signatures revealed a high level of adaptability to variable irradiance in this species without any major CO2 effect. PON contents per cell increased initially but decreased irrespective of CO2 levels when nitrogen was limited (D6 onward) possibly to recycle intracellular nitrogen resources resulting in enhanced C: N ratios. On D12 the decreased dissolved organic nitrogen levels could be attributed to consumption under nitrogen starvation. Such physiological plasticity could make C. gelidus “ecologically resilient” in the future Arctic.

Continue reading ‘A story of resilience: Arctic diatom Chaetoceros gelidus exhibited high physiological plasticity to changing CO2 and light levels’

Cascading effects augment the direct impact of CO2 on phytoplankton growth in a biogeochemical model

Atmospheric and oceanic CO2 concentrations are rising at an unprecedented rate. Laboratory studies indicate a positive effect of rising CO2 on phytoplankton growth until an optimum is reached, after which the negative impact of accompanying acidification dominates. Here, we implemented carbonate system sensitivities of phytoplankton growth into our global biogeochemical model FESOM-REcoM and accounted explicitly for coccolithophores as the group most sensitive to CO2. In idealized simulations in which solely the atmospheric CO2 mixing ratio was modified, changes in competitive fitness and biomass are not only caused by the direct effects of CO2, but also by indirect effects via nutrient and light limitation as well as grazing. These cascading effects can both amplify or dampen phytoplankton responses to changing ocean pCO2 levels. For example, coccolithophore growth is negatively affected both directly by future pCO2 and indirectly by changes in light limitation, but these effects are compensated by a weakened nutrient limitation resulting from the decrease in small-phytoplankton biomass. In the Southern Ocean, future pCO2 decreases small-phytoplankton biomass and hereby the preferred prey of zooplankton, which reduces the grazing pressure on diatoms and allows them to proliferate more strongly. In simulations that encompass CO2-driven warming and acidification, our model reveals that recent observed changes in North Atlantic coccolithophore biomass are driven primarily by warming and not by CO2. Our results highlight that CO2 can change the effects of other environmental drivers on phytoplankton growth, and that cascading effects may play an important role in projections of future net primary production.

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Impact of climate change on Arctic macroalgal communities

The Arctic region faces a warming rate that is more than twice the global average. Seaice loss, increase in precipitation and freshwater discharge, changes in underwater light, and amplification of ocean acidification modify benthic habitats and the communities they host. Here we synthesize existing information on the impacts of climate change on the macroalgal communities of Arctic coasts. We review the shortand long-term changes in environmental characteristics of shallow hard-bottomed Arctic coasts, the floristics of Arctic macroalgae (description, distribution, life-cycle, adaptations), the responses of their biological and ecological processes to climate change, the resulting winning and losing species, and the effects on ecosystem functioning. The focus of this review is on fucoid species, kelps, and coralline algae which are key ecosystem engineers in hard-bottom shallow areas of the Arctic, providing food, substrate, shelter, and nursery ground for many species. Changes in seasonality, benthic functional diversity, food-web structure, and carbon cycle are already occurring and are reshaping Arctic benthic ecosystems. Shallow communities are projected to shift from invertebrate-to algal-dominated communities. Fucoid and several kelp species are expected to largely spread and dominate the area with possible extinctions of native species. A considerable amount of functional diversity could be lost impacting the processing of land-derived nutrients and organic matter and significantly altering trophic structure and energy flow up to the apex consumers. However, many factors are not well understood yet, making it difficult to appreciate the current situation and predict the future coastal Arctic ecosystem. Efforts must be made to improve knowledge in key regions with proper seasonal coverage, taking into account interactions between stressors and across species.

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Elevated CO2 modulates the physiological responses of Thalassiosira pseudonana to ultraviolet radiation

Highlights

  • High CO2 exacerbated the UVR-induced inhibition on PSII activity.
  • UVR stimulated the removal rates of both PsbA and PsbD.
  • The removal of PsbD declined by high CO2 under the exposure of UVR.
  • High CO2 reversed the UVR-induced YNPQ to YNo.

Abstract

Diatoms account for a large proportion of marine primary productivity, they tend to be the predominant species in the phytoplankton communities in the surface ocean with frequent and large light fluctuations. To understand the impacts of increased CO2 on diatoms’ capacity in exploitation of variable solar radiation, we cultured a model diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana with 400 or 1000ppmv CO2 and exposed it to high photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) alone or PAR plus ultraviolet radiation (UVR) to examine its physiological performances. The results showed that the maximum photochemical efficiency (Fv/fm) was significantly reduced by high PAR and PAR + UVR in T. pseudonana, UVR-induced inhibition on PSII activity was exacerbated by high CO2. PSII activity drops coincide approximately with PsbA content in the cells exposed to high PAR or PAR + UVR, which was pronounced at high CO2. The removal of PsbD in T. pseudonana cells declined under high CO2 during UVR exposure, limiting the repair capacity of PSII. In addition, high CO2 reversed the induction of energy-dependent form of NPQ by UVR to the increase of Y(No), indicating the severe damage of the photoprotective reactions. Our findings suggest that the adverse impacts of UVR on PSII function of T. pseudonana were aggravated by the elevated CO2 through modulating its capacity in repair and protection, which thereby would influence its abundance and competitiveness in phytoplankton communities.

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Responses of elemental content and macromolecule of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi to reduced phosphorus availability and ocean acidification depend on light intensity

Global climate change leads to simultaneous changes in multiple environmental drivers in the marine realm. Although physiological characterization of coccolithophores have been studied under climate change, there is limited knowledge on the biochemical responses of this biogeochemically important phytoplankton group to changing multiple environmental drivers. Here we investigate the interactive effects of reduced phosphorus availability (4 to 0.4 μmol L–1), elevated pCO2 concentrations (426 to 946 μatm) and increasing light intensity (40 to 300 μmol photons m–2 s–1) on elemental content and macromolecules of the cosmopolitan coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi. Reduced phosphorus availability reduces particulate organic nitrogen and protein contents under low light intensity, but not under high light intensity. Reduced phosphorus availability and ocean acidification act synergistically to increase particulate organic carbon (POC) and carbohydrate contents under high light intensity but not under low light intensity. Reduced phosphorus availability, ocean acidification and increasing light intensity act synergistically to increase the allocation of POC to carbohydrates. Under future ocean acidification and increasing light intensity, enhanced carbon fixation could increase carbon storage in the phosphorus-limited regions of the oceans where E. huxleyi dominates the phytoplankton assemblages. In each light intensity, elemental carbon to phosphorus (C : P) and nitrogen to phosphorus (N : P) ratios decrease with increasing growth rate. These results suggest that coccolithophores could reallocate chemical elements and energy to synthesize macromolecules efficiently, which allows them to regulate its elemental content and growth rate to acclimate to changing environmental conditions.

Continue reading ‘Responses of elemental content and macromolecule of the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi to reduced phosphorus availability and ocean acidification depend on light intensity’

Physiologically mediated susceptibilities of coralline algae to ocean change

Coralline algae are important foundation species in coastal ecosystems around the world but are threatened by ocean acidification (OA) and other anthropogenic stressors such as ocean warming (OW) and sedimentation. Physiological responses to ocean change are challenging to predict because the mechanisms that provide tolerance to different stressors are unknown and there is a lack of understanding of responses to multiple drivers. To address these issues, I conducted four experiments examining the physiological responses of multiple temperate coralline algal species to decreasing irradiance, declining pH, OW and marine heatwaves (MHWs), and a combination of OA, OW and reduced irradiance.

Coralline algal calcification generally responded parabolically to irradiance, but photosynthesis responded linearly. My results suggest that light enhanced calcification is the result of increased ion pumping rates to elevate the calcium carbonate saturation state in the calcifying fluid (CF) and a higher daytime pH in the diffusion boundary layer that raises pHCF. My results implied the existence of two calcification strategies in coralline algae that I discuss within the thesis.

Tolerance to OA was coupled to the species’ ability to maintain stable carbonate chemistry at the site of calcification to support calcification as seawater pH declined. Conversely, pronounced changes in internal calcium carbonate saturation state (ΩCF) and skeletal magnesium content were observed in the sensitive taxa. However, ΩCF did generally not decline but increase under OA. There was also slight OA-induced photodamage in sensitive taxa that could explain the inability to support ion-pumping and growth under OA.

Photo-physiology and calcification of coralline algae were generally unaffected by OW and MHWs implying a high thermo-tolerance. However, exposure to future ocean conditions (decreased irradiance+OW x OA) caused the most severe reductions in calcification. Single driver (OA and decreased irradiance+OW) impacts were smaller. Calcification responses were decoupled from ΩCF likely due to the effective control over the internal carbonate chemistry. However, calcification likely declined due to the increased energy expenditure of calcification or when energy supply was reduced. Indeed, variations in energy expenditure and photosynthesis could explain most of the observed calcification responses.

Overall, this thesis has increased our predictive understanding regarding the impact of ocean change on coralline algae by addressing several critical issues by providing a new mechanistic model that more accurately defines the role of irradiance in coralline algal calcification.

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Response of the green alga Ulva prolifera grown at different irradiance levels under ocean acidification at different life cycle stages

The effects of ocean acidification on macroalgae have been extensively studied. However, most studies focused on the adult stages, while other life cycle stages have been overlooked. To better understand the influence of the marine environment on macroalgae, their whole life cycle should be considered, especially the juvenile stage. In this study, Ulva prolifera was cultured under two CO2 concentrations (400 and 1000 ppmv) and at 10, 18, 30, and 55% of incident sunlight to assess the photosynthetic performance. Our results showed that the acidification treatment had a negative effect on growth at the juvenile stage, but a positive effect at the adult stage. The relative growth rate and effective quantum yield of PSII increased with decreased light levels, irrespective of the CO2 concentration. At the adult stage, the Chlorophyll (Chl) a, Chl b, and carotenoid contents declined under the high CO2 concentration. The protein content significantly increased at 18, 30%, and full sunlight levels under the high CO2 but not under the low CO2 concentration. Our results suggest that juveniles were less tolerant of the acidic stress compared with the adult stage, although the alga was able to increase cellular proteins in response to the acidic stress.

Continue reading ‘Response of the green alga Ulva prolifera grown at different irradiance levels under ocean acidification at different life cycle stages’

Proton gradients across the coral calcifying cell layer: effects of light, ocean acidification and carbonate chemistry

In corals, pH regulation of the extracellular calcifying medium (ECM) by the calcifying cell layer is a crucial step in the calcification process and is potentially important to influencing how corals respond to ocean acidification. Here, we analyzed the growing edge of the reef coral Stylophora pistillata to make the first characterization of the proton gradient across the coral calcifying epithelium. At seawater pH 8 we found that while the calcifying epithelium elevates pH in the ECM on its apical side above that of seawater, pH on its basal side in the mesoglea is markedly lower, highlighting that the calcifying cells are exposed to a microenvironment distinct from the external environment. Coral symbiont photosynthesis elevates pH in the mesoglea, but experimental ocean acidification and decreased seawater inorganic carbon concentration lead to large declines in mesoglea pH relative to the ECM, which is maintained relatively stable. Together, our results indicate that the coral calcifying epithelium is functionally polarized and that environmental variation impacts pHECM regulation through its effects on the basal side of the calcifying cells.

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Elevated CO2 modulates the physiological responses of Thalassiosira pseudonana to ultraviolet radiation

Highlights

  • High CO2 exacerbated the UVR-induced inhibition on PSII activity.
  • UVR stimulated the removal rates of both PsbA and PsbD.
  • The removal of PsbD declined by high CO2 under the exposure of UVR.
  • High CO2 reversed the UVR-induced YNPQ to YNo.

Abstract

Diatoms account for a large proportion of marine primary productivity, they tend to be the predominant species in the phytoplankton communities in the surface ocean with frequent and large light fluctuations. To understand the impacts of increased CO2 on diatoms’ capacity in exploitation of variable solar radiation, we cultured a model diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana with 400 or 1000ppmv CO2 and exposed it to high photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) alone or PAR plus ultraviolet radiation (UVR) to examine its physiological performances. The results showed that the maximum photochemical efficiency (Fv/fm) was significantly reduced by high PAR and PAR + UVR in T. pseudonana, UVR-induced inhibition on PSII activity was exacerbated by high CO2. PSII activity drops coincide approximately with PsbA content in the cells exposed to high PAR or PAR + UVR, which was pronounced at high CO2. The removal of PsbD in T. pseudonana cells declined under high CO2 during UVR exposure, limiting the repair capacity of PSII. In addition, high CO2 reversed the induction of energy-dependent form of NPQ by UVR to the increase of Y(No), indicating the severe damage of the photoprotective reactions. Our findings suggest that the adverse impacts of UVR on PSII function of T. pseudonana were aggravated by the elevated CO2 through modulating its capacity in repair and protection, which thereby would influence its abundance and competitiveness in phytoplankton communities.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 modulates the physiological responses of Thalassiosira pseudonana to ultraviolet radiation’

Light history modulates growth and photosynthetic responses of a diatom to ocean acidification and UV radiation

To examine the synergetic effects of ocean acidification (OA) and light intensity on the photosynthetic performance of marine diatoms, the marine centric diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii was cultured under ambient low CO2 (LC, 390 μatm) and elevated high CO2 (HC, 1000 μatm) levels under low-light (LL, 60 μmol m−2 s−1) or high-light (HL, 220 μmol m−2 s−1) conditions for over 20 generations. HL stimulated the growth rate by 128 and 99% but decreased cell size by 9 and 7% under LC and HC conditions, respectively. However, HC did not change the growth rate under LL but decreased it by 9% under HL. LL combined with HC decreased both maximum quantum yield (FV/FM) and effective quantum yield (ΦPSII), measured under either low or high actinic light. When exposed to UV radiation (UVR), LL-grown cells were more prone to UVA exposure, with higher UVA and UVR inducing inhibition of ΦPSII compared with HL-grown cells. Light use efficiency (α) and maximum relative electron transport rate (rETRmax) were inhibited more in the HC-grown cells when UVR (UVA and UVB) was present, particularly under LL. Our results indicate that the growth light history influences the cell growth and photosynthetic responses to OA and UVR.

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Interactive effects of CO2, temperature, irradiance, and nutrient limitation on the growth and physiology of the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus (Cyanophyceae)

The marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus elongatus was grown in a continuous culture system to study the interactive effects of temperature, irradiance, nutrient limitation, and the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) on its growth and physiological characteristics. Cells were grown on a 14:10 h light:dark cycle at all combinations of low and high irradiance (50 and 300 μmol photons ⋅ m−2 ⋅ s−1, respectively), low and high pCO2 (400 and 1000 ppmv, respectively), nutrient limitation (nitrate-limited and nutrient-replete conditions), and temperatures of 20–45°C in 5°C increments. The maximum growth rate was ~4.5 · d−1 at 30–35°C. Under nutrient-replete conditions, growth rates at most temperatures and irradiances were about 8% slower at a pCO2 of 1000 ppmv versus 400 ppmv. The single exception was 45°C and high irradiance. Under those conditions, growth rates were ~45% higher at 1000 ppmv. Cellular carbon:nitrogen ratios were independent of temperature at a fixed relative growth rate but higher at high irradiance than at low irradiance. Initial slopes of photosynthesis–irradiance curves were higher at all temperatures under nutrient-replete versus nitrate-limited conditions; they were similar at all temperatures under high and low irradiance, except at 20°C, when they were suppressed at high irradiance. A model of phytoplankton growth in which cellular carbon was allocated to structure, storage, or the light or dark reactions of photosynthesis accounted for the general patterns of cell composition and growth rate. Allocation of carbon to the light reactions of photosynthesis was consistently higher at low versus high light and under nutrient-replete versus nitrate-limited conditions.

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Impact of growth phase, pigment adaptation and climate change conditions on the cellular pigment and carbon content of fifty-one phytoplankton isolates

Owing to their importance in aquatic ecosystems, the demand for models that estimate phytoplankton biomass and community composition in the global ocean has increased over the last decade. Moreover, the impacts of climate change, including elevated carbon dioxide (CO2), increased stratification and warmer sea surface temperatures, will likely shape phytoplankton community composition in the global ocean. Chemotaxonomic methods are useful for modeling phytoplankton community composition from marker pigments normalized to Chlorophyll a (Chl a). However, photosynthetic pigments, particularly Chl a, are sensitive to nutrient and light conditions. Cellular carbon is less sensitive so using carbon biomass instead may provide an alternative approach. To this end, cellular pigment and carbon concentrations were measured in fifty-one strains of globally relevant, cultured phytoplankton. Pigment-to-Chl a and pigment-to-carbon ratios were computed for each strain. For twenty-five strains, measurements were taken during two growth phases. While some differences between growth phases were observed, they did not exceed within-class differences. Multiple strains of Amphidinium carteraeDitylum brightwellii and Heterosigma akashiwo were measured to determine whether time in culture influenced pigment and carbon composition. No appreciable trends in cellular pigment or carbon content were observed. Lastly, the potential impact of climate change conditions on the pigment ratios was assessed using a multistressor experiment that included increased mean light, temperature and elevated pCO2 on three species: Thalassiosira oceanicaOstreococcus lucimarinus and Synechococcus. The largest differences were observed in the pigment-to-carbon ratios, while the marker pigments largely covaried with Chl a. The implications of these observations to chemotaxonomic applications are discussed.

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Pelagic and ice-associated microalgae under elevated light and pCO2: contrasting physiological strategies in two Arctic diatoms

Sea ice retreat, changing stratification, and ocean acidification are fundamentally changing the light availability and physico-chemical conditions for primary producers in the Arctic Ocean. However, detailed studies on ecophysiological strategies and performance of key species in the pelagic and ice-associated habitat remain scarce. Therefore, we investigated the acclimated responses of the diatoms Thalassiosira hyalina and Melosira arctica toward elevated irradiance and CO2 partial pressures (pCO2). Next to growth, elemental composition, and biomass production, we assessed detailed photophysiological responses through fluorometry and gas-flux measurements, including respiration and carbon acquisition. In the pelagic T. hyalina, growth rates remained high in all treatments and biomass production increased strongly with light. Even under low irradiances cells maintained a high-light acclimated state, allowing them to opportunistically utilize high irradiances by means of a highly plastic photosynthetic machinery and carbon uptake. The ice-associated M. arctica proved to be less plastic and more specialized on low-light. Its acclimation to high irradiances was characterized by minimizing photon harvest and photosynthetic efficiency, which led to lowered growth. Comparably low growth rates and strong silification advocate a strategy of persistence rather than of fast proliferation, which is also in line with the observed formation of resting stages under low-light conditions. In both species, responses to elevated pCO2 were comparably minor. Although both diatom species persisted under the applied conditions, their competitive abilities and strategies differ strongly. With the anticipated extension of Arctic pelagic habitats, flexible high-light specialists like T. hyalina seem to face a brighter future.

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Phycosphere pH of unicellular nano- and micro- phytoplankton cells and consequences for iron speciation

Surface ocean pH is declining due to anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 uptake with a global decline of ~0.3 possible by 2100. Extracellular pH influences a range of biological processes, including nutrient uptake, calcification and silicification. However, there are poor constraints on how pH levels in the extracellular microenvironment surrounding phytoplankton cells (the phycosphere) differ from bulk seawater. This adds uncertainty to biological impacts of environmental change. Furthermore, previous modelling work suggests that phycosphere pH of small cells is close to bulk seawater, and this has not been experimentally verified. Here we observe under 140 μmol photons·m−2·s−1 the phycosphere pH of Chlamydomonas concordia (5 µm diameter), Emiliania huxleyi (5 µm), Coscinodiscus radiatus (50 µm) and C. wailesii (100 µm) are 0.11 ± 0.07, 0.20 ± 0.09, 0.41 ± 0.04 and 0.15 ± 0.20 (mean ± SD) higher than bulk seawater (pH 8.00), respectively. Thickness of the pH boundary layer of C. wailesii increases from 18 ± 4 to 122 ± 17 µm when bulk seawater pH decreases from 8.00 to 7.78. Phycosphere pH is regulated by photosynthesis and extracellular enzymatic transformation of bicarbonate, as well as being influenced by light intensity and seawater pH and buffering capacity. The pH change alters Fe speciation in the phycosphere, and hence Fe availability to phytoplankton is likely better predicted by the phycosphere, rather than bulk seawater. Overall, the precise quantification of chemical conditions in the phycosphere is crucial for assessing the sensitivity of marine phytoplankton to ongoing ocean acidification and Fe limitation in surface oceans.

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Simulated response of St. Joseph Bay, Florida, seagrass meadows and their belowground carbon to anthropogenic and climate impacts

Highlights

  • The bio-optical model GrassLight predicted the response of the relatively stable seagrass meadows of St. Joseph Bay, Florida to future climate and anthropogenic scenarios.
  • Simulations predicted a 2–8% decline in seagrass extent with rising temperatures that was offset by a 3–11% expansion in seagrass extent in response to ocean acidification.
  • Anthropogenic changes in water quality were a bigger stressor than temperature and pH, predicting up to 21% decline in seagrass extent.
  • Ocean acidification may stimulate seagrass productivity sufficiently to offset both the negative effects of thermal stress and declining water quality on the seagrasses of St. Joseph Bay, Florida.

Abstract

Seagrass meadows are degraded globally and continue to decline in areal extent due to human pressures and climate change. This study used the bio-optical model GrassLight to explore the impact of climate change and anthropogenic stressors on seagrass extent, leaf area index (LAI) and belowground organic carbon (BGC) in St. Joseph Bay, Florida, using water quality data and remotely-sensed sea surface temperature (SST) from 2002 to 2020. Model predictions were compared with satellite-derived measurements of seagrass extent and shoot density from the Landsat images for the same period. The GrassLight-derived area of potential seagrass habitat ranged from 36.2 km2 to 39.2 km2, averaging 38.0 ± 0.8 km2 compared to an observed seagrass extent of 23.0 ± 3.0 km2 derived from Landsat (range = 17.9–27.4 km2). GrassLight predicted a mean seagrass LAI of 2.7 m2 leaf m−2 seabed, compared to a mean LAI of 1.9 m2 m−2 estimated from Landsat, indicating that seagrass density in St. Joseph Bay may have been below its light-limited ecological potential. Climate and anthropogenic change simulations using GrassLight predicted the impact of changes in temperature, pH, chlorophyll a, chromophoric dissolved organic matter and turbidity on seagrass meadows. Simulations predicted a 2–8% decline in seagrass extent with rising temperatures that was offset by a 3–11% expansion in seagrass extent in response to ocean acidification when compared to present conditions. Simulations of water quality impacts showed that a doubling of turbidity would reduce seagrass extent by 18% and total leaf area by 21%. Combining climate and water quality scenarios showed that ocean acidification may increase seagrass productivity to offset the negative effects of both thermal stress and declining water quality on the seagrasses growing in St. Joseph Bay. This research highlights the importance of considering multiple limiting factors in understanding the effects of environmental change on seagrass ecosystems.

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Transitioning global change experiments on Southern Ocean phytoplankton from lab to field settings: insights and challenges

The influence of global change on Southern Ocean productivity will have major ramifications for future management of polar life. A prior laboratory study investigated the response of a batch-cultured subantarctic diatom to projected change simulating conditions for 2100 (increased temperature/CO2/irradiance/iron; decreased macronutrients), showed a twofold higher chlorophyll-derived growth rate driven mainly by temperature and iron. We translated this design to the field to understand the phytoplankton community response, within a subantarctic foodweb, to 2100 conditions. A 7-d shipboard study utilizing 250-liter mesocosms was conducted in March 2016. The outcome mirrors lab-culture experiments, yielding twofold higher chlorophyll in the 2100 treatment relative to the control. This trend was also evident for intrinsic metrics including nutrient depletion. Unlike the lab-culture study, photosynthetic competence revealed a transient effect in the 2100 mesocosm, peaking on day 3 then declining. Metaproteomics revealed significant differences in protein profiles between treatments by day 7. The control proteome was enriched for photosynthetic processes (c.f. 2100) and exhibited iron-limitation signatures; the 2100 proteome exposed a shift in cellular energy production. Our findings of enhanced phytoplankton growth are comparable to model simulations, but underlying mechanisms (temperature, iron, and/or light) differ between experiments and models. Batch-culture approaches hinder cross-comparison of mesocosm findings to model simulations (the latter are akin to “continuous-culture chemostats”). However, chemostat techniques are problematic to use with mesocosms, as mesozooplankton will evade seawater flow-through, thereby accumulating. Thus, laboratory, field, and modeling approaches reveal challenges to be addressed to better understand how global change will alter Southern Ocean productivity.

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Systematic review and meta-analysis of ocean acidification effects in Halimeda: implications for algal carbonate production

Highlights

  • Calcification responses to OA vary widely among Halimeda species (neutral, negative).
  • For some species, these responses also seem to be region-dependent.
  • Experimental evidence suggests future declines in Halimeda-derived CaCO3 production.
  • Occurrence and magnitude of declines will be determined by community composition.

Abstract

Ocean acidification (OA) has been identified as one of the major climate-change related threats, mainly due to its significant impacts on marine calcifiers. Among those are the calcareous green algae of the genus Halimeda that are known to be major carbonate producers in shallow tropical and subtropical seas. Hence, any negative OA impacts on these organisms may translate into significant declines in regional and global carbonate production. In this study, we compiled the available information regarding Halimeda spp. responses to OA (experimental, in situ), with special focus on the calcification responses, one of the most studied response parameters in this group. Furthermore, among the compiled studies (n = 31), we selected those reporting quantitative data of OA effects on algal net calcification in an attempt to identify potential general patterns of species- and/or regional-specific OA responses and hence, impacts on carbonate production. While obtaining general patterns was largely hampered by the often scarce number of studies on individual species and/or regions, the currently available information indicates species-specific susceptibility to OA, seemingly unrelated to evolutionary lineages (and associated differences in morphology), that is often accompanied by differences in a species’ response across different regions. Thus, for projections of future declines in Halimeda-associated carbonate production, we used available regional reports of species-specific carbonate production in conjunction with experimental OA responses for the respective species and regions. Based on the available information, declines can be expected worldwide, though some regions harbouring more sensitive species might be more impacted than others.

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The MicroClimate screen – a microscale climate exposure system for assessing the effect of CO2, temperature and UV on marine microalgae

Highlights

  • A high-throughput and micro-scale exposure system was constructed to simulate climatic change conditions in laboratory.
  • Validation studies with the marine diatom Skeletonema pseudocostatum demonstrated the utility of the micro-climate system.
  • Skeletonema pseudocostatum was sensitive to changes in CO2 and UV radiation, but not to elevated temperatures.

Abstract

Global warming and anthropogenic activities are changing the ocean, inducing profound impacts on marine life and ecosystems from changing physical and chemical factors in and above the water column. Rising surface temperatures, ocean acidification, and seasonal variations in UV radiation (UVR), modulated by water clarity and sea-ice extent, affect life cycles of the marine food-web, and directly or indirectly also the global carbon fixation. Diatoms, pelagic microalgae that are responsible for 40% of the marine productivity, have limited capability to avoid exposure to changing ocean conditions, and hence, highly relevant for model studies of the influence of climate change on growth and productivity in the marine environment. A plate-based high-throughput exposure system was constructed to assess the biological effects from relevant climate change factors on the diatom Skeletonema pseudocostatum, conducted as a chronic toxicity tests over 72 h periods. The exposure system consisted of a micro-climate unit and a light-exposure unit, enabling accurate regulation of pCO2, temperature, UVR and photosynthetic active radiation (PAR). Changes in physical factors, including pH, dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), total alkalinity (TA), temperature and salinity in the medium, as well as reduction in growth were characterised to demonstrate performance of the micro exposure system. The results demonstrate that the exposure system successfully simulated ocean acidification and could maintain stable temperature (CV < 3%), PAR and UVR irradiance (CV < 8%). Growth inhibition responses were typically dose-dependent and verified that the micro-exposure system could be used to assess effects and adaptions to climate-relevant stressors.

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Colonies of Acropora formosa with greater survival potential have reduced calcification rates

Coral reefs are facing increasingly devastating impacts from ocean warming and acidification due to anthropogenic climate change. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, potential solutions have focused either on reducing light stress during heating, or on the potential for identifying or engineering “super corals”. A large subset of these studies, however, have tended to focus primarily on the bleaching response of corals, and assume erroneously that corals that bleach earlier in a thermal event die first. Here, we explore how survival, observable bleaching, coral skeletal growth (as branch extension and densification), and coral tissue growth (protein and lipid concentrations) varies for conspecifics collected from distinctive reef zones at Heron Island on the Southern Great Barrier Reef. A reciprocal transplantation experiment was undertaken using the dominant reef building coral (Acropora formosa) between the highly variable reef flat and the less variable reef slope environments. Coral colonies originating from the reef flat had higher rates of survival and amassed greater protein densities but calcified at reduced rates compared to conspecifics originating from the reef slope. The energetics of both populations however potentially benefited from greater light intensity present in the shallows. Reef flat origin corals moved to the lower light intensity of the reef slope reduced protein density and calcification rates. For Aformosa, genetic differences, or long-term entrainment to a highly variable environment, appeared to promote coral survival at the expense of calcification. The response decouples coral survival from carbonate coral reef resilience, a response that was further exacerbated by reductions in irradiance. As we begin to discuss interventions necessitated by the CO2 that has already been released into the atmosphere, we need to prioritise our focus on the properties that maintain valuable carbonate ecosystems. Rapid and dense calcification by corals such as branching Acropora is essential to the ability of carbonate coral reefs to rebound following disturbance events and maintain 3D structure but may be the first property that is sacrificed to enable coral genet survival under stress.

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