Posts Tagged 'Mediterranean'

Ecophysiological response of Jania rubens (Corallinaceae) to ocean acidification

Coralline algae (Rhodophyta) play a key role in promoting settlement of other benthic organisms, being the food source for herbivores, being involved in the stabilization of reef networks, and in carbonate production. They are considered a vulnerable group to ocean acidification due to the potential dissolution of their high-Mg calcite skeleton at lower pH. Nevertheless, different species of coralline algae showed different responses to low-pH/high-pCO2 environment. Here, we studied the physiological response of Jania rubens to the pH condition predicted for the year 2100. We used a natural CO2 vent system as natural laboratory to transplant J. rubens from pH 8.1–7.5 for 3 weeks. Maximal PSII photochemical efficiency showed a significant reduction in transplanted thalli at low pH (7.5-T) compared to other conditions; consistent with that result, also the pigments involved in the light-harvesting spectrum of J. rubens (i.e., chlorophylls, carotenoids, and phycobilins), exhibited a significant decrease under water acidification, highlighting the strong sensitivity of this species to the environmental change. A major understanding of the response of coralline algae at high CO2 will go through the impact of OA on benthic ecosystems in the next future. This contribution is the written, peer-reviewed version of a paper presented at the Conference “Changes and Crises in the Mediterranean Sea” held at Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei in Rome on October 17, 2017.

Continue reading ‘Ecophysiological response of Jania rubens (Corallinaceae) to ocean acidification’

Impact of ocean acidification on the biogeochemistry and meiofaunal assemblage of carbonate-rich sediments: results from core incubations (Bay of Villefranche, NW Mediterranean Sea)


• A sediment incubation experiment to assess the effect of ocean acidification
• Porewater concentration gradients and sediment-water fluxes (DIC, TA, pH, Ca2+, O2)
• Ocean acidification impacts early diagenesis in carbonate-rich sediments.
• CaCO3 dissolution and the TA release may increase the buffering capacity of bottom water.


Marine sediments are an important carbonate reservoir whose partial dissolution could buffer seawater pH decreases in the water column as a consequence of anthropogenic CO2 uptake by the ocean. This study investigates the impact of ocean acidification on the carbonate chemistry at the sediment-water interface (SWI) of shallow-water carbonate sediments. Twelve sediment cores were sampled at one station in the Bay of Villefranche (NW Mediterranean Sea). Four sediment cores were immediately analyzed in order to determine the initial distribution (T0) of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), total alkalinity (TA), pH and dissolved oxygen (O2) in the porewaters and to quantify sediment-water fluxes. Four other cores were kept submerged in the laboratory for 25 days with ambient seawater (pHT = 8.12) and the remaining four cores were incubated with acidified seawater (average pH offset of −0.68). This acidification experiment was carried out in an open-flow system, in the dark and at in-situ temperature (15 °C). Every three days, sediment-water fluxes (DIC, TA, pH, O2 and nutrients) were determined using a whole core 12-h incubation technique. Additionally, vertical O2 and pH microprofiles were regularly recorded in the first 2 cm of the sediment during the entire experiment. At the end of the experiment, TA, DIC and Ca2+ concentrations were analyzed in the porewaters and the abundance and taxonomic composition of meiofaunal organisms were assessed. The saturation states of the porewaters with respect to calcite and aragonite were over-saturated but under-saturated with respect to 12 mol% Mg-calcite, in both acidified and non-acidified treatments. The sediment-water fluxes of TA and DIC increased in the acidified treatment, likely as a consequence of enhanced carbonate dissolution. In contrast, the acidification of the overlying water did not significantly affect the O2 and nutrients fluxes at the SWI. Meiofaunal abundance decreased in both treatments over the duration of the experiment, but the organisms seemed unaffected by the acidification. Our results demonstrate that carbonate dissolution increased under acidified conditions but other parameters, such as microbial redox processes, were apparently not affected by the pH decrease, at least during the duration of our experiment. The dissolution of sedimentary carbonates and the associated release of TA may potentially buffer bottom water, depending on the intensity of the TA flux, the TA/DIC ratio, vertical mixing and, therefore, the residence time of bottom water. Under certain conditions, this process may mitigate the effect of ocean acidification on benthic ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean acidification on the biogeochemistry and meiofaunal assemblage of carbonate-rich sediments: results from core incubations (Bay of Villefranche, NW Mediterranean Sea)’

Residing at low pH matters, resilience of the egg jelly coat of sea urchins living at a CO2 vent site

The sea urchin egg jelly coat is important in fertilisation as a source of sperm activating compounds, in species-specific gamete recognition and in increasing egg target size for sperm. The impact of ocean acidification (− 0.3 to 0.5 pHT units) on the egg jelly coat of Arbacia lixula was investigated comparing populations resident in a control (pHT 8.00) and a CO2 vent site (mean pHT 7.69) in Ischia. Measurements of egg and jelly coat size showed no significant differences between sea urchins from the different sites; however, sensitivity of the jelly coat to decreased pH differed depending on the origin of the population. Acidification to pHT 7.7 and 7.5 significantly decreased egg jelly coat size of control urchins by 27 and 23%, respectively. In contrast, the jelly coat of the vent urchins was not affected by acidification. For the vent urchins, there was a significant positive relationship between egg and jelly coat size, a relationship not seen for the eggs of females from the control site. As egg and jelly coat size was similar between both populations, vent A. lixula jelly coats are likely to be chemically fine-tuned for the low pH environment. That the egg jelly coat of sea urchins from the vent site was robust to low pH shows intraspecific variation in this trait, and that this difference may be a maternal adaptive strategy or plastic response. If this is a common response in sea urchins, this would facilitate the maintenance of gamete function, facilitating fertilisation success in a low pH ocean.

Continue reading ‘Residing at low pH matters, resilience of the egg jelly coat of sea urchins living at a CO2 vent site’

Ocean acidification modulates the incorporation of radio-labeled heavy metals in the larvae of the Mediterranean sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus


• The radionuclide method allowed accurate tracing of the metal incorporation within this microscopic planktonic species.
• Metal incorporation in sea urchin larvae strongly correlates with the indirect delaying effect of acidification on larval size.
• Independently of the size effect, acidification directly affects the incorporation behavior of four metals (Mn, Ag, Se, Zn).
• The nature of the modulation is specific to each metallic element (see graphical abstract).
• Relationships between speciation, bioaccumulation and toxicity in the context of changing seawater pH requires more research.


The marine organisms which inhabit the coastline are exposed to a number of anthropogenic pressures that may interact. For instance, the accumulation of toxic metals present in coastal waters is expected to be modified by ocean acidification through e.g. changes in physiological performance and/or elements availability. Changes in bioaccumulation due to lowering pH are likely to be differently affected depending on the nature (essential vs. non-essential) and speciation of each element. The Mediterranean is of high concern for possible cumulative effects due to strong human influences on the coastline.

The aim of this study was to determine the effect of ocean acidification (from pH 8.1 down to −1.0 pH units) on the incorporation kinetics of six trace metals (Mn, Co, Zn, Se, Ag, Cd, Cs) and one radionuclide (241Am) in the larvae of an economically- and ecologically-relevant sea urchin of the Mediterranean coastline: Paracentrotus lividus. The radiolabelled metals and radionuclides added in trace concentrations allowed precise tracing of their incorporation in larvae during the first 74 h of their development.

Independently of the expected indirect effect of pH on larval size/developmental rates, Paracentrotus lividus larvae exposed to decreasing pHs incorporated significantly more Mn and Ag and slightly less Cd. The incorporation of Co, Cs and 241Am was unchanged, and Zn and Se exhibited complex incorporation behaviors. Studies such as this are necessary prerequisites to the implementation of metal toxicity mitigation policies for the future ocean. We discuss possible reasons and mechanisms for the specific effect of pH on each metals.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification modulates the incorporation of radio-labeled heavy metals in the larvae of the Mediterranean sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus’

A comparison of life-history traits in calcifying Spirorbinae polychaetes living along natural pH gradients

Low-pH vent systems are ideal natural laboratories to study the consequences of long-term low-pH exposure on marine species and thus identify life-history traits associated with low-pH tolerance. This knowledge can help to inform predictions on which types of species may be less vulnerable in future ocean acidification (OA) scenarios. Accordingly, we investigated how traits of calcifying polychaete species (Serpulidae, Spirorbinae) varied with pH using a functional trait analysis at 2 natural pH gradients around the Castello Aragonese islet off Ischia, Italy. We first observed the distribution and abundance patterns of all calcifying polychaete epiphytes in the canopy of Posidonia oceanica seagrass across these gradients. We then used laboratory trials to compare fecundity, settlement success, and juvenile survival in the dominant species from a control (Pileolaria militaris Claparède, 1870) and a low-pH site (Simplaria sp.). We found significantly higher reproductive output, juvenile settlement rates, and juvenile survival in Simplaria sp. individuals from the low-pH site, compared to P. militaris individuals from control pH sites, when observed in their respective in situ pH conditions. Our results suggest that tolerance to low pH may result, in part, from traits associated with successful reproduction and rapid settlement under low-pH conditions. This finding implies that other species with similar life-history traits may respond similarly, and should be targeted for future OA tolerance research.

Continue reading ‘A comparison of life-history traits in calcifying Spirorbinae polychaetes living along natural pH gradients’

Mapping of recent brachiopod microstructure: a tool for environmental studies

Shells of brachiopods are excellent archives for environmental reconstructions in the recent and distant past as their microstructure and geochemistry respond to climate and environmental forcings. We studied the morphology and size of the basic structural unit, the secondary layer fibre, of the shells of several extant brachiopod taxa to derive a model correlating microstructural patterns to environmental conditions. Twenty-one adult specimens of six recent brachiopod species adapted to different environmental conditions, from Antarctica, to New Zealand, to the Mediterranean Sea, were chosen for microstructural analysis using SEM, TEM and EBSD. We conclude that: 1) there is no significant difference in the shape and size of the fibres between ventral and dorsal valves, 2) there is an ontogenetic trend in the shape and size of the fibres, as they become larger, wider, and flatter with increasing age. This indicates that the fibrous layer produced in the later stages of growth, which is recommended by the literature to be the best material for geochemical analyses, has a different morphostructure and probably a lower organic content than that produced earlier in life. In two species of the same genus living in seawater with different temperature and carbonate saturation state, a relationship emerged between the microstructure and environmental conditions. Fibres of the polar Liothyrella uva tend to be smaller, rounder and less convex than those of the temperate Liothyrella neozelanica, suggesting a relationship between microstructural size, shell organic matter content, ambient seawater temperature and calcite saturation state.

Continue reading ‘Mapping of recent brachiopod microstructure: a tool for environmental studies’

Influence of ocean acidification on elemental mass balances and particulate organic matter stoichiometry in natural plankton communities  

The oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2 leads to a gradual acidification of the ocean. Ocean acidification (OA) is known to affect marine biota from the organism to the ecosystem level but with largely unknown consequences for the cycling of key elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. However, the ocean’s ability to absorb anthropogenic carbon or to provide sufficient food for humankind depends on these oceanic material cycles. This doctoral dissertation thus aimed to assess the influence of OA on biogeochemical cycles of elements in natural pelagic food webs of several trophic levels (up to fish larvae) over extended time scales of weeks to months. Large-scale pelagic mesocosms (up to 75 m3 per unit) were deployed in different marine ecosystems and new methods were developed to quantify the downward flux of particulate organic matter under simulated OA. This thesis reports on the potential influence of OA on element pool partitioning and particulate organic matter stoichiometry with consequences for biogeochemical cycling of elements in the ocean. Furthermore the potential and limitations of biogeochemical measurements inside pelagic mesocosms that host entire plankton communities are elucidated.

Continue reading ‘Influence of ocean acidification on elemental mass balances and particulate organic matter stoichiometry in natural plankton communities  ‘

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book