Posts Tagged 'Mediterranean'

Eat, breathe, repeat: physiological responses of the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis to Diclofenac and ocean acidification

Combined effects of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac and lowered seawater pH were assessed on the physiological responses of the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis. Bivalves were exposed for 1 week to natural pH (8.1) and two reduced pH values (pH −0.4 units and pH −0.7 units), as predicted under a climate change scenario. After the first week, exposure continued for additional 2 weeks, both in the absence and in the presence of environmentally relevant concentrations of diclofenac (0.05 and 0.5 µg/L). Clearance rate, respiration rate, and excretion rate were measured after 7 days of exposure to pH only and after 14 (T1) and 21 (T2) days of exposure to the various pH*diclofenac combinations. At all sampling times, pH significantly affected all the biological parameters considered, whereas diclofenac generally exhibited a significant influence only at T2. Overall, results demonstrated that the physiological performance of M. galloprovincialis was strongly influenced by the experimental conditions tested, in particular by the interaction between the two stressors after 21 days of exposure. Further studies are needed to assess the combined effects of climate changes and emerging contaminants on bivalve physiology during different life stages, especially reproduction.

Continue reading ‘Eat, breathe, repeat: physiological responses of the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis to Diclofenac and ocean acidification’

Microcalcareous seaweeds as sentinels of trophic changes and CO2 trapping in transitional water systems


  • The presence of microcalcareous macroalgae was studied in the Italian lagoons.
  • Macroalgal growth was mainly affected by changes in the pH of the water column.
  • Small algae are a Litmus Test Paper Strip for environmental quality assessment.
  • Carbonated are accumulated in surface sediments by small calcareous macroalgae.
  • The CO2 abatement occurred in environments of good-high ecological conditions.


Microcalcareous epiphytic seaweeds (MES) are macroalgae more sensitive than aquatic angiosperms to environmental degradation and, with their presence/absence, these species act like sentinels providing useful information on the ecological status of environments. In this study, we analyzed the environmental parameters in water column and surface sediments in relation to macrophyte variables from 257 sites, distributed in the main Italian transitional water systems (TWS). The results showed that MES are strongly correlated to pH changes, the main parameter that regulates their presence/absence. The optimal growth range is between pH 7.80 and 8.35; out of these values their growth is reduced or hampered. In oxidized sediments the carbonate crusts, composed by Mg-Calcite (an unstable compound that in the sediments quickly turns into calcite), can permanently trap up to 2.47 tonnes ha−1 yr−1 of CO2, increasing sediment thickness of approx. 0.06–0.21 mm yr−1.

Continue reading ‘Microcalcareous seaweeds as sentinels of trophic changes and CO2 trapping in transitional water systems’

Evidences on alterations in skeleton composition and mineralization in a site-attached fish under naturally acidified conditions in a shallow CO2 vent


  • CO2 vents provide natural laboratories to study the effects of multiple pressures (i.e., ocean acidification and metal contamination).
  • The demersal and highly territorial fish species Gobius bucchichi did not show skeletal malformations in the vent site.
  • Higher Ca/P in fish skeleton at the vent than at control pH sites suggests that skeleton maturation may be sped up in acidified oceans.



Ocean acidification may affect fish mineralized structures (i.e. otoliths and skeleton).


Here, we compared the elemental composition of muscle and skeleton and the mineral features of skeleton in the site-attached fish Gobius bucchichi naturally exposed to high pCO2 / low pH conditions in a shallow CO2 vent with fish of the same species exposed to normal pH.


Overall, no skeleton malformations were found in both pH conditions, but among-site differences were found in the elemental composition. Interestingly, higher Ca/P values, inducing a moderate skeleton maturation, were found in fish exposed to acidified conditions than in controls.


Our findings suggest that ocean acidification may play a significant role in physiological processes related to mineralization, fostering skeleton pre-aging.

Continue reading ‘Evidences on alterations in skeleton composition and mineralization in a site-attached fish under naturally acidified conditions in a shallow CO2 vent’

Decreased pH impairs sea urchin resistance to predatory fish: a combined laboratory-field study to understand the fate of top-down processes in future oceans


  • Combined laboratory-field approach to study OA effects on predator-prey interactions.

  • Adult sea urchins mechanical defence strategies are compromised by decreased pH.

  • Field data confirm grater vulnerability to predation of sea urchins exposed to lower pH.

  • Future more acidic seawaters will impair sea urchin resistance to predatory fish.


Changing oceans represent a serious threat for a wide range of marine organisms, with severe cascading effects on ecosystems and their services. Sea urchins are particularly sensitive to decreased pH expected for the end of the century and their key ecological role in regulating community structure and functioning could be seriously compromised. An integrated approach of laboratory and field experiments has been implemented to investigate the effects of decreased pH on predator-prey interaction involving sea urchins and their predators. Our results suggest that under future Ocean Acidification scenarios adult sea urchins defence strategies, such as spine length, test robustness and oral plate thickness, could be compromised together with their survival chance to natural predators. Sea urchins represent the critical linkage between top-down and bottom-up processes along Mediterranean rocky reefs, and the cumulative impacts of global and local stressors could lead to a decline producing cascading effects on benthic ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Decreased pH impairs sea urchin resistance to predatory fish: a combined laboratory-field study to understand the fate of top-down processes in future oceans’

Ocean acidification causes variable trait shifts in a coral species

High pCO2 habitats and their populations provide an unparalleled opportunity to assess how species may survive under future ocean acidification conditions, and help to reveal the traits that confer tolerance. Here we utilize a unique CO2 vent system to study the effects of exposure to elevated pCO2 on trait‐shifts observed throughout natural populations of Astroides calycularis, an azooxanthellate scleractinian coral endemic to the Mediterranean. Unexpected shifts in skeletal and growth patterns were found. Colonies shifted to a skeletal phenotype characterized by encrusting morphology, smaller size, reduced coenosarc tissue, fewer polyps, and less porous and denser skeletons at low pH. Interestingly, while individual polyps calcified more and extended faster at low pH, whole colonies found at low pH site calcified and extended their skeleton at the same rate as did those at ambient pH sites. Transcriptomic data revealed strong genetic differentiation among local populations of this warm water species whose distribution range is currently expanding northward. We found excess differentiation in the CO2 vent population for genes central to calcification, including genes for calcium management (calmodulin, calcium‐binding proteins), pH regulation (V‐type proton ATPase), and inorganic carbon regulation (carbonic anhydrase). Combined, our results demonstrate how coral populations can persist in high pCO2 environments, making this system a powerful candidate for investigating acclimatization and local adaptation of organisms to global environmental change.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification causes variable trait shifts in a coral species’

Temporal and spatial variability of the CO2 system in a riverine influenced area of the Mediterranean Sea, the Northern Adriatic

Coastal ecosystems are subject to multiple processes that drive pH change over time. Therefore, efforts to understand the variability in the coastal carbonate system are crucial to assess the marine system vulnerability to acidification. The variations of the carbon dioxide (CO2) system were studied, from December 2014 to January 2017, on 6 stations along a transect latitudinally crossing the northern Adriatic, from the Po River delta to the Istrian Peninsula. The study aims to evaluate the influence of riverine inputs and other environmental drivers, such as temperature, air-sea CO2 exchanges and biological processes, on the carbonate system. Riverine discharges significantly affected the carbonate system, as they are an input of total alkalinity and nutrients. High alkalinity concentrations were measured in low salinity waters and a significant negative correlation between salinity and alkalinity was found. The influence of biological processes was underscored by the significant inverse correlation between pHT at a constant temperature (pHT25^°C) and apparent oxygen utilization, and by the positive correlation between chlorophyll a and pHT25^°C in samplings close to flood events. Moreover, thermic and non-thermic partial pressure (p) of CO2 in surface waters was evaluated. pCO2 was more strongly influenced by the thermal effect during summer, while the biological effect prevailed in the other seasons. The analysis of air-sea CO2 fluxes highlighted that the area acts as a sink of CO2 during winter, spring and autumn and as a source during summer. A biogeochemical simulation was used for bottom and surface waters to estimate future changes in northern Adriatic carbonate chemistry with the increase of anthropogenic CO2 and temperature, and to understand how biological processes could affect the expected trends. By 2100, under the IPCC scenario of business as usual and without the effect of biological processes, pHT is expected to decrease by ∼0.3 and the aragonite saturation is expected to decline by ∼1.3, yet not reach undersaturation values. Even though the northern Adriatic is characterized by high alkalinity buffering, pH seasonal variability will likely be more pronounced, due to the strong decoupling of production and respiration processes driven by stratification of the water column.

Continue reading ‘Temporal and spatial variability of the CO2 system in a riverine influenced area of the Mediterranean Sea, the Northern Adriatic’

A regional neural network approach to estimate water-column nutrient concentrations and carbonate system variables in the Mediterranean Sea: CANYON-MED

A regional neural network-based method, “CANYON-MED” is developed to estimate nutrients and carbonate system variables specifically in the Mediterranean Sea over the water column from pressure, temperature, salinity, and oxygen together with geolocation and date of sampling. Six neural network ensembles were developed, one for each variable (i.e., three macronutrients: nitrates (NO−33-), phosphates (PO3−443-) and silicates (SiOH4), and three carbonate system variables: pH on the total scale (pHT), total alkalinity (AT), and dissolved inorganic carbon or total carbon (CT), trained using a specific quality-controlled dataset of reference “bottle” data in the Mediterranean Sea. This dataset is representative of the peculiar conditions of this semi-enclosed sea, as opposed to the global ocean. For each variable, the neural networks were trained on 80% of the data chosen randomly and validated using the remaining 20%. CANYON-MED retrieved the variables with good accuracies (Root Mean Squared Error): 0.73 μ–1 for NO−33-, 0.045 μ–1 for PO3−443- and 0.70 μ–1 for Si(OH)4, 0.016 units for pHT, 11 μ–1 for AT and 10 μ–1 for CT. A second validation on the ANTARES independent time series confirmed the method’s applicability in the Mediterranean Sea. After comparison to other existing methods to estimate nutrients and carbonate system variables, CANYON-MED stood out as the most robust, using the aforementioned inputs. The application of CANYON-MED on the Mediterranean Sea data from autonomous observing systems (integrated network of Biogeochemical-Argo floats, Eulerian moorings and ocean gliders measuring hydrological properties together with oxygen concentration) could have a wide range of applications. These include data quality control or filling gaps in time series, as well as biogeochemical data assimilation and/or the initialization and validation of regional biogeochemical models still lacking crucial reference data. Matlab and R code are available at https://

Continue reading ‘A regional neural network approach to estimate water-column nutrient concentrations and carbonate system variables in the Mediterranean Sea: CANYON-MED’

Behavioural responses to predators in Mediterranean mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) are unaffected by elevated pCO2


  • Tested effects of elevated CO2 on valve gaping responses to predator alarm cues in Mediterranean mussels.
  • Mussels reduced valve gaping in response to predator alarm cues; no change in valve movement activity.
  • Elevated CO2 had no effect on baseline behaviour nor responses to predator cues.
  • Behavioural responses to predator cues in bivalves appear robust to high CO2.


Ocean acidification is expected to affect marine organisms in the near future. Furthermore, abrupt short-term fluctuations in seawater pCO2 characteristic of near-short coastal regions and high-density aquaculture sites currently have the potential to influence organismal and community functioning by altering animal behaviour. While anti-predator responses in fishes exposed to elevated pCO2 are well documented, such responses in benthic marine invertebrates are poorly studied. We used high frequency, non-invasive biosensors to test whether or not short term (3-week) exposure to elevated pCO2 could impact behavioural responses to the threat of predation in adult Mediterranean mussels from Galicia on the northwestern coast of Spain. Predator alarm cues (crushed conspecifics) resulted in a prolonged (1 h) reduction in the degree of valve opening (−20%) but had no clear effect on overall valve movement activity, while elevated pCO2 did not affect either response. Our results add to the increasing body of evidence suggesting that the effects of end-of-century pCO2 levels on marine animal behaviour are likely weak. Nonetheless, longer-term exposures spanning multiple generations are needed to better understand how ocean acidification might impact behavioural responses to predation in marine bivalves.

Continue reading ‘Behavioural responses to predators in Mediterranean mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) are unaffected by elevated pCO2’

Impact of dust enrichment on Mediterranean plankton communities under present and future conditions of pH and temperature: an experimental overview

In Low Nutrient Low Chlorophyll areas, such as the Mediterranean Sea, atmospheric fluxes represent a considerable external source of nutrients likely supporting primary production especially during stratification periods. These areas are expected to expand in the future due to lower nutrient supply from sub-surface waters caused by enhanced stratification, likely further increasing the role of atmospheric deposition as a source of new nutrients to surface waters. Yet, whether plankton communities will react differently to dust deposition in a warmer and acidified environment remains an open question. The impact of dust deposition both in present and future climate conditions was assessed through three perturbation experiments in the open Mediterranean Sea. Climate reactors (300 L) were filled with surface water collected in the Tyrrhenian Sea, Ionian Sea and in the Algerian basin during a cruise conducted in May/June 2017 in the frame of the PEACETIME project. The experimental protocol comprised two unmodified control tanks, two tanks enriched with a Saharan dust analog and two tanks enriched with the dust analog and maintained under warmer (+3 °C) and acidified (−0.3 pH unit) conditions. Samples for the analysis of an extensive number of biogeochemical parameters and processes were taken over the duration of the experiments (3–4 d). Here, we present the general setup of the experiments and the impacts of dust seeding and/or future climate change scenario on nutrients and biological stocks. Dust addition led to a rapid and maximum input of nitrate whereas phosphate release from the dust analog was much smaller. Our results showed that the impacts of Saharan dust deposition in three different basins of the open Northwestern Mediterranean Sea are at least as strong as those observed previously in coastal waters. However, interestingly, the effects of dust deposition on biological stocks were highly different between the three investigated stations and could not be attributed to differences in their degree of oligotrophy but rather to the initial metabolic state of the community. Finally, ocean acidification and warming did not drastically modify the composition of the autotrophic assemblage with all groups positively impacted by warming and acidification, suggesting an exacerbation of effects from atmospheric dust deposition in the future.

Continue reading ‘Impact of dust enrichment on Mediterranean plankton communities under present and future conditions of pH and temperature: an experimental overview’

Effects of salinity and pH of seawater on the reproduction of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus

Fertilization and early development are usually the most vulnerable stages in the life of marine animals, and the biological processes during this period are highly sensitive to the environment. In nature, sea urchin gametes are shed in seawater, where they undergo external fertilization and embryonic development. In a laboratory, it is possible to follow the exact morphological and biochemical changes taking place in the fertilized eggs and the developing embryos. Thus, observation of successful fertilization and the subsequent embryonic development of sea urchin eggs can be used as a convenient biosensor to assess the quality of the marine environment. In this paper, we have examined how salinity and pH changes affect the normal fertilization process and the following development of Paracentrotus lividus. The results of our studies using confocal microscopy, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and time-lapse Ca2+ image recording indicated that both dilution and acidification of seawater have subtle but detrimental effects on many aspects of the fertilization process. They include Ca2+ signaling and coordinated actin cytoskeletal changes, leading to a significantly reduced rate of successful fertilization and, eventually, to abnormal or delayed embryonic development.

Continue reading ‘Effects of salinity and pH of seawater on the reproduction of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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