Posts Tagged 'mesocosms'

Effects of the ocean acidification on the functional structure of coral reef nematodes

A mesocosm experiment was designed to study the effects of acidification on the phytal nematofauna of a coral reef. We hypothesized that phytal nematodes are responsive to different seawater acidification levels and that their assemblage structure and functional indicators (combination of maturity index and trophic diversity index) are useful to evaluate the effects of acidification. Artificial substrate units (ASU) were first colonized in a coral reef zone (Recife de Fora Municipal Marine Park, Porto Seguro, Bahia, Brazil) to obtain standardized assemblage samples. ASUs were transferred to laboratory and exposed to control and three levels of seawater acidification (pH reduced by 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 units below field levels) and collected after 15 and 30 d. Contrary to our expectations that acidification may change the taxonomic structure of nematodes, while the functional structure may deviate from the expected under high levels of acidification, we found that univariate functional indicators of the community (index of trophic diversity and maturity index) did not show significant differences between the control and experimental treatments throughout the exposure period. It is probably because the frequent exposure of shallow-water nematodes to rather large environmental variations leads the faunal response to acidification to be complex and subtle. On the other hand, the density of the life-history strategy groups 3 and 4 and the structure of nematode assemblages were significantly affected by different pH levels throughout the exposure period. Both history strategy groups include all kinds of feeding groups. These results suggest that the impact of pH changes predicted by the years 2100 and 2300 may be strong enough to provide different traits or life-history strategies of nematodes to take advantage under changing conditions.

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Marine gastropods at higher trophic level show stronger tolerance to ocean acidification

Climate change and anthropogenic activities are producing a range of new selection pressures, both abiotic and biotic, on marine organisms. Although it is known that climate change can differentially affect fitness-related traits at different trophic levels of the food web, it is not clear if different trophic levels will respond via phenotypic plasticity in the form of maintenance of phenotypes in the face of abiotic and biotic environmental stress similarly. To answer this question, we combined a mesocosm experiment (120 days) using a food web comprising three gastropod species from two trophic levels (grazers and meso-predators) and a meta-analysis including 38 studies to address whether different trophic levels exhibit similar phenotypic responses to abiotic and biotic variables. Abiotic (ocean acidification) and biotic (predation) stress significantly influenced body mass, shell mass, shell thickness and shell strength in both grazers and meso-predators in the mesocosm experiment, with the magnitude of OA effects greater on the meso-predator than the grazers; a result supported by the meta-analysis. In contrast, both mesocosm experiment and meta-analysis found that predation risk induced stronger responses in shell morphology for grazers compared to meso-predators. Together, our findings indicate that higher trophic level species are better able to maintain aspects of their phenotype under OA, suggesting that they may show greater tolerance to climate change effects in general, while lower trophic levels express higher levels of plastic inducible defences to maintain function when under threat of predation. By using marine snails as a model, our study provides new knowledge for understanding how changing environmental conditions may alter biological interactions, and increases our understanding of how climate change may affect ecological communities in which gastropods play a key role.

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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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Impact of atmospheric dry deposition of nutrients on phytoplankton pigment composition and primary production in the coastal Bay of Bengal

Atmospheric deposition of pollutants decreases pH and increases the nutrient concentration in the surface water. To examine its impact on coastal phytoplankton composition and primary production, monthly atmospheric aerosol samples were mixed with coastal waters in the microcosm experiments. These experiments suggested that the biomass of Bacillariophyceae, Dinophyceae and Chlorophyceae were increased and primary production of the coastal waters increased by 3 to 19% due to the addition of aeolian nutrients. The increase in primary production displayed significant relation with a concentration of sulphate and nitrate in the atmospheric aerosols suggesting that both decreases in pH and fertilization enhanced primary production. The impact of acidification on primary production was found to be 22%, whereas 78% was contributed by the nutrient increase. The atmospheric pollution is increasing rapidly over the northern Indian Ocean since past two decades due to rapid industrialization. Hence, it is suggested that the impact of atmospheric pollution on the coastal ecosystem must be included in the numerical models to predict possible changes in the coastal ecosystem due to climate change.

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Amino acid nitrogen stable isotopes as biomarkers of coastal phytoplankton assemblages and food web interactions

Marine phytoplankton and zooplankton face rapidly changing environments in the face of global warming and climate change. We investigated the effect of warmer water and lower pH conditions—projected for New Zealand coastal waters at the start of the next century—on both phytoplankton and zooplankton in a 20 d mesocosm experiment to determine whether amino acid stable isotopes could be used as biomarkers of environmental change. We also assessed whether key environmental drivers, such as those linked to climate change, altered the processing of amino acids at the base of the food web. Despite changes in phytoplankton biomass and community composition, we found no significant difference in either particulate organic matter (POM) bulk or amino acid-specific δ15N values, indicating that the trophic status of POM was not significantly influenced by lower pH and warming. Threonine δ15N values were the most sensitive to changes in the phytoplankton community and showed correlations with diatoms (positive) and small flagellates (negative), demonstrating potential as a biomarker for detecting changes related to these phytoplankton groups and thus making threonine a promising indirect indicator of climate change. Finally, δ15NPhe values tracked changes in the lower food web, likely due to faster turnover times, showing its valuable role as a tracer of the nitrogen baseline, even during accelerated metabolism in zooplankton.

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The influence of climate change on marine bacterioplankton communities and greenhouse gases in New Zealand waters

Bacterioplankton communities play a fundamental role in the cycling of carbon and nitrogen in the oceans. Cycling of these nutrients by bacterioplankton also contributes to the production of nitrous oxide and methane, resulting in the oceans being a net source of both these greenhouse gases. Climate change is impacting the oceans through warming and acidification resulting in alteration of planktonic ecosystems, via changes in productivity, biomass, and species composition. The response of marine bacterioplankton communities to the direct effects of ocean warming and lowered pH, and to the indirect effects of changes in phytoplankton and zooplankton, has implications for biogeochemical cycling and therefore the production of nitrous oxide and methane. This thesis investigates the impact of both direct and indirect climate pressures by determining the influence of ocean warming and lowered pH on bacterioplankton and the production of methane and nitrous oxide in New Zealand coastal waters. It also assesses how open ocean bacterioplankton communities and dissolved methane and nitrous oxide are influenced by water mass properties and, in particular, how they may be affected by climate-induced changes in the distribution and abundance of salps, a dominant group of zooplankton.

To determine the impact of lower pH and warming on bacterioplankton community, production and abundance, coastal water was manipulated in three mesocosm experiments to projected future ocean temperature and pH. The experiments ran for 18-21 days using 4000-Litre mesocosms filled with coastal water and associated plankton communities, with pH and temperature continuously regulated. High-throughput sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene was used to determine bacterioplankton community composition and leucine incorporation was used to measure bacterial production during the experiments. Minor but significant increases in alpha diversity were seen under low pH and warming. However, overall results from the mesocosm experiments indicate resilience to ocean warming and low pH in coastal bacterioplankton communities, with no significant impacts on production, abundance or beta-diversity found. Bacterioplankton communities in coastal sites are likely to experience high natural variability, which may result in lack of sensitivity to projected climate change.

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Stable adult growth but reduced asexual fecundity in Marginopora vertebralis, under global climate change scenarios

Large benthic foraminifera are an integral component of shallow-water tropical habitats and like many marine calcifiers are susceptible to ocean acidification (OA) and ocean warming (OW). In particular, the prolific Symbiodiniaceae-bearing and high-magnesium calcite Marginopora vertebralis has a low threshold compared to several diatom-bearing and low-magnesium calcite species. In this multi-year mesocosm experiment we tested three RPC 8.5 climate change scenarios (i) present day, (ii) the year 2050, and (iii) 2100. To enable a realistic epiphytic association these experiments were uniquely conducted using natural carbonate substrate, living calcifying alga, and seagrass. In contrast to previous studies, we detected no reduction in surface-area growth under future climate conditions compared with present day conditions. In terms of calcification, M. vertebralis’ epiphytic association to primary producers (i.e., calcifying algae and seagrasses) potentially ameliorates the effects of OA by buffering against declines in boundary layer pH during periods of photosynthesis (i.e., CO2 removal). Importantly for population maintenance, we observed a strong reduction in asexual fecundity under the 2100 scenario. We propose the additional energy needed to maintain growth might be one reason for drastically reduced asexual reproduction. The other possibility could be due to the +2°C temperature increase, which interfered with the environmental synchronization that triggered asexual multiple fission. We conclude that the low levels of reproduction will reduce populations in a high CO2 environment and reduce a valuable source of CaCO3 sediment production.

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Assessing the effects of ocean warming and acidification on the seagrass Thalassia hemprichii

Seagrass beds serve as important carbon sinks, and it is thought that increasing the quantity and quality of such sinks could help to slow the rate of global climate change. Therefore, it will be important to (1) gain a better understanding of seagrass bed metabolism and (2) document how these high-productivity ecosystems are impacted by climate change-associated factors, such as ocean acidification (OA) and ocean warming (OW). A mesocosm-based approach was taken herein in which a tropical, Western Pacific seagrass species Thalassia hemprichii was cultured under either control or OA-simulating conditions; the temperature was gradually increased from 25 to 31 °C for both CO2 enrichment treatments, and it was hypothesized that this species would respond positively to OA and elevated temperature. After 12 weeks of exposure, OA (~1200 ppm) led to (1) increases in underground biomass and root C:N ratios and (2) decreases in root nitrogen content. Rising temperatures (25 to 31 °C) increased the maximum quantum yield of photosystem II (Fv:Fm), productivity, leaf growth rate, decomposition rate, and carbon sequestration, but decreased the rate of shoot density increase and the carbon content of the leaves; this indicates that warming alone does not increase the short-term carbon sink capacity of this seagrass species. Under high CO2 and the highest temperature employed (31 °C), this seagrass demonstrated its highest productivity, Fv:Fm, leaf growth rate, and carbon sequestration. Collectively, then, it appears that high CO2 levels offset the negative effects of high temperature on this seagrass species. Whether this pattern is maintained at temperatures that actually induce marked seagrass stress (likely beginning at 33–34 °C in Southern Taiwan) should be the focus of future research.

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Enhanced silica export in a future ocean triggers global diatom decline

Diatoms account for up to 40% of marine primary production and require silicic acid to grow and build their opal shell3. On the physiological and ecological level, diatoms are thought to be resistant to, or even benefit from, ocean acidification. Yet, global-scale responses and implications for biogeochemical cycles in the future ocean remain largely unknown. Here we conducted five in situ mesocosm experiments with natural plankton communities in different biomes and find that ocean acidification increases the elemental ratio of silicon (Si) to nitrogen (N) of sinking biogenic matter by 17 ± 6 per cent under pCO2 conditions projected for the year 2100. This shift in Si:N seems to be caused by slower chemical dissolution of silica at decreasing seawater pH. We test this finding with global sediment trap data, which confirm a widespread influence of pH on Si:N in the oceanic water column. Earth system model simulations show that a future pH-driven decrease in silica dissolution of sinking material reduces the availability of silicic acid in the surface ocean, triggering a global decline of diatoms by 13–26 per cent due to ocean acidification by the year 2200. This outcome contrasts sharply with the conclusions of previous experimental studies, thereby illustrating how our current understanding of biological impacts of ocean change can be considerably altered at the global scale through unexpected feedback mechanisms in the Earth system.

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Sinking diatoms trap silicon in deep seawater of acidified oceans

The seas are acidifying as a result of carbon dioxide emissions. It now emerges that this will alter the solubility of the shells of marine organisms called diatoms — and thereby change the distribution of nutrients and plankton in the ocean.

The ecologically dominant phytoplankton in much of the ocean are a group of unicellular organisms known as diatoms. Writing in Nature, Taucher et al. present a study that uses a combination of experimental, observational and modelling approaches to examine how the diatom-driven effects of ocean acidification — a consequence of rising carbon dioxide concentrations in seawater — will affect biogeochemical cycles. The separate lines of evidence suggest that ocean acidification will have far-reaching effects on the export of elements to the deep ocean.

Diatoms are highly efficient at converting dissolved CO2 into organic carbon through photosynthesis, whereupon this organic carbon becomes incorporated into particles that sink rapidly to the deep ocean. Diatoms therefore serve as primary engines of a ‘biological pump’ that exports carbon to the deep ocean for sequestration. Each diatom cell is enclosed in a shell of silica (SiO2, where Si is silicon), and the solubility of the silicon in this biomineral is pH-sensitive — it becomes less soluble as seawater acidity rises. Although these features of diatoms are familiar to marine scientists, their combined implications for future biogeochemical cycles in the context of ocean acidification had not been explored.

Enter Taucher and colleagues. They carried out a series of five experiments in various parts of the ocean in which natural phytoplankton communities were grown in large enclosures (with volumes of 35–75 cubic metres) known as mesocosms, which simulated future ocean acidification. When the authors measured the elemental composition of the diatom-derived debris at the bottom of the mesocosms, they observed much higher ratios of silicon to nitrogen than the ratios of particles suspended near the surface. This suggested that, at low seawater pH, diatom silica shells were dissolving much more slowly than nitrogen-containing compounds in the same sinking material. In other words, silicon was being exported from the surface to deeper waters preferentially to nitrogen. The authors validated this finding using records of silicon-to-nitrogen ratios in sinking biological detritus in the open ocean, measured as a function of seawater pH, and obtained from particle-collecting sediment traps deployed by research vessels.

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Ocean acidification alters the predator – prey relationship between hydrozoa and fish larvae

Anthropogenic CO2 emissions cause a drop in seawater pH and shift the inorganic carbon speciation. Collectively, the term ocean acidification (OA) summarizes these changes. Few studies have examined OA effects on predatory plankton, e.g. Hydrozoa and fish larvae as well as their interaction in complex natural communities. Because Hydrozoa can seriously compete with and prey on other higher-level predators such as fish, changes in their abundances may have significant consequences for marine food webs and ecosystem services. To investigate the interaction between Hydrozoa and fish larvae influenced by OA, we enclosed a natural plankton community in Raunefjord, Norway, for 53 days in eight ≈ 58 m³ pelagic mesocosms. CO2 levels in four mesocosms were increased to ≈ 2000 µatm pCO2, whereas the other four served as untreated controls. We studied OA-induced changes at the top of the food web by following ≈2000 larvae of Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) hatched inside each mesocosm during the first week of the experiment, and a Hydrozoa population that had already established inside the mesocosms. Under OA, we detected 20% higher abundance of hydromedusae staged jellyfish, but 25% lower biomass. At the same time, survival rates of Atlantic herring larvae were higher under OA (control pCO2: 0.1%, high pCO2: 1.7%) in the final phase of the study. These results indicate that a decrease in predation pressure shortly after hatch likely shaped higher herring larvae survival, when hydromedusae abundance was lower in the OA treatment compared to control conditions. We conclude that indirect food-web mediated OA effects drove the observed changes in the Hydrozoa – fish relationship, based on significant changes in the phyto-, micro-, and mesoplankton community under high pCO2. Ultimately, the observed immediate consequences of these changes for fish larvae survival and the balance of the Hydrozoa – fish larvae predator – prey relationship has important implications for the functioning of oceanic food webs.

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Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) and dimethyl sulfide (DMS) dynamics in the surface ocean

Dimethyl sulfide (DMS) is a trace gas produced in the ocean that plays an important role in climate and contributes to the Earths energy balance. DMS is a product of the enzymatic cleavage of dimethyl sulfoniopropionate (DMSP), which is produced by certain phytoplankton species and bacteria. Processes within the DMS/P cycles in the surface ocean are complex and vary with time and space. In the sea surface microlayer (SML), which is the interface between the ocean and the atmosphere, DMS concentration may be altered relative to subsurface water (SSW), by elevated biological activity, light intensity, and gas exchange. The aim of this thesis is to determine the importance of the SML in DMS/P dynamics and air-sea exchange by developing a more robust technique for SML sampling to better understand the dynamics of DMSP and DMS, and comparing their dynamics in the SML and SSW in coastal waters and the open ocean. In addition, the impact of warming and ocean acidification on DMS/P dynamics is investigated to determine how they will be impacted by future climate change.

To characterize DMS dynamics in the SML, a more effective method for sampling trace gases in the SML was developed (Chapter 2). The method is reliant on diffusion through a gas-permeable tube due to the concentration gradient. The floating tube was tested and calibrated under semi-controlled conditions using coastal water, where its reproducibility, accuracy and effectiveness were established. The potential benefits of this new technique for sampling trace gases in the SML include reduced loss of DMS to air. The higher reproducibility and accuracy compared to other techniques confirmed the potential of the floating tube technique for trace gas measurement in the SML.

The method developed in Chapter 2 was applied in sampling of DMS in the SML along a coastal-open ocean gradient (Chapter 3), and in various water masses of the open ocean (Chapter 4). In both chapters, DMSP and DMS dynamics were related to biological, biogeochemical, and physical properties of the SML and SSW. Sampling was conducted over 3 months at three different stations with different degrees of coastal and open water influence around Wellington, New Zealand in Chapter 3. DMSP was significantly enriched in the SML in most sampling events and DMSP and DMS enrichments were influenced by biological production and bacterial consumption. Overall, there was no temporal trends or coastal-offshore gradient in DMS or related biogeochemical variables in the SML. However, DMS concentration, and also DMS to DMSP ratio, were significantly correlated with solar radiation indicating a role for light as a determinant of DMSP and DMS in the SML. In open ocean waters around the Chatham Rise, east of New Zealand, the SML and SSW in water masses of different phytoplankton composition and biomass were sampled (Chapter 4). There was no chlorophyll a enrichment in the SML, and bacterial and DMSP enrichment were only apparent at one station, despite sampling within a phytoplankton bloom. Furthermore, there were no relationships between DMSP and phytoplankton biomass or community composition in the SML, although DMSP was negatively correlated with PAR. DMS was only significantly enriched in the SML at one station. DMS and DMSP concentrations were correlated in both SML and SSW, with the differing slopes attributed to DMS loss in the SML. Daily deck incubations were carried out to quantify DMSP and DMS processes in the SML, including the net effect of light on DMS/P, bacterial consumption of DMS/P and DMS production, and DMS air-sea flux. Air-sea flux was the main pathway with a DMS flux of 1.0-11.0 µmol m-2 d-1 that concurs with climatological predictions for the region. Excluding air-sea emission, biological DMS production was the dominant process in the SML relative to biological consumption and the net effect of light. SML DMS yield was not significantly different to that in the SSW, and consequently processes within the SML do not significantly affect regional DMS emissions.

The impact of ocean acidification and warming on DMSP and DMS concentrations was established for New Zealand coastal waters. Four mesocosm experiments, in which temperature and pH were manipulated to values projected for the years 2100 and 2150, were carried out over three years with the initial phytoplankton community differing in composition and bloom status (Chapter 6:). Temporal changes in DMSP and DMS were established and linked to changes in community composition and biogeochemistry. Results indicate that future warming may have greater influence on DMS production than ocean acidification. The observed reduction in DMSP at warmer temperatures was associated with changes in phytoplankton community, and in particular with a decrease in small flagellates. As nutrient availability also influenced the response this should also be considered in models of future DMS. Although DMS concentration decreased under future conditions of ocean acidification and higher temperature, this decrease was not as significant as reported by other studies.

The results in this thesis contribute to a better understanding of DMSP and DMS dynamics in the surface ocean. The floating tube method developed to sample DMS in the SML, will permit the study of DMS in the SML in various oceanic regions with improved accuracy. This technique may also have potential for measuring other trace gases in the SML. Application of this technique in coastal and open ocean waters demonstrated differences in DMS dynamics in the SML between these regions. DMS enrichment in the SML was rarely found, and DMS enrichment does not affect DMS air-sea flux significantly. Biological and biogeochemical variables and DMS/P process rates need to be established to further understanding of DMS/P dynamics in the SML and near surface water. Finally, results suggest that impacts of future climate change on DMS emissions may not be as significant as reported elsewhere, but that phytoplankton community composition plays a role and must be considered in future scenario models to better predict future DMS emissions. 

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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.

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Effect of temperature and pH on the Millepora alcicornis and Mussismilia harttii corals in light of a spectral reflectance response

The increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) atmospheric levels contributes to the rise in temperature and ocean acidification; consequently, it directly impacts coral reefs. The increase in seawater temperature is the primary factor that causes the collapse of coral-algal symbiosis, which can be followed by coral death and, generally, ocean acidification impairs biogenic calcification and promotes dissolution of carbonate substrata. These harmful effects on corals associated with the continuous increase in CO2 atmospheric levels raise widespread concerns about the coral reef decline, intensifying the efforts to understand/monitor their effects on these organisms. The objective of this study was to evaluate the physiological effect of temperature increase, water acidification (i.e. decrease in pH), and their effects combined (temperature increase with water acidification), through the reflectance analyses and maximum photosynthetic capacity of zooxanthellae (Fv/Fm) in two coral species: Millepora alcicornis and Mussismilia harttii. Fragments of four large colonies of each specie were collected, fragmented, and submitted to four different treatments for 15 days: (i) control treatment (under identical temperature and pH conditions observed in the sampling seawater site), (ii) temperature treatment (with an increase temperature of around ≅2ºC); (iii) water acidification treatment (with a decrease of nearly 0.3 in pH); and (iv) a treatment of combined effects from water temperature rising and acidification. Spectral reflectance and Fv/Fm were measured from samples of these species in a marine mesocosm. Data of reflectance, first and second-order derivative, area under the curve, full width at half maximum (FWHM), depth values and the Fv/Fm were used to classify the coral species and treatments through the linear discriminant analysis (LDA). Coral samples were exposed to the increased temperature bleached, whilst decreased pH caused a slight reduction in reflectance albedo with minimal effects on Fv/Fm. The combined factors (treatment iv) triggered a bleaching response, presenting spectral reflectance and colouring patterns similar to those observed in bleached corals, especially for M. alcicornis. The two-way ANOVA indicated statistically meaningful spectral differences between treatments for the second-order derivatives at 634 nm and for Fv/Fm values. However, there was no statistically meaningful interaction effect due to the treatment type and coral species response for the second-order derivative at 670 nm and to the Fv/Fm values. LDA classified the corals’ species and the corals in different treatment, using their spectral responses and Fv/Fm results, with high accuracy (96.7% and 73.3%, respectively), reinforcing its application for coral physiology evaluation and species classification. The control and combined groups achieved the best classification scores, with only one misclassification.

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Effects of ocean acidification on Lythrypnus dalli reproductive output and behavior

Reproduction in fishes is an energetically costly but vital process that is important to nearshore fisheries and proper ecosystem functioning. Successful fish reproduction is generally limited to a narrow breadth of specific environmental conditions, and variation in these conditions may affect the ability of fish to allocate energy towards reproduction. In particular, ocean acidification (OA) is generally assumed to be a major threat to fish reproduction, but past studies on the effects of OA have produced variable results. To examine how OA affects bluebanded goby (Lythrypnus dalli) reproduction, female reproductive output and male reproductive behaviors were quantified under two experimental treatments that represent differences between present-day (ambient) and future OA (decreased by 0.2 pH units) conditions. To do this, sexually mature bluebanded gobies were placed in laboratory mesocosms for continuous seven-day trials and allowed to reproduce in artificial nests. Four artificial nests were placed in each of the four mesocosms to provide fish with similar nesting habitats to encourage reproduction. Each mesocosm included similar fish size structures and numbers of female gobies to control for any size- or sex-dependent responses. Male reproductive behavior was quantified daily through visual assessment of their movement patterns within each mesocosm. Female reproductive output was quantified by checking the nests for the presence of eggs, which were photographed to evaluate egg quantity, size, and development. Results indicate that future OA conditions did not significantly affect any of the reproducti on metrics examined in this study. These results suggest that future changes in environmental factors such as seawater pH may not have dramatic effects on the reproductive output and behavior of bluebanded gobies.

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No evidence of altered relationship between diet and consumer fatty acid composition in a natural plankton community under combined climate drivers

Fatty acids (FA), especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), are key biomolecules involved in immune responses, reproduction, and membrane fluidity. PUFA in marine environments are synthesized exclusively by primary producers. Therefore the FA composition of these organisms at the base of the food web (i.e., phytoplankton) and their primary consumers (i.e., zooplankton) are important determinants of the health and productivity of entire ecosystems as they are transferred to higher trophic levels. However, environmental conditions such as seawater pH and temperature, which are already changing in response to climate change and predicted to continue to change in the future, can affect the FA composition of phytoplankton and zooplankton at both the organismal and community level. During a 20 day mesocosm experiment, we tested the effect of ocean acidification alone and in combination with ocean warming on 1) the fatty acid composition of a natural prey community for zooplankton (i.e. phytoplankton and microzooplankton), 2) the fatty acid composition of zooplankton, and 3) the relationship between prey and consumer fatty acid compositions in coastal waters. Significant effects of the climate stressors were not detected in the fatty acid composition of the prey or the relationship between diet and consumer fatty acids. A significant decrease in C18:4n-3 (stearidonic acid) was observed in the zooplankton but not their diet, but understanding the mechanism behind this decrease and its potential biological implications requires further investigation. These results highlight the importance of multi-stressor investigations on dynamics and variability contained within natural coastal plankton communities.

Continue reading ‘No evidence of altered relationship between diet and consumer fatty acid composition in a natural plankton community under combined climate drivers’

Phenotypic responses in fish behaviour narrow as climate ramps up

Natural selection alters the distribution of phenotypes as animals adjust their behaviour and physiology to environmental change. We have little understanding of the magnitude and direction of environmental filtering of phenotypes, and therefore how species might adapt to future climate, as trait selection under future conditions is challenging to study. Here, we test whether climate stressors drive shifts in the frequency distribution of behavioural and physiological phenotypic traits (17 fish species) at natural analogues of climate change (CO2 vents and warming hotspots) and controlled laboratory analogues (mesocosms and aquaria). We discovered that fish from natural populations (4 out of 6 species) narrowed their phenotypic distribution towards behaviourally bolder individuals as oceans acidify, representing loss of shyer phenotypes. In contrast, ocean warming drove both a loss (2/11 species) and gain (2/11 species) of bolder phenotypes in natural and laboratory conditions. The phenotypic variance within populations was reduced at CO2 vents and warming hotspots compared to control conditions, but this pattern was absent from laboratory systems. Fishes that experienced bolder behaviour generally showed increased densities in the wild. Yet, phenotypic alterations did not affect body condition, as all 17 species generally maintained their physiological homeostasis (measured across 5 different traits). Boldness is a highly heritable trait that is related to both loss (increased mortality risk) and gain (increased growth, reproduction) of fitness. Hence, climate conditions that mediate the relative occurrence of shy and bold phenotypes may reshape the strength of species interactions and consequently alter fish population and community dynamics in a future ocean.

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Coral calcification mechanisms in a warming ocean and the interactive effects of temperature and light

Ocean warming is transforming the world’s coral reefs, which are governed by the growth of marine calcifiers, most notably branching corals. Critical to skeletal growth is the corals’ regulation of their internal chemistry to promote calcification. Here we investigate the effects of temperature and light on the calcifying fluid chemistry (using boron isotope systematics), calcification rates, metabolic rates and photo-physiology of Acropora nasuta during two mesocosm experiments simulating seasonal and static temperature and light regimes. Under the seasonal regime, coral calcification rates, calcifying fluid carbonate chemistry, photo-physiology and metabolic productivity responded to both changes in temperature and light. However, under static conditions the artificially prolonged exposure to summer temperatures resulted in heat stress and a heightened sensitivity to light. Our results indicate that temperature and light effects on coral physiology and calcification mechanisms are interactive and context-specific, making it essential to conduct realistic multi-variate dynamic experiments in order to predict how coral calcification will respond to ocean warming.

Continue reading ‘Coral calcification mechanisms in a warming ocean and the interactive effects of temperature and light’

Can seagrass modify the effects of ocean acidification on oysters?


  • Effect of seagrass on oyster shell growth and extracellular pH at ambient pCO2
  • No effects of seagrass on oyster growth or extracellular pH at elevated pCO2
  • Microbiome of oysters was not affected by elevated pCO2.
  • Microbiome of seagrass was altered by elevated pCO2.
  • Seagrass may not modify the impacts of climate change.


Solutions are being sought to ameliorate the impacts of anthropogenic climate change. Seagrass may be a solution to provide refugia from climate change for marine organisms. This study aimed to determine if the seagrass Zostera muelleri sub spp. capricorni benefits the Sydney rock oyster Saccostrea glomerata, and if these benefits can modify any anticipated negative impacts of ocean acidification. Future and ambient ocean acidification conditions were simulated in 52 L mesocosms at control (381 μatm) and elevated (848 μatm) CO2 with and without Z. muelleri. Oyster growth, physiology and microbiomes of oysters and seagrass were measured. Seagrass was beneficial to oyster growth at ambient pCO2, but did not positively modify the impacts of ocean acidification on oysters at elevated pCO2. Oyster microbiomes were altered by the presence of seagrass but not by elevated pCO2. Our results indicate seagrasses may not be a panacea for the impacts of climate change.

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An integrated multiple driver mesocosm experiment reveals the effect of global change on planktonic food web structure

Global change puts coastal marine systems under pressure, affecting community structure and functioning. Here, we conducted a mesocosm experiment with an integrated multiple driver design to assess the impact of future global change scenarios on plankton, a key component of marine food webs. The experimental treatments were based on the RCP 6.0 and 8.5 scenarios developed by the IPCC, which were Extended (ERCP) to integrate the future predicted changing nutrient inputs into coastal waters. We show that simultaneous influence of warming, acidification, and increased N:P ratios alter plankton dynamics, favours smaller phytoplankton species, benefits microzooplankton, and impairs mesozooplankton. We observed that future environmental conditions may lead to the rise of Emiliania huxleyi and demise of Noctiluca scintillans, key species for coastal planktonic food webs. In this study, we identified a tipping point between ERCP 6.0 and ERCP 8.5 scenarios, beyond which alterations of food web structure and dynamics are substantial.

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