Posts Tagged 'mesocosms'

Net community metabolism and seawater carbonate chemistry scale non-intuitively with coral cover

Coral cover and reef health have been declining globally as reefs face local and global stressors including higher temperature and ocean acidification (OA). Ocean warming and acidification will alter rates of benthic reef metabolism (i.e., primary production, respiration, calcification, and CaCO3 dissolution), but our understanding of community and ecosystem level responses is limited in terms of functional, spatial, and temporal scales. Furthermore, dramatic changes in coral cover and benthic metabolism could alter seawater carbonate chemistry on coral reefs, locally alleviating or exacerbating OA. This study examines how benthic metabolic rates scale with changing coral cover (0-100%), and the subsequent influence of these coral communities on seawater carbonate chemistry based on mesocosm experiments in Bermuda and Hawaii. In Bermuda, no significant differences in benthic metabolism or seawater carbonate chemistry were observed for low (40%) and high (80%) coral cover due to large variability within treatments. In contrast, significant differences were detected between treatments in Hawaii with benthic metabolic rates increasing with increasing coral cover. Observed increases in daily net community calcification and nighttime net respiration scaled proportionally with coral cover. This was not true for daytime net community organic carbon production rates, which increased the most between 0 to 20% coral cover and then less so between 20% to 100%. These differences in scaling resulted in larger diel variability in seawater carbonate chemistry as coral cover increased. To place the results of the mesocosm experiments into a broader context, in situ seawater carbon dioxide (CO2) at three reef sites in Bermuda and Hawaii were also evaluated; reefs with higher coral cover experienced a greater range of diel CO2 levels, complementing the mesocosm results. The results from this study highlight the need to consider the natural complexity of reefs and additional biological and physical factors that influence seawater carbonate chemistry on larger spatial and longer temporal scales. Coordinated efforts combining various research approaches (e.g. experiments, field studies, and models) will be required to better understand how benthic metabolism integrates across functional, spatial, and temporal scales, and for making predictions on how coral reefs will respond to climate change.

Continue reading ‘Net community metabolism and seawater carbonate chemistry scale non-intuitively with coral cover’

Ocean acidification in the Baltic Sea : implications for the bivalve Macoma balthica

The Baltic Sea is one of the most human-impacted sea areas in the world and its ecosystems are exposed to a variety of stressors of anthropogenic origin. Large changes in the environmental conditions, species and communities of the Baltic Sea are predicted to occur due to global climate change, but the extent and magnitude of the future changes are challenging to estimate due to the multiple stressors simultaneously impacting the system. As an additional threat, future ocean acidification will play a role in modifying the environmental conditions, and these CO2-induced changes are predicted to be fast in the Baltic Sea. This is especially of concern for the species-poor, but functionally essential benthic communities where key species such as bivalve Macoma balthica live at the limits of their tolerance range, and are already regularly disturbed by environmental stressors such as hypoxia. Currently, only very limited knowledge about the effects of future ocean acidification exists for this species.

The overall aim of my thesis was to develop an understanding of the effects of CO2 increase on the vulnerability of Baltic Sea key species, and how this is related to other effects of climate change, e.g. an increase in bottom-water hypoxia. Specifically, I investigated how different life stages of the infaunal bivalve M. balthica could be affected by future ocean acidification. Survival, growth, behaviour and physiological responses were assessed in a combination of laboratory and mesocosm experiments by exposing different life stages of M. balthica to different pH levels over different time periods depending on the life stage in question. While some life stage-based differences in vulnerability and survival were found, the results indicate that reduced pH has a negative effect on all life stages. In larval M. balthica, even a slight pH decrease was found to cause significant negative changes during that delicate life stage, both by slowing growth and by decreasing survival. Other observed impacts included delayed settling of the post-larvae and increasing energetic demand of adult bivalves.

The results suggest consistent negative effects at all life stages with potential major implications for the resilience of M. Balthica populations, which are currently under threat from a range of anthropogenic stressors such as increasing hypoxia. The kind of experimental studies conducted in this thesis are useful for pinpointing mechanisms, but they are always simplifications of reality, however, and are usually conducted over time scales that are short in relation to the time scales over which ocean acidification is affecting populations, communities and ecosystems. To fully understand and to be able to estimate how the complex ecosystems are about to change in the future, incorporating more of the biotic interactions, impacting stressors and relevant environmental conditions are needed for increasing the level of realism in the experiments.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification in the Baltic Sea : implications for the bivalve Macoma balthica’

Boosted food web productivity through ocean acidification collapses under warming

Future climate is forecast to drive bottom-up (resource driven) and top-down (consumer driven) change to food web dynamics and community structure. Yet, our predictive understanding of these changes is hampered by an over-reliance on simplified laboratory systems centred on single trophic levels. Using a large mesocosm experiment, we reveal how future ocean acidification and warming modify trophic linkages across a three-level food web: that is, primary (algae), secondary (herbivorous invertebrates) and tertiary (predatory fish) producers. Both elevated CO2 and elevated temperature boosted primary production. Under elevated CO2, the enhanced bottom-up forcing propagated through all trophic levels. Elevated temperature, however, negated the benefits of elevated CO2 by stalling secondary production. This imbalance caused secondary producer populations to decline as elevated temperature drove predators to consume their prey more rapidly in the face of higher metabolic demand. Our findings demonstrate how anthropogenic CO2 can function as a resource that boosts productivity throughout food webs, and how warming can reverse this effect by acting as a stressor to trophic interactions. Understanding the shifting balance between the propagation of resource enrichment and its consumption across trophic levels provides a predictive understanding of future dynamics of stability and collapse in food webs and fisheries production.

Continue reading ‘Boosted food web productivity through ocean acidification collapses under warming’

Ocean acidification effects on mesozooplankton community development: Results from a long-term mesocosm experiment

Ocean acidification may affect zooplankton directly by decreasing in pH, as well as indirectly via trophic pathways, where changes in carbon availability or pH effects on primary producers may cascade up the food web thereby altering ecosystem functioning and community composition. Here, we present results from a mesocosm experiment carried out during 113 days in the Gullmar Fjord, Skagerrak coast of Sweden, studying plankton responses to predicted end-of-century pCO2 levels. We did not observe any pCO2 effect on the diversity of the mesozooplankton community, but a positive pCO2 effect on the total mesozooplankton abundance. Furthermore, we observed species-specific sensitivities to pCO2 in the two major groups in this experiment, copepods and hydromedusae. Also stage-specific pCO2 sensitivities were detected in copepods, with copepodites being the most responsive stage. Focusing on the most abundant species, Pseudocalanus acuspes, we observed that copepodites were significantly more abundant in the high-pCO2 treatment during most of the experiment, probably fuelled by phytoplankton community responses to high-pCO2 conditions. Physiological and reproductive output was analysed on P. acuspes females through two additional laboratory experiments, showing no pCO2 effect on females’ condition nor on egg hatching. Overall, our results suggest that the Gullmar Fjord mesozooplankton community structure is not expected to change much under realistic end-of-century OA scenarios as used here. However, the positive pCO2 effect detected on mesozooplankton abundance could potentially affect biomass transfer to higher trophic levels in the future.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification effects on mesozooplankton community development: Results from a long-term mesocosm experiment’

Potential sources of variability in mesocosm experiments on the response of phytoplankton to ocean acidification (update)

Mesocosm experiments on phytoplankton dynamics under high CO2 concentrations mimic the response of marine primary producers to future ocean acidification. However, potential acidification effects can be hindered by the high standard deviation typically found in the replicates of the same CO2 treatment level. In experiments with multiple unresolved factors and a sub-optimal number of replicates, post-processing statistical inference tools might fail to detect an effect that is present. We propose that in such cases, data-based model analyses might be suitable tools to unearth potential responses to the treatment and identify the uncertainties that could produce the observed variability. As test cases, we used data from two independent mesocosm experiments. Both experiments showed high standard deviations and, according to statistical inference tools, biomass appeared insensitive to changing CO2 conditions. Conversely, our simulations showed earlier and more intense phytoplankton blooms in modeled replicates at high CO2 concentrations and suggested that uncertainties in average cell size, phytoplankton biomass losses, and initial nutrient concentration potentially outweigh acidification effects by triggering strong variability during the bloom phase. We also estimated the thresholds below which uncertainties do not escalate to high variability. This information might help in designing future mesocosm experiments and interpreting controversial results on the effect of acidification or other pressures on ecosystem functions.

Continue reading ‘Potential sources of variability in mesocosm experiments on the response of phytoplankton to ocean acidification (update)’

A data–model synthesis to explain variability in calcification observed during a CO2 perturbation mesocosm experiment (update)

The effect of ocean acidification on growth and calcification of the marine algae Emiliania huxleyi was investigated in a series of mesocosm experiments where enclosed water volumes that comprised a natural plankton community were exposed to different carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations. Calcification rates observed during those experiments were found to be highly variable, even among replicate mesocosms that were subject to similar CO2 perturbations. Here, data from an ocean acidification mesocosm experiment are reanalysed with an optimality-based dynamical plankton model. According to our model approach, cellular calcite formation is sensitive to variations in CO2 at the organism level. We investigate the temporal changes and variability in observations, with a focus on resolving observed differences in total alkalinity and particulate inorganic carbon (PIC). We explore how much of the variability in the data can be explained by variations of the initial conditions and by the level of CO2 perturbation. Nine mesocosms of one experiment were sorted into three groups of high, medium, and low calcification rates and analysed separately. The spread of the three optimised ensemble model solutions captures most of the observed variability. Our results show that small variations in initial abundance of coccolithophores and the prevailing physiological acclimation states generate differences in calcification that are larger than those induced by ocean acidification. Accordingly, large deviations between optimal mass flux estimates of carbon and of nitrogen are identified even between mesocosms that were subject to similar ocean acidification conditions. With our model-based data analysis we document how an ocean acidification response signal in calcification can be disentangled from the observed variability in PIC.

Continue reading ‘A data–model synthesis to explain variability in calcification observed during a CO2 perturbation mesocosm experiment (update)’

Acclimation of bloom-forming and perennial seaweeds to elevated pCO2 conserved across levels of environmental complexity

Macroalgae contribute approximately 15% of the primary productivity in coastal marine ecosystems, fix up to 27.4 Tg of carbon per year, and provide important structural components for life in coastal waters. Despite this ecological and commercial importance, direct measurements and comparisons of the short-term responses to elevated pCO2 in seaweeds with different life-history strategies are scarce. Here, we cultured several seaweed species (bloom-forming/non-bloom-forming/perennial/annual) in the laboratory, in tanks in an in-door mesocosm facility, and in coastal mesocosms under pCO2 levels ranging from 400 μatm to 2000 μatm. We find that, across all scales of the experimental set-up, ephemeral species of the genus Ulva increase their photosynthesis and growth rates in response to elevated pCO2 the most, whereas longer-lived perennial species show a smaller increase or a decrease. These differences in short-term growth- and photosynthesis rates are likely to give bloom-forming green seaweeds a competitive advantage in mixed communities, and our results thus suggest that coastal seaweed assemblages in eutrophic waters may undergo an initial shift toward communities dominated by bloom-forming, short-lived seaweeds.

Continue reading ‘Acclimation of bloom-forming and perennial seaweeds to elevated pCO2 conserved across levels of environmental complexity’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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