Posts Tagged 'mesocosms'

Insensitivities of a subtropical productive coastal plankton community and trophic transfer to ocean acidification: results from a microcosm study

• Lower apparent growth was observed under elevated CO2 of 1000 μatm.

• Primary production and trophic transfer were unaffected by high CO2.

• Fatty acid profiles of phyto-/zooplankton were unaffected by ocean acidification.

Ocean acidification (OA) has potential to affect marine phytoplankton in ways that are partly understood, but there is less knowledge about how it may alter the coupling to secondary producers. We investigated the effects of OA on phytoplankton primary production, and its trophic transfer to zooplankton in a subtropical eutrophic water (Wuyuan Bay, China) under present day (400 μatm) and projected end-of-century (1000 μatm) pCO2 levels. Net primary production was unaffected, although OA did lead to small decreases in growth rates. OA had no measurable effect on micro-/mesozooplankton grazing rates. Elevated pCO2 had no effect on phytoplankton fatty acid (FA) concentrations during exponential phase, but saturated FAs increased relative to the control during declining phase. FA profiles of mesozooplankton were unaffected. Our findings show that short-term exposure of plankton communities in eutrophic subtropical waters to projected end-of-century OA conditions has little effect on primary productivity and trophic linkage to mesozooplankton.

Continue reading ‘Insensitivities of a subtropical productive coastal plankton community and trophic transfer to ocean acidification: results from a microcosm study’

A new mesocosm system to study the effects of environmental variability on marine species and communities

Climate change will shift mean environmental conditions and also increase the frequency and intensity of extreme events, exerting additional stress on ecosystems. While field observations on extremes are emerging, experimental evidence of their biological consequences is rare. Here, we introduce a mesocosm system that was developed to study the effects of environmental variability of multiple drivers (temperature, salinity, pH, light) on single species and communities at various temporal scales (diurnal ‐ seasonal): the Kiel Indoor Benthocosms (KIBs). Both, real‐time offsets from field measurements or various dynamic regimes of environmental scenarios, can be implemented, including sinusoidal curve functions at any chosen amplitude or frequency, stochastic regimes matching in situ dynamics of previous years and modeled extreme events. With temperature as the driver in focus, we highlight the strengths and discuss limitations of the system. In addition, we examined the effects of different sinusoidal temperature fluctuation frequencies on mytilid mussel performance. High‐frequency fluctuations around a warming mean (+2°C warming, ± 2°C fluctuations, wavelength = 1.5 d) increased mussel growth as did a constant warming of 2°C. Fluctuations at a lower frequency (+2 and ± 2°C, wavelength = 4.5 d), however, reduced the mussels’ growth. This shows that environmental fluctuations, and importantly their associated characteristics (such as frequency), can mediate the strength of global change impacts on a key marine species. The here presented mesocosm system can help to overcome a major short‐coming of marine experimental ecology and will provide more robust data for the prediction of shifts in ecosystem structure and services in a changing and fluctuating world.

Continue reading ‘A new mesocosm system to study the effects of environmental variability on marine species and communities’

Effects of elevated CO2 on a natural diatom community in the subtropical NE Atlantic

Diatoms are silicifying phytoplankton contributing about one quarter to primary production on Earth. Ocean acidification (OA) could alter the competitiveness of diatoms relative to other taxa and/or lead to shifts among diatom species. In spring 2016, we set up a plankton community experiment at the coast of Gran Canaria (Canary Islands, Spain) to investigate the response of subtropical diatom assemblages to elevated seawater pCO2. Therefore, natural plankton communities were enclosed for 32 days in in situ mesocosms (∼8 m3 volume) with a pCO2 gradient ranging from 380 to 1140 μatm. Halfway through the study we added nutrients to all mesocosms (N, P, Si) to simulate injections through eddy-induced upwelling which frequently occurs in the region. We found that the total diatom biomass remained unaffected during oligotrophic conditions but was significantly positively affected by high CO2 after nutrient enrichment. The average cell volume and carbon content of the diatom community increased with CO2. CO2 effects on diatom biomass and species composition were weak during oligotrophic conditions but became quite strong above ∼620 μatm after the nutrient enrichment. We hypothesize that the proliferation of diatoms under high CO2 may have been caused by a fertilization effect on photosynthesis in combination with reduced grazing pressure. Our results suggest that OA in the subtropics may strengthen the competitiveness of (large) diatoms and cause changes in diatom community composition, mostly under conditions when nutrients are injected into oligotrophic systems.

Continue reading ‘Effects of elevated CO2 on a natural diatom community in the subtropical NE Atlantic’

Seagrass can mitigate negative ocean acidification effects on calcifying algae

The ultimate effect that ocean acidification (OA) and warming will have on the physiology of calcifying algae is still largely uncertain. Responses depend on the complex interactions between seawater chemistry, global/local stressors and species-specific physiologies. There is a significant gap regarding the effect that metabolic interactions between coexisting species may have on local seawater chemistry and the concurrent effect of OA. Here, we manipulated CO2 and temperature to evaluate the physiological responses of two common photoautotrophs from shallow tropical marine coastal ecosystems in Brazil: the calcifying alga Halimeda cuneata, and the seagrass Halodule wrightii. We tested whether or not seagrass presence can influence the calcification rate of a widespread and abundant species of Halimeda under OA and warming. Our results demonstrate that under elevated CO2, the high photosynthetic rates of H. wrightii contribute to raise H. cuneata calcification more than two-fold and thus we suggest that H. cuneata populations coexisting with H. wrightii may have a higher resilience to OA conditions. This conclusion supports the more general hypothesis that, in coastal and shallow reef environments, the metabolic interactions between calcifying and non-calcifying organisms are instrumental in providing refuge against OA effects and increasing the resilience of the more OA-susceptible species.

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Implicações fisiológicas e ecológicas de interações interespecíficas nos bentos marinho-subsídio para o entendimento de cenários atuais e futuros (in Portuguese)

Biotic interactions are increasingly known to shape ecosystem community structure. Recently, there has been a renewed focus on species interactions in light of global change, especially ocean warming (OW) and ocean acidification (OA) in marine ecosystems. In coastal environments, macroalgae are among the most important taxa as they are often the most abundant primary producers and form the base of food webs. However, due to their sedentary nature, they are also vulnerable to the effects of climate change. In order to better understand how species interactions will be affected by climate change stressors, a solid understanding of how interspecies interactions operate under present-day conditions is needed. The first chapter of this thesis attempts to characterize seasonal variation in macroalgal physiology and biochemistry, and how interspecific interactions might affect algal fitness and palatability to a sea urchin herbivore (Echinometra lucunter). Specimens of Jania rubens, Sargassum cymosum, and Ulva lactuca were collected from monospecific patches or from associations , where individuals were in physical contact with another species, in both summer and winter. Net photosynthesis, nitrogen reductase activity, and pigment, phenolic and carbonate content of algae were evaluated among different associations across the two seasons. The results indicate that in addition to seasonal variation in most parameters measured, interactions between algae could change in both magnitude and sign (positive, negative or neutral) in different seasons. The no-choice herbivory assay (conducted in winter) revealed that both Jania and Ulva were consumed at higher rates when they were associated with each other, whereas Sargassum was not affected. These results suggest that macroalgae may influence the physiology and biochemical composition of neighboring species and subsequently affect their palatability, which may influence local community structure. To further evaluate effects of species interactions under climate change stressors, an experiment was performed to assess algal-herbivore interactions under OW and OA conditions. The most preferentially consumed algae from the first experiment (Jania rubens) and the sea urchin E. lucunter were evaluated in a 21-day mesocosm study with treatments of control, OW, OA, and OW+OA. Algal physiology was unaffected by increased temperature (+4°C) and pCO2 (1,000 ppm), but changes in the biochemical composition of the algal tissue were found. Metabolic rates of the sea urchin E. lucunter were higher in the ambient temperature, high pCO2 treatment, and feeding assays showed that this influenced consumption, with increased feeding rates in this treatment. The results here show that although algal biochemical composition was affected by future pCO2, at least in the short term, direct effects to sea urchin metabolism were more important for impacting this algae-herbivore interaction.

Continue reading ‘Implicações fisiológicas e ecológicas de interações interespecíficas nos bentos marinho-subsídio para o entendimento de cenários atuais e futuros (in Portuguese)’

Context-dependence of abiotic and biotic factors influencing performance of juvenile clams


• We found site-level variability in performance of two sizes of juvenile Manila clams.

• Field experiments concurrently assessed the roles of biotic and abiotic variables.

• Performance was particularly impaired at one site with hot summer porewater temperatures.

• Under greater abiotic stress, smaller clams suffered more losses than large.

• Salinity, elevation, and pH were less important to survival than was predator density.


Post-settlement survival and growth of bivalves can be limited by abiotic and biotic factors, both of which are spatially variable. Rarely has the importance of these factors been tested concurrently in the field. Our study spanned three spatial scales in estuarine waters of Washington state (Region: north vs. south; Within-region: fresher vs. saline; Within-site: mid- vs. low-tidal elevation). Predator access and sediment conditions were manipulated in a crossed experimental design, with juvenile (3-mm and 6-mm) Manila clams (Ruditapes philippinarum) outplanted in open- or closed-top mesh tubes. We found differences between treatments that appeared only at sites with cancrid crabs, suggesting that predators, rather than emigration, likely reduced numbers of clams in open tubes. We had hypothesized that clams at lower tidal elevations, which experience longer immersion times, would show improved growth but reduced survivorship because of greater exposure to marine predators. However, these patterns were evident at only one of three sites (lower-elevation treatments were lost at the fourth). The larger size class of clams was more tolerant of abiotic stressors at all sites, but the magnitude of difference in survival between size classes was sometimes dependent on other treatments. The maximum predator effect on survival was 74% (north, high salinity, low-intertidal site), whereas the maximum abiotic effect appeared as 62% lower survival and 59% slower growth for 3-mm clams at another site (north, fresher). In laboratory trials, high water temperatures (28–32 °C) and low salinity (5–15) acted synergistically to cause juvenile clam (6–12 mm) mortality, whereas clams tolerated each of these stressors alone. Context-dependence in the relative importance of predation and abiotic stressors was apparent in our results, but contrary to expectations, abiotic stressors did not characterize southern or fresher sites. Instead, extreme high temperatures occurred at the site with the wide tidal flat rather than in the south, and the within-region salinity differences appeared not to exceed tolerances of juvenile clams.

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Future climate change is predicted to affect the microbiome and condition of habitat-forming kelp

Climate change is driving global declines of marine habitat-forming species through physiological effects and through changes to ecological interactions, with projected trajectories for ocean warming and acidification likely to exacerbate such impacts in coming decades. Interactions between habitat-formers and their microbiomes are fundamental for host functioning and resilience, but how such relationships will change in future conditions is largely unknown. We investigated independent and interactive effects of warming and acidification on a large brown seaweed, the kelp Ecklonia radiata, and its associated microbiome in experimental mesocosms. Microbial communities were affected by warming and, during the first week, by acidification. During the second week, kelp developed disease-like symptoms previously observed in the field. The tissue of some kelp blistered, bleached and eventually degraded, particularly under the acidification treatments, affecting photosynthetic efficiency. Microbial communities differed between blistered and healthy kelp for all treatments, except for those under future conditions of warming and acidification, which after two weeks resembled assemblages associated with healthy hosts. This indicates that changes in the microbiome were not easily predictable as the severity of future climate scenarios increased. Future ocean conditions can change kelp microbiomes and may lead to host disease, with potentially cascading impacts on associated ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Future climate change is predicted to affect the microbiome and condition of habitat-forming kelp’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book