Posts Tagged 'mesocosms'

Calcification responses to diurnal variation in seawater carbonate chemistry by the coral Acropora formosa

Significant diurnal variation in seawater carbonate chemistry occurs naturally in many coral reef environments, yet little is known of its effect on coral calcification. Laboratory studies on the response of corals to ocean acidification have manipulated the carbonate chemistry of experimental seawater to compare calcification rate changes under present-day and predicted future mean pH/Ωarag conditions. These experiments, however, have focused exclusively on differences in mean chemistry and have not considered diurnal variation. The aim of this study was to compare calcification responses of branching coral Acropora formosa under conditions with and without diurnal variation in seawater carbonate chemistry. To achieve this aim, we explored (1) a method to recreate natural diurnal variation in a laboratory experiment using the biological activities of a coral-reef mesocosm, and (2) a multi-laser 3D scanning method to accurately measure coral surface areas, essential to normalize their calcification rates. We present a cost- and time-efficient method of coral surface area estimation that is reproducible within 2% of the mean of triplicate measurements. Calcification rates were compared among corals subjected to a diurnal range in pH (total scale) from 7.8 to 8.2, relative to those at constant pH values of 7.8, 8.0 or 8.2. Mean calcification rates of the corals at the pH 7.8–8.2 (diurnal variation) treatment were not statistically different from the pH 8.2 treatment and were 34% higher than the pH 8.0 treatment despite similar mean seawater pH and Ωarag. Our results suggest that calcification of adult coral colonies may benefit from diurnal variation in seawater carbonate chemistry. Experiments that compare calcification rates at different constant pH without considering diurnal variation may have limitations.

Continue reading ‘Calcification responses to diurnal variation in seawater carbonate chemistry by the coral Acropora formosa’

Early life behaviour and sensory ecology of predatory fish under climate change and ocean acidification

The early life cycle of a fish species is presumed to be the most vulnerable to abiotic change. Their successful development and growth is key to sustaining and connecting existing populations and dispersal to new habitats. Larvae and juvenile fish have to progressively develop and fine tune their behavioural and sensory capabilities in order to successfully hunt and or forage for prey, avoid larger predators and find suitable habitat to reach maturity and reproduce. Their sensory capabilities typically involve multiple senses including, vision, olfaction and audition. Ocean warming and acidification alter the physiological performance and behaviour of many small bodied fish, however, the potential interactive effects of these stressors on large predatory fish has not been explored fully and may act synergistically or antagonistically. Predatory fish can have large effects on trophically-structured systems. The potential for altered predatory function through alterations in their metabolism as a result of temperature and behaviour from ocean acidification may not only affect their hunting ability but also the communities in which their prey live. In this thesis, I show that the combination of ocean warming with acidification can alter the metabolic function and hunting behaviour of a predatory shark leading to considerable reductions in growth rates. Laboratory experiments revealed faster embryonic development under elevated temperature, however elevated temperature and CO2 had detrimental impacts on sharks by increasing energetic demands. Subsequent mesocosm experiments showed reductions in growth rates under elevated CO2 either alone or in combination with elevated temperatures, where their metabolic efficiency was decreased and their ability to locate food through olfaction was reduced. Additionally, while elevated temperature increased the motivational drive to locate prey, elevated CO2 negated chemical and visual behavioural responses that enable effective hunting. I also found that ocean acidification alone altered the physicochemical sensing in a predatory teleost fish (Barramundi) such that cues for temperature and salinity were inhibited by reduced pH. This thesis reveals a more complex reality for predators where the combination of elevated temperature and CO2 reduces their ability to hunt effectively leading to smaller sharks, ultimately reduces their ability to exert strong top-down control over food webs. Furthermore, alterations to their perception and evaluation of environmental cues during the critical phase of dispersal have implications for ensuing recruitment and population replenishment. Alterations such as the ones brought about by ocean acidification and increased temperature far reaching consequences, not just for the individual predator population’s sustainability, but also the ecosystem food webs which they inhabit.

Continue reading ‘Early life behaviour and sensory ecology of predatory fish under climate change and ocean acidification’

Influence of ocean acidification and deep water upwelling on oligotrophic plankton communities in the subtropical North Atlantic: Insights from an in situ mesocosm study

Oceanic uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) causes pronounced shifts in marine carbonate chemistry and a decrease in seawater pH. Increasing evidence indicates that these changes – summarized by the term ocean acidification (OA) – can significantly affect marine food webs and biogeochemical cycles. However, current scientific knowledge is largely based on laboratory experiments with single species and artificial boundary conditions, whereas studies of natural plankton communities are still relatively rare. Moreover, the few existing community-level studies were mostly conducted in rather eutrophic environments, while less attention has been paid to oligotrophic systems such as the subtropical ocean gyres.

Here we report from a recent in situ mesocosm experiment off the coast of Gran Canaria in the eastern subtropical North Atlantic, where we investigated the influence of OA on the ecology and biogeochemistry of plankton communities in oligotrophic waters under close-to-natural conditions. This paper is the first in this Research Topic of Frontiers in Marine Biogeochemistry and provides (1) a detailed overview of the experimental design and important events during our mesocosm campaign, and (2) first insights into the ecological responses of plankton communities to simulated OA over the course of the 62-day experiment.

One particular scientific objective of our mesocosm experiment was to investigate how OA impacts might differ between oligotrophic conditions and phases of high biological productivity, which regularly occur in response to upwelling of nutrient-rich deep water in the study region. Therefore, we specifically developed a deep water collection system that allowed us to obtain ~85 m3 of seawater from ~650 m depth. Thereby, we replaced ~20% of each mesocosm’s volume with deep water, and thus successfully simulated a deep water upwelling event that induced a pronounced plankton bloom.

Our study revealed significant effects of OA on the entire food web, leading to a restructuring of plankton communities that emerged during the oligotrophic phase, and was further amplified during the bloom that developed in response to deep water addition. Such CO2-related shifts in plankton community composition could have consequences for ecosystem productivity, biomass transfer to higher trophic levels, and biogeochemical element cycling of oligotrophic ocean regions.

Continue reading ‘Influence of ocean acidification and deep water upwelling on oligotrophic plankton communities in the subtropical North Atlantic: Insights from an in situ mesocosm study’

Change in Emiliania huxleyi virus assemblage diversity but not in host genetic composition during an ocean acidification mesocosm experiment

Effects of elevated pCO2 on Emiliania huxleyi genetic diversity and the viruses that infect E. huxleyi (EhVs) have been investigated in large volume enclosures in a Norwegian fjord. Triplicate enclosures were bubbled with air enriched with CO2 to 760 ppmv whilst the other three enclosures were bubbled with air at ambient pCO2; phytoplankton growth was initiated by the addition of nitrate and phosphate. E. huxleyi was the dominant coccolithophore in all enclosures, but no difference in genetic diversity, based on DGGE analysis using primers specific to the calcium binding protein gene (gpa) were detected in any of the treatments. Chlorophyll concentrations and primary production were lower in the three elevated pCO2 treatments than in the ambient treatments. However, although coccolithophores numbers were reduced in two of the high-pCO2 treatments; in the third, there was no suppression of coccolithophores numbers, which were very similar to the three ambient treatments. In contrast, there was considerable variation in genetic diversity in the EhVs, as determined by analysis of the major capsid protein (mcp) gene. EhV diversity was much lower in the high-pCO2 treatment enclosure that did not show inhibition of E. huxleyi growth. Since virus infection is generally implicated as a major factor in terminating phytoplankton blooms, it is suggested that no study of the effect of ocean acidification in phytoplankton can be complete if it does not include an assessment of viruses.

Continue reading ‘Change in Emiliania huxleyi virus assemblage diversity but not in host genetic composition during an ocean acidification mesocosm experiment’

Effects of ocean acidification on primary production in a coastal North Sea phytoplankton community

We studied the effect of ocean acidification (OA) on a coastal North Sea plankton community in a long-term mesocosm CO2-enrichment experiment (BIOACID II long-term mesocosm study). From March to July 2013, 10 mesocosms of 19 m length with a volume of 47.5 to 55.9 m3 were deployed in the Gullmar Fjord, Sweden. CO2 concentrations were enriched in five mesocosms to reach average CO2 partial pressures (pCO2) of 760 μatm. The remaining five mesocosms were used as control at ambient pCO2 of 380 μatm. Our paper is part of a PLOS collection on this long-term mesocosm experiment. Here, we here tested the effect of OA on total primary production (PPT) by performing 14C-based bottle incubations for 24 h. Furthermore, photoacclimation was assessed by conducting 14C-based photosynthesis-irradiance response (P/I) curves. Changes in chlorophyll a concentrations over time were reflected in the development of PPT, and showed higher phytoplankton biomass build-up under OA. We observed two subsequent phytoplankton blooms in all mesocosms, with peaks in PPT around day 33 and day 56. OA had no significant effect on PPT, except for a marginal increase during the second phytoplankton bloom when inorganic nutrients were already depleted. Maximum light use efficiencies and light saturation indices calculated from the P/I curves changed simultaneously in all mesocosms, and suggest that OA did not alter phytoplankton photoacclimation. Despite large variability in time-integrated productivity estimates among replicates, our overall results indicate that coastal phytoplankton communities can be affected by OA at certain times of the seasonal succession with potential consequences for ecosystem functioning.

Continue reading ‘Effects of ocean acidification on primary production in a coastal North Sea phytoplankton community’

Phytoplankton blooms at increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide: experimental evidence for negative effects on prymnesiophytes and positive on small picoeukaryotes

Anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and the ongoing accumulation in the surface ocean together with concomitantly decreasing pH and calcium carbonate saturation states have the potential to impact phytoplankton community composition and therefore biogeochemical element cycling on a global scale. Here we report on a recent mesocosm CO2 perturbation study (Raunefjorden, Norway), with a focus on organic matter and phytoplankton dynamics. Cell numbers of three phytoplankton groups were particularly affected by increasing levels of seawater CO2 throughout the entire experiment, with the cyanobacterium Synechococcus and picoeukaryotes (prasinophytes) profiting, and the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi (prymnesiophyte) being negatively impacted. Combining these results with other phytoplankton community CO2 experiments into a data-set of global coverage suggests that, whenever CO2 effects are found, prymnesiophyte (coccolithophore) abundances are negatively affected, while the opposite holds true for small picoeukaryotes belonging to the class of prasinophytes, or the division of chlorophytes in general. Future reductions in calcium carbonate-producing coccolithophores, providing ballast which accelerates the sinking of particulate organic matter, together with increases in picoeukaryotes, an important component of the microbial loop in the euphotic zone, have the potential to impact marine export production, with feedbacks to Earth’s climate system.

Continue reading ‘Phytoplankton blooms at increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide: experimental evidence for negative effects on prymnesiophytes and positive on small picoeukaryotes’

Acidification and warming affect prominent bacteria in two seasonal phytoplankton bloom mesocosms

In contrast to clear stimulatory effects of rising temperature, recent studies of the effects of CO2 on planktonic bacteria have reported conflicting results. To better understand the potential impact of predicted climate scenarios on the development and performance of bacterial communities, we performed bifactorial mesocosm experiments (pCO2 and temperature) with Baltic Sea water, during a diatom dominated bloom in autumn and a mixed phytoplankton bloom in summer. The development of bacterial community composition (BCC) followed well-known algal bloom dynamics. A principal coordinate analysis (PCoA) of bacterial OTUs (operational taxonomic units) revealed that phytoplankton succession and temperature were the major variables structuring the bacterial community whereas the impact of pCO2 was weak. Prokaryotic abundance and carbon production, and organic matter concentration and composition were partly affected by temperature but not by increased pCO2. However, pCO2 did have significant and potentially direct effects on the relative abundance of several dominant OTUs; in some cases, these effects were accompanied by an antagonistic impact of temperature. Our results suggest the necessity of high-resolution BCC analyses and statistical analyses at the OTU level to detect the strong impact of CO2 on specific bacterial groups, which in turn might also influence specific organic matter degradation processes.

Continue reading ‘Acidification and warming affect prominent bacteria in two seasonal phytoplankton bloom mesocosms’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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