Posts Tagged 'mesocosms'

So long and thanks for all the sponge: cryptic intertidal communities, consequences of ocean acidification, and new directions for science education

Ocean acidification (OA), defined as the reduction in the pH of global oceans, is predicted to have negative impacts on marine invertebrates. Within the past two decades there have been hundreds of studies on the effects of OA on the fitness, survival, and growth of many marine organisms, and yet there are several large gaps in our understanding. Many OA studies focus on one population (e.g. only sample from one site/location) of a widespread species and then make generalizations about that species as a whole. This is problematic for species that are spread between habitats with different levels of acidification. My work in Chapters 3 and 4 addresses the response of multiple populations of an important intertidal invertebrate to ocean acidification conditions on the Oregon coast; I describe the impacts of OA on the early life history (Chapter 3) and adult physiology (Chapter 4) of the common breadcrumb sponge Halichondria panicea. To investigate if H. panicea are adapted to local conditions, I utilized the persistent pattern of acidification that exists on the cape scale along the Oregon coast. I compared the responses of sponge populations that persist in areas of high, intermediate, and low acidification. I used both field and laboratory experiments to investigate the potential for local adaptation or acclimatization to OA conditions in H. panicea. In Chapter 3 I found that sponge larvae from areas that experience persistently high levels of ocean acidification may be less resilient to future levels of OA vs. larvae from other less acidified regions. Negative carryover effects for early exposure during brooding may result in increased larval mortality and faster rates of settlement; there were no effects of treatment on post-settlement processes for either population. Chapter 3 highlights a novel response of sponges to OA and reveals a potential population bottleneck during the critical larval stage for pre-exposed sponges under future OA conditions. Chapter 4 builds on the work of Chapter 3 by examining the response of adult sponges from high, middle, and low areas of OA along the Oregon coast. I used a common garden approach to untangle the effects of environmental acclimation and adaptation in a reciprocal transplant and mesocosm experiment. I observed changes in survival, mass, and Chlorophyll a (Chl- a) concentration. Consistent with Chapter 3, I found that prior exposure to OA resulted in increased mortality during the transplant and mesocosm experiment, although we found no evidence of treatment- or population-dependent effects on mass and chlorophyll a concentration in H. panicea populations. Combined, results of Chapters 3 and 4 suggests that sponges from highly acidified regions may be living near a threshold, past which the fitness of both larvae and adults would be compromised, with implications for the population as a whole.

Continue reading ‘So long and thanks for all the sponge: cryptic intertidal communities, consequences of ocean acidification, and new directions for science education’

The potential impact of underwater exhausted CO2 from innovative ships on invertebrate communities

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered ships equipped with an underwater exhaust system to reduce the ship’s water resistance could form a future generation of energy-efficient ships. The potential consequences of the underwater exhaust gas to the local ecosystems are still unknown. Especially, the CO2 levels may locally exceed estimated future global levels. The present study exposes marine communities to a wide range of CO2 dosages, resulting in pH 8.6–5.8 that was remained for 49 days. We found that the zooplankton and benthic community were adversely affected by high CO2 exposure levels. In detail, (1) between pH 6.6 and 7.1 polychaete worms became the dominating group of the benthic community and their larvae dominated the zooplankton group. (2) Due to the reduced grazing pressure and the flux of nutrients from decaying organic material planktonic microalgae (phytoplankton) stared blooming at the highest exposure level. The periphyton (fouling microalgae) community was not able to take advantage under these conditions. (3) Marine snails’ (periwinkle) shell damage and high mortality were observed at pH < 6.6. However, the growth of the surviving periwinkles was not directly related to pH, but was positively correlated with the availability of periphyton and negatively correlated with the polychaete worm density that most likely also used the periphyton as food source. Our result indicates that the impact of underwater exhaust gasses depends on various factors including local biological and abiotic conditions, which will be included in future research.

Continue reading ‘The potential impact of underwater exhausted CO2 from innovative ships on invertebrate communities’

Future ocean climate homogenizes communities across habitats through diversity loss and rise of generalist species

Predictions of the effects of global change on ecological communities are largely based on single habitats. Yet in nature, habitats are interconnected through the exchange of energy and organisms, and the responses of local communities may not extend to emerging community networks (i.e. metacommunities). Using large mesocosms and meiofauna communities as a model system, we investigated the interactive effects of ocean warming and acidification on the structure of marine metacommunities from three shallow‐water habitats: sandy soft‐bottoms, marine vegetation and rocky reef substrates. Primary producers and detritus – key food sources for meiofauna – increased in biomass under the combined effect of temperature and acidification. The enhanced bottom‐up forcing boosted nematode densities but impoverished the functional and trophic diversity of nematode metacommunities. The combined climate stressors further homogenized meiofauna communities across habitats. Under present‐day conditions metacommunities were structured by habitat type, but under future conditions they showed an unstructured random pattern with fast‐growing generalist species dominating the communities of all habitats. Homogenization was likely driven by local species extinctions, reducing interspecific competition that otherwise could have prevented single species from dominating multiple niches. Our findings reveal that climate change may simplify metacommunity structure and prompt biodiversity loss, which may affect the biological organization and resilience of marine communities.

Continue reading ‘Future ocean climate homogenizes communities across habitats through diversity loss and rise of generalist species’

A future 1.2 °C increase in ocean temperature alters the quality of mangrove habitats for marine plants and animals

• Mangrove habitats are more resilient to climate change than other habitats.

• Climate change might have positive effects on mangrove-root species communities.

• Using mesocosms we show that an increase of 1.2 °C leads to community homogenisation.

• Warming also led to diversity loss and flattening of mangrove root epibiont communities.

• Juvenile fish altered their use of mangrove habitats under warming and acidification.

Global climate stressors, like ocean warming and acidification, contribute to the erosion of structural complexity in marine foundation habitats by promoting the growth of low-relief turf, increasing grazing pressure on structurally complex marine vegetation, and by directly affecting the growth and survival of foundation species. Because mangrove roots are woody and their epibionts are used to ever-changing conditions in highly variable environments, mangrove habitats may be more resilient to global change stressors than other marine foundation species. Using a large-scale mesocosm experiment, we examined how ocean warming and acidification, under a reduced carbon emission scenario, affect the composition and structural complexity of mangrove epibiont communities and the use of mangrove habitat by juvenile fishes. We demonstrate that even a modest increase in seawater temperature of 1.2 °C leads to the homogenisation and flattening of mangrove root epibiont communities. Warming led to a 24% increase in the overall cover of algal epibionts on roots but the diversity of the epibiont species decreased by 33%. Epibiont structural complexity decreased owing to the shorter stature of weedy algal turfs which prospered under elevated temperature. Juvenile fishes showed alterations in mangrove habitat use with ocean warming and acidification, but these were independent of changes to the root epibiont community. We reveal that the quality of apparently resilient mangrove habitats and their perceived value as habitat for associated fauna are still vulnerable under a globally reduced carbon emission scenario.

Continue reading ‘A future 1.2 °C increase in ocean temperature alters the quality of mangrove habitats for marine plants and animals’

Species-specific calcification response of Caribbean corals after 2-year transplantation to a low aragonite saturation submarine spring

Coral calcification is expected to decline as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increases. We assessed the potential of Porites astreoides, Siderastrea siderea and Porites porites to survive and calcify under acidified conditions in a 2-year field transplant experiment around low pH, low aragonite saturation (Ωarag) submarine springs. Slow-growing S. siderea had the highest post-transplantation survival and showed increases in concentrations of Symbiodiniaceae, chlorophyll a and protein at the low Ωarag site. Nubbins of P. astreoides had 20% lower survival and higher chlorophyll a concentration at the low Ωarag site. Only 33% of P. porites nubbins survived at low Ωarag and their linear extension and calcification rates were reduced. The density of skeletons deposited after transplantation at the low Ωarag spring was 15–30% lower for all species. These results suggest that corals with slow calcification rates and high Symbiodiniaceae, chlorophyll a and protein concentrations may be less susceptible to ocean acidification, albeit with reduced skeletal density. We postulate that corals in the springs are responding to greater energy demands for overcoming larger differences in carbonate chemistry between the calcifying medium and the external environment. The differential mortality, growth rates and physiological changes may impact future coral species assemblages and the reef framework robustness.

Continue reading ‘Species-specific calcification response of Caribbean corals after 2-year transplantation to a low aragonite saturation submarine spring’

Nutrient enrichment promotes eutrophication in the form of macroalgal blooms causing cascading effects in two anthropogenically disturbed coastal ecosystems

Humans are impacting almost every major ecological process that structures communities and ecosystems. Examples of how human activity can directly control key processes in ecosystems include destruction of habitat changing trophic structure, nutrient pollution altering competitive outcomes, overharvesting of consumers reducing top down control, and now climate change impacting virtually every global biogeochemical cycle. These human impacts may have an independent effect on the ecosystem, but they also have the potential to cause cascading effects and promote subsequent stressors. Also, these impacts are not limited to a particular system or geographic location making research on their overall effects vital for management practices. For example, tropical reefs have been transitioning from coral to mixed communities dominated by macroalgae, motivating research on how macroalgae respond to anthropogenic stressors and interact with each other during these stressful events. Further, while eutrophication of coastal estuaries due to increased anthropogenic supplies of nutrients has been of critical global concern for decades, the potential for eutrophication to drive new stressors is a growing concern. To address these knowledge gaps, I investigated how human stressors impact two different and major coastal ecosystems known to be vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbances.

In chapter 1, I demonstrate that anthropogenic stressors in the form of increased nutrients in the water and sediments have strong impacts on interspecific interactions of coral reef macroalgae. Abiotic stressors such as nutrients have been linked to phase-shifts from coral to algal domination on tropical reefs. However, few studies have considered how these stressors impact changes in the biotic and abiotic constituents of dominant species of calcifying macroalgae, and how this may be mediated by species-species interactions. I conducted 4 mesocosm experiments to examine whether different nutrient sources (water column vs. terrestrial sediment) as well as species interactions (alone vs. mixed species) affected total mass (biomass + calcium carbonate (CaCO3)) of two common calcifying macroalgae (Padina boryana and Galaxaura fasciculata). P. boryana gained total mass with increased water column nutrients but declined with increased nutrients supplied by the sediment. Conversely, G. fasciculata gained total mass with increased nutrients in the sediment but declined with increased water column nutrients. In both interactions, the “winner” (i.e., G. fasciculata in the sediment experiment) also had a greater % of thallus mass comprised of CaCO3, potentially due to the subsequent decomposition of the “loser” as this result was not found in the alone treatments. These findings ultimately suggest that nutrient stressors can cause cascading effects, such as promoting calcification and biomass growth or loss in these macroalgal communities, and the potential for domination or decline is based on the nutrient source and community composition.

In chapter 2, I demonstrate that decomposition of macroalgal blooms cause a sequence of biogeochemical processes that can drive acidification in shallow coastal estuaries, and that these processes are mediated by a dynamic microbial community. Eutrophication and ocean acidification are both widely acknowledged as major human-induced stressors in marine environments. While the link between eutrophication and acidification has been established for phytoplankton, it is unclear whether eutrophication in the form of macroalgal blooms can cause cascading effects like acidification in shallow eutrophic estuaries. I conducted seasonal field surveys and assessed microbial communities and functional genes to evaluate changes in biotic and abiotic characteristics between seasons that may be associated with acidification in Upper Newport Bay, CA, USA. Acidification, measured as a drop in pH of 0.7, occurred in summer at the site with the most macroalgal cover. Microbial community composition and functional gene expression provide evidence that decomposition processes contributed to acidification, and also suggest that other biogeochemical processes like nitrification and degradation of polyphosphate also contributed to acidification. To my knowledge, my findings represent the first field evidence that eutrophication of shallow coastal estuaries dominated by green macroalgal blooms can cascade to acidification.

In chapter 3, I demonstrate that macroalgal blooms in shallow estuaries are strong drivers of key microbially-mediated biogeochemical processes that can cause cascading effects, such as acidification and nutrient fluxing, regardless of simulated tidal flushing. Estuaries are productive and diverse ecosystems and are vulnerable to eutrophication from increased anthropogenic nutrients. While it is known that enhanced tidal flushing can reduce adverse effects of anthropogenic disturbances in larger, deeper estuarine ecosystems, this is unexplored for eutrophication in shallow coastal estuaries where macroalgae usually dominate. I simulated eutrophication as a macroalgal bloom in a mesocosm experiment, varied tidal flushing (flushed daily vs unflushed), and assessed the effects on water column and sediment biogeochemical processes and the sediment microbial community. While flushing did not ameliorate the negative effects of the macroalgal bloom, it caused transient differences in the rate of change in biogeochemical processes and promoted increased fluxes of nutrients from the sediment. In the beginning, the macroalgal bloom induced basification and increased total alkalinity, but during decomposition, acidification and the accumulation of nutrients in the sediment and water column occurred. The findings from this chapter ultimately suggest that macroalgal blooms have the potential to be the cause of, yet may also offer a partial solution to, global ecological changes to biogeochemical processes.

Overall, my results indicate that anthropogenic disturbances, particularly in the form of increased nutrients, can cause cascading effects like macroalgal blooms that in turn cause acidification, basification, increased interspecific interactions, nutrient depletion, and nutrient fluxing in multiple ecosystems. These data advance our current understanding of the ecological consequences of eutrophication in the form of macroalgal blooms in different ecosystems. It also provides mechanistic links to microbial communities and biogeochemical processes not previously identified for shallow coastal estuaries. As human population and subsequent nutrient pollution increases in watersheds globally, ecological phenomenon such as eutrophication will only be intensified, and macroalgal communities will continue to dominate. Consequently, this dominance, especially during decomposition as shown here, can drive a multitude of subsequent stressors that can impact the entire ecosystem.

Continue reading ‘Nutrient enrichment promotes eutrophication in the form of macroalgal blooms causing cascading effects in two anthropogenically disturbed coastal ecosystems’

Quantification of the effects of ocean acidification on benthic foraminifera

The global ocean has experienced an alteration of its seawater chemistry due to the continuing uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere. This ongoing process called Ocean acidification (OA) has reduced seawater pH levels, carbonate ion concentrations (CO₃⁻²) and carbonate saturation state (Ω) with implications for the diversity and functioning of marine life, particularly for marine calcifiers such as foraminifera. The vulnerability of this ubiquitous calcifying group to future high 𝘱CO₂ /low pH scenarios has been assessed naturally and experimentally in the last decades. However, little is known about how benthic foraminifera from coastal environments such as intertidal environments will respond to the effects of OA projected by the end of the century. This research aimed to quantify the effects of OA on a series of biological parameters measured on the benthic foraminifera 𝘌𝘭𝘱𝘩𝘪𝘥𝘪𝘶𝘮 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘢𝘮𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘪 and 𝘏𝘢𝘺𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘢 𝘨𝘦𝘳𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘤𝘢 through a laboratory-based experimental approach where future scenarios of a high CO₂ atmosphere and low seawater pH were explored.
Experimental evidence revealed that survival rates, test weight and size-normalized weight (SNW) of 𝘌. 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘢𝘮𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘪 were negatively affected by OA. Whereas 𝘏. 𝘨𝘦𝘳𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘤𝘢 was positively affected (i.e. enhanced growth rates) showing a species-specific response to OA at 13°C. However, the combined effect of OA and temperature (15°C) reduced survival and growth rates for 𝘌𝘭𝘱𝘩𝘪𝘥𝘪𝘶𝘮 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘢𝘮𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘪 and 𝘏𝘢𝘺𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘢 𝘨𝘦𝘳𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘤𝘢. Test morphology (i.e. test surface and feeding ornamentation) of live 𝘌. 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘢𝘮𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘪 and 𝘏. 𝘨𝘦𝘳𝘮𝘢𝘯𝘪𝘤𝘢 were severely affected after 6 weeks by OA, negatively influencing the uptake of 13C-labelled diatoms of 𝘕𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘢 𝘴𝘱., notably for 𝘌. 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘢𝘮𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘪. Test dissolution rates were enhanced by OA and negatively affected foraminiferal morphology of recently dead assemblages with implications for net accumulation and preservation. These results imply that the long-term storage of inorganic carbon and cycling of carbon in coastal benthic ecosystems will be considerably altered by future OA.

Continue reading ‘Quantification of the effects of ocean acidification on benthic foraminifera’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book