Posts Tagged 'metals'

Predicting effects of multiple interacting global change drivers across trophic levels

Global change encompasses many co-occurring anthropogenic drivers, which can act synergistically or antagonistically on ecological systems. Predicting how different global change drivers simultaneously contribute to observed biodiversity change is a key challenge for ecology and conservation. However, we lack the mechanistic understanding of how multiple global change drivers influence the vital rates of multiple interacting species. We propose that reaction norms, the relationships between a driver and vital rates like growth, mortality, and consumption, provide insights to the underlying mechanisms of community responses to multiple drivers. Understanding how multiple drivers interact to affect demographic rates using a reaction-norm perspective can improve our ability to make predictions of interactions at higher levels of organization—that is, community and food web. Building on the framework of consumer–resource interactions and widely studied thermal performance curves, we illustrate how joint driver impacts can be scaled up from the population to the community level. A simple proof-of-concept model demonstrates how reaction norms of vital rates predict the prevalence of driver interactions at the community level. A literature search suggests that our proposed approach is not yet used in multiple driver research. We outline how realistic response surfaces (i.e., multidimensional reaction norms) can be inferred by parametric and nonparametric approaches. Response surfaces have the potential to strengthen our understanding of how multiple drivers affect communities as well as improve our ability to predict when interactive effects emerge, two of the major challenges of ecology today.

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Enormously enhanced particulate organic carbon and nitrogen production by elevated CO2 and moderate aluminum enrichment in the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi

Aluminum (Al) is abundant and ubiquitous in the environment. However, little information is available on its effects on photosynthetic microbes in alkaline seawater. Thus, we investigated the physiological performance in the most cosmopolitan coccolithophorid, viz., Emiliania huxleyi, grown under low (410 µatm) and high (1000 µatm) CO2 levels in seawater having none (0 nM, NAl), low (0.2 µM, LAl) and high (2 µM, HAl) Al concentrations. Under low CO2 conditions, the specific growth rate showed no significant difference between the NAl and LAl treatments, which was higher than the HAL treatment. Elevated CO2 inhibited the growth rate in the NAl and LAl cultures but did not affect the HAl cultures. The addition of Al had no effects on (LAl) or slightly elevated (HAl) the particulate organic carbon (POC) production rate under low CO2 conditions. With increasing CO2 concentration, the production rate of POC was enhanced by 55.3 % during the NAl treatment and further increased by 22.3 % by adding 0.2 µM Al. The responses of particulate organic nitrogen (PON) production rate, cellular POC, and PON contents to the different treatments revealed the same pattern as those of the POC production rate. The particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) production rate and PIC/POC ratio were not affected by Al under low CO2 conditions. They were significantly decreased by elevated CO2 in the LAl and HAl cultures. Our results indicate that high CO2 could increase carbon export to ocean depths by elevating the efficiency of the biological pump at low Al levels occurring in natural seawater (0.2 μM), with potentially significant implications for the carbon cycle of the ocean under accelerating anthropogenic influences.

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Antagonism toxicity of CuO nanoparticles and mild ocean acidification to marine algae

Graphical abstract

The toxicity of CuO nanoparticles (NPs) to marine microalgae (Emiliania huxleyi) under ocean acidification (OA) conditions (pHs 8.10, 7.90, 7.50) was investigated. CuO NPs (5.0 mg/L) caused significant toxicity (e.g., 48-h growth inhibition, 20%) under normal pH (8.10), and severe OA (pH 7.50) increased the toxicity of CuO NPs (e.g., 48-h growth inhibition, 68%). However, toxicity antagonism was observed with a growth inhibition (48 h) decreased to 37% after co-exposure to CuO NPs and mild OA (pH 7.90), which was attributed to the released Cu2+ ions from CuO NPs. Based on biological responses as obtained from RNA-sequencing, the dissolved Cu2+ ions (0.078 mg/L) under mild OA were found to increase algae division (by 17%) and photosynthesis (by 28%) through accelerating photosynthetic electron transport and promoting ATP synthesis. In addition, mild OA enhanced EPS secretion by 41% and further increased bioavailable Cu2+ ions, thus mitigating OA-induced toxicity. In addition, excess Cu2+ ions could be transformed into less toxic Cu2S and Cu2O based on X-ray absorption near-edge spectroscopy (XANES) and high-resolution transmission electron microscopy (HR-TEM), which could additionally regulate the antagonism effect of CuO NPs and mild OA. The information advances our knowledge in nanotoxicity to marine organisms under global climate change.

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Multi-stress interplay: time and duration of ocean acidification modulate the toxicity of mercury and other metals

The current understanding of multi-stress interplay assumes stresses occur in perfect synchrony, but this assumption is rarely met in the natural marine ecosystem. To understand the interplay between non-perfectly overlapped stresses in the ocean, we manipulated different temporal scenarios of acidification and assessed their effect on mercury toxicity in a marine copepod. We found that the scenario of past acidification aggravated mercury toxicity, but personal and persistent acidification mitigated the toxicity. This is because personal and persistent acidification initiated the energy compensation to enhance growth and mercury efflux. To explore how general temporal scenarios of acidification affected multi-stress interplay, we conducted a meta-analysis on marine animals and found that scenarios significantly changed the toxicity of several other metals. Our study thus demonstrates that time and duration of stresses modulate multi-stress interplay in the marine ecosystem, and suggests that future studies should move beyond the scenario of perfect synchrony.

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Elevated CO2 reduces copper accumulation and toxicity in the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana

The projected ocean acidification (OA) associated with increasing atmospheric CO2 alters seawater chemistry and hence the bio-toxicity of metal ions. However, it is still unclear how OA might affect the long-term resilience of globally important marine microalgae to anthropogenic metal stress. To explore the effect of increasing pCO2 on copper metabolism in the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana (CCMP 1335), we employed an integrated eco-physiological, analytical chemistry, and transcriptomic approach to clarify the effect of increasing pCO2 on copper metabolism of Thalassiosira pseudonana across different temporal (short-term vs. long-term) and spatial (indoor laboratory experiments vs. outdoor mesocosms experiments) scales. We found that increasing pCO2 (1,000 and 2,000 μatm) promoted growth and photosynthesis, but decreased copper accumulation and alleviated its bio-toxicity to T. pseudonana. Transcriptomics results indicated that T. pseudonana altered the copper detoxification strategy under OA by decreasing copper uptake and enhancing copper-thiol complexation and copper efflux. Biochemical analysis further showed that the activities of the antioxidant enzymes glutathione peroxidase (GPX), catalase (CAT), and phytochelatin synthetase (PCS) were enhanced to mitigate oxidative damage of copper stress under elevated CO2. Our results provide a basis for a better understanding of the bioremediation capacity of marine primary producers, which may have profound effect on the security of seafood quality and marine ecosystem sustainability under further climate change.

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Climate-driven changes of global marine mercury cycles in 2100


One concern caused by the changes in the ocean due to climate change is the potential increase of neurotoxic methylmercury content in seafood. This work quantifies the impact of global change factors on marine mercury cycles. The air–sea exchange is influenced by wind speed weakening and solubility drop of mercury due to seawater warming. The decreased biological pump shrinks the methylation substrate and causes weaker methylation. The advantageous light environment resulting from less attenuation by sea ice and phytoplankton increases the photodegradation potential for seawater methylmercury. Responses of seawater methylmercury can propagate to biota, which is also modulated by the changes in anthropogenic emissions and ocean ecology. Our results offer insight into interactions among different climate change stressors.


Human exposure to monomethylmercury (CH3Hg), a potent neurotoxin, is principally through the consumption of seafood. The formation of CH3Hg and its bioaccumulation in marine food webs experience ongoing impacts of global climate warming and ocean biogeochemistry alterations. Employing a series of sensitivity experiments, here we explicitly consider the effects of climate change on marine mercury (Hg) cycling within a global ocean model in the hypothesized twenty-first century under the business-as-usual scenario. Even though the overall prediction is subjected to significant uncertainty, we identify several important climate change impact pathways. Elevated seawater temperature exacerbates elemental Hg (Hg0) evasion, while decreased surface wind speed reduces air–sea exchange rates. The reduced export of particulate organic carbon shrinks the pool of potentially bioavailable divalent Hg (HgII) that can be methylated in the subsurface ocean, where shallower remineralization depth associated with lower productivity causes impairment of methylation activity. We also simulate an increase in CH3Hg photodemethylation potential caused by increased incident shortwave radiation and less attenuation by decreased sea ice and chlorophyll. The model suggests that these impacts can also be propagated to the CH3Hg concentration in the base of the marine food web. Our results offer insight into synergisms/antagonisms in the marine Hg cycling among different climate change stressors.

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Impact of ocean acidification and ocean warming on the oxidation of dissolved Fe(II) in coastal and open Southern Ocean water

The Southern Ocean is the largest region where major nutrients such as nitrate, silicate and phosphate are present in excess, yet the crucial micronutrient element iron (Fe) is scarce. It is well established that the Southern Ocean is key in exporting carbon to greater depths through biomass production by phytoplankton, but Fe is metabolically required for photosynthesis. Changes in uptake of carbon and heat to the ocean will impact ocean acidification and ocean warming. These anthropogenically linked processes are projected to lead to a drop in ocean pH by 0.2 units and an increase in the ocean’s temperature by 2°C by the end of the century and are already known to have tremendous ecological impacts on the ocean’s flora and fauna. However, little is known about how changes in ocean temperature and pH could alter the nutrient composition in future oceans.

Regarding nutrients, this work focuses on the dissolved (d) element Fe. It is essential for photosynthesis, but also a limiting element in the Southern Ocean due to limiting sources leading to low availability. Iron exists in two redox states in seawater. While the species dFe(III) is stable in seawater and occurs in relatively higher concentrations, its redox partner dFe(II) is tied to several physico-chemical processes impacting its oxidation time and overall presence. The importance of dFe(II) also lies with its accessibility for phytoplankton in its reduced oxidative state. The overall aim of this study was to investigate changes in concentration, speciation, and availability of the ‘more’ bioavailable, rapidly oxidizing Fe species dFe(II) under a changing Southern Ocean scenario.

Chapter 2 addressed the redox behaviour of dFe(II) and dFe(III), where several questions were explored for further experimental planning. The main question was how the coastal and open ocean systems differ in their dFe(II) concentrations and how ocean acidification and ocean warming impact Fe redox chemistry in both systems. I therefore performed controlled acidification and temperature alteration experiments in coastal and open ocean water taken from the Tasmanian coast and the Southern Ocean. This large dataset enabled us to project for future ocean dFe(II) concentrations and oxidation rates. I observed that a reduction in ocean pH by 0.2 units doubles the dFe(II) oxidation time in the open ocean and tripled in coastal water through model-based experiments. In contrast to these high impacts from pH, an increase in temperature by 1°C accelerated the oxidation by ~ 1.1 times (13% in coastal water and 8% in open ocean water). Therefore, realistic changes in temperature are likely to have small impacts on the oxidation of dFe(II) in both water systems compared to the proposed changes in pH.

For phytoplankton, these results pose contradicting outcomes, and studies display mixed results once parameters such as ocean warming, and acidification are combined. An increase in temperature might lead to less or no growth once a certain temperature threshold is crossed. Similarly, a decrease in pH is also thought to impact phytoplankton physiology. It also depends on the severity of acidification and the phytoplankton species itself. Ocean warming could reduce phytoplankton growth, despite increased Fe availability due to higher solubility in warmer water. Regarding ocean acidification, on the other hand, dFe(II) could become available for an extended time, therefore enabling further uptake of dFe(II) by phytoplankton for that time. When comparing mixed effects of ocean acidification and warming, a reduction in pH might have a greater impact on the dFe(II) oxidation than just temperature. Temperature changes, however, might be a greater concern in the near future before ocean acidification becomes relevant.

Due to this projection of temperature being a more imminent concern, I targeted the limiting element Fe in its less investigated form dFe(II). I observed how temperature alone impacts growth of two Southern Ocean phytoplankton species. I therefore ran an dFe(II)-enrichment incubation experiment in Chapter 3 with differing temperatures (3°C, 5°C, and 7°C) in coastal and open ocean water from the Southern Ocean using the well-studied haptophyte Phaeocystis antarctica and the diatom Fragilariopsis cylindrus. These enrichment experiments with altered temperatures overall confirmed that phytoplankton growth was elevated once 5 nM dFe(II) were added. In other words, freely available dFe(II) was present, almost regardless of the temperature increase from 3°C to 7°C. This could implicate that an increase in temperature has beneficial effects on growth in the case of higher concentrations of freely available dFe(II). However, these values of future dFe(II) concentrations and oxidation rates under acidified and warmer scenarios are only laboratory-based projections, to better understand the dFe(II) presence and demand by phytoplankton species in a future Southern Ocean.

In Chapter 4, a one-month field study onboard the RV Investigator was conducted east of the Australian continent along the East Australian Current (EAC) into nutrient-rich but Fe poor water in the Southern Ocean. I observed the overall distribution of dFe(II) and hydrogen peroxide in this understudied region. The findings suggest that dFe(II) concentrations are very low in the observed area of the open Southern Ocean (< 0.1 nM) compared to coastal waters (> 0.5 nM), likely driven by differences in terrestrial Fe inputs. Hydrogen peroxide was generally higher in the southern stations within the upper 200 m (~60 nM) while the dFe(II) : dFe ratios are 10 % higher than reported for previous Southern Ocean studies. High biological activity in the upper water extending to the frontal mixing zone where the two major currents meet (EAC and STF), may further have led to the observed low dFe concentrations and high H22O22 concentrations. Occasional higher dFe(II) peaks found in this area in surface water may be the result of several external sources such as rain or vertical transport from seamounts but also due to biological or physico-chemical impacts such as photochemical reduction or uptake by phytoplankton.

Overall, the work in this study advances our understanding of the coupled effects of the climate change parameters ocean acidification and ocean warming on the dFe(II) oxidation, with implications for its availability to phytoplankton and overall sources in the region east and south-east of Tasmania in coastal and open ocean water. The experimental approaches taken suggest a higher impact of ocean acidification compared to ocean warming and a potential benefit for phytoplankton species preferring dFe(II).

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Global decrease in heavy metal concentrations in brown algae in the last 90 years

Graphical abstract


  • A decline in metal pollution in algae is widespread in coastal ecosystems worldwide.
  • Decrease in algae concentrations may not also occur in seawater but in bioavailability.
  • Decreases began from 70’s coinciding with the implementation of environmental policies.
  • Legislation and ocean acidification can impact on the heavy metal content in algae.


In the current scenario of global change, heavy metal pollution is of major concern because of its associated toxic effects and the persistence of these pollutants in the environment. This study is the first to evaluate the changes in heavy metal concentrations worldwide in brown algae over the last 90 years (>15,700 data across the globe reported from 1933 to 2020). The study findings revealed significant decreases in the concentrations of Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Hg, Mn, Pb and Zn of around 60–84% (ca. 2% annual) in brown algae tissues. The decreases were consistent across the different families considered (Dictyotaceae, Fucaceae, Laminariaceae, Sargassaceae and Others), and began between 1970 and 1990. In addition, strong relationships between these trends and pH, SST and heat content were detected. Although the observed metal declines could be partially explained by these strong correlations, or by adaptions in the algae, other evidences suggest an actual reduction in metal concentrations in oceans because of the implementation of environmental policies. In any case, this study shows a reduction in metal concentrations in brown algae over the last 50 years, which is important in itself, as brown algae form the basis of many marine food webs and are therefore potential distributors of pollutants.

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Thalassiosira weissflogii grown in various Zn levels shows different ecophysiological responses to seawater acidification


  • Zn deficient encouraged cellular silicon and sinking rate under normal pCO2.
  • Higher pCO2 decreased cellular silicon and sinking rate of Zn-deficient T. weissflogii.
  • Higher pCO2 increased cellular silicon and sinking rate in Zn-replete T. weissflogii.
  • Silica and carbon cycle could be impacted by acidification and Zn levels.


The presence of zinc (Zn), a vital element for algal physiological functions, coupled with the silicification of diatoms implies that it plays an integral role in the carbon and silicon cycles of the sea. In this study, we examined the effects of different pCO2 and Zn levels on growth rate, elemental compositions and silicification by Thalassiosira weissflogii. The results showed that under normal pCO2 (400 μatm), cultures of T. weissflogii were depressed for growth rate and silica incorporation rate, but encouraged for cellular silicon content, Si/C, Si/N, and sinking rate when Zn deficient (0.3 pmol L−1). However, cellular silicon and sinking rate of Zn-deficient and Zn-replete (25 pmol L−1T. weissflogii were decreased and increased at higher pCO2 (800 μatm), respectively. Thus, acidification may affect diatoms significantly differently depending on the Zn levels of the ocean and then alter the biochemical cycling of carbon and silica.

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pCO2-driven seawater acidification affects aqueous-phase copper toxicity in juvenile flounder Paralichthys olivaceus: metal accumulation, antioxidant defenses and biodetoxification in livers

Graphical abstract.


  • SA and Cu interact during hepatic antioxidant defenses and biodetoxification.
  • Moderate SA helps alleviate Cu exposure-induced LPO, but extreme SA exacerbates it.
  • Thiols respond actively to cope with Cu toxicity in acidified seawater.
  • SOD, CAT, EROD and GST sensitively respond to SA and Cu coexposure.
  • Pearson’s correlation coefficient and PCA usefully integrate biomarker responses.


Ocean acidification potentially influences the biotoxicity of metals and the antioxidant defense systems of marine organisms. This study investigated how pCO2-driven seawater acidification (SA) affected aqueous-phase copper (Cu) toxicity in the juvenile flounder Paralichthys olivaceus from the perspective of hepatic oxidative stress and damage to better understand the mechanisms underlying the biological effects produced by the two stressors. Fish were exposed to aqueous-phase Cu at relevant ambient and polluted concentrations (0, 5, 10, 50, 100 and 200 μg L−1) at different pH levels (no SA: pH 8.10; moderate SA: pH 7.70, pCO2 ∼1353.89 μatm; extreme SA: pH 7.30, pCO2 ∼3471.27 μatm) for 28 days. A battery of biomarkers in the livers was examined to investigate their roles in antioxidant defense and biodetoxification in response to coexposure. Hepatic Cu accumulation (30.22–184.90 mg kg−1) was positively correlated with Cu concentrations. The biomarkers responded adaptively to different redox states following SA and Cu exposure. In unacidified seawater, increases in Cu concentrations significantly induced hepatic lipid peroxidation (LPO, by up to 27.03 %), although compensatory responses in antioxidant defenses and biodetoxification were activated. Moderate SA helped maintain hepatic redox homeostasis and alleviated LPO through different defense strategies, depending on Cu concentrations. Under extreme SA, antioxidant-based defenses were activated to cope with oxidative stress at ambient-low Cu concentrations but failed to defend against Cu toxicity at polluted Cu levels, and LPO (by up to 63.90 %) was significantly induced. Additionally, thiols (GSH and MT) responded actively to cope with Cu toxicity under SA. SOD, CAT, EROD, and GST were also sensitively involved in defending against hepatic oxidative stress during coexposure. These findings highlight the notable interactive effects of SA and Cu and provide a basis for understanding antioxidant-based defenses in marine fish confronting environmental challenges.

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Gadolinium ecotoxicity is enhanced in a warmer and acidified changing ocean as shown by the surf clam Spisula solida through a multibiomarker approach


  • Spisula solida accumulated Gd after just one day.
  • Climate change did not impact Gd accumulation and elimination.
  • Gd was not proficiently eliminated in 7 days.
  • Lipid peroxidation was greater in clams exposed to warming and Gd.
  • Gd showed enhanced ecotoxicity in climate change conditions.


Humans have exhaustively combusted fossil fuels, and released pollutants into the environment, at continuously faster rates resulting in global average temperature increase and seawater pH decrease. Climate change is forecasted to exacerbate the effects of pollutants such as the emergent rare earth elements. Therefore, the objective of this study was to assess the combined effects of rising temperature (Δ = + 4 °C) and decreasing pH (Δ = − 0.4 pH units) on the bioaccumulation and elimination of gadolinium (Gd) in the bioindicator bivalve species Spisula solida (Surf clam). We exposed surf clams to 10 µg L−1 of GdCl3 for seven days, under warming, acidification, and their combination, followed by a depuration phase lasting for another 7 days and investigated the Gd bioaccumulation and oxidative stress-related responses after 1, 3 and 7 days of exposure and the elimination phase. Gadolinium accumulated after just one day with values reaching the highest after 7 days. Gadolinium was not eliminated after 7 days, and elimination is further hampered under climate change scenarios. Warming and acidification, and their interaction did not significantly impact Gd concentration. However, there was a significant interaction on clam’s biochemical response. The augmented total antioxidant capacity and lipid peroxidation values show that the significant impacts of Gd on the oxidative stress response are enhanced under warming while the increased superoxide dismutase and catalase values demonstrate the combined impact of Gd, warming & acidification. Ultimately, lipid damage was greater in clams exposed to warming & Gd, which emphasizes the enhanced toxic effects of Gd in a changing ocean.

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Environmental change impacts on shell formation in the muricid Nucella lapillus

Environmental change is a significant threat to marine ecosystems worldwide. Ocean acidification, global warming and long-term emissions of anthropogenic effluents are all negatively impacting aquatic life. Marine calcifying organisms, in particular, are expected to be severely affected by decreasing seawater pH, resulting in shell dissolution and retardations during the formation and repair of shells. Understanding the underlying biological and environmental factors driving species vulnerabilities to habitat alterations is thus crucial to our ability to faithfully predict impacts on marine ecosystems under an array of environmental change scenarios. So far, existing knowledge about organism responses mainly stems from short to medium term laboratory experiments of single species or over- simplified communities. Although these studies have provided important insights, results may not translate to organism responses in a complex natural system requiring a more holistic experimental approach. In this thesis, I investigated shell formation mechanisms and shape and elemental composition responses in the shell of the important intertidal predatory muricid Nucella lapillus both in situ and across heterogeneous environmental gradients. The aim was to identify potential coping mechanisms of N. lapillus to environmental change and provide a more coherent picture of shell formation responses along large ecological gradients in the spatial and temporal domain. To investigate shell formation mechanisms, I tested for the possibility of shell recycling as a function to reduce calcification costs during times of exceptional demand using a multi-treatment shell labelling experiment. Reports on calcification costs vary largely in the literature. Still, recent discoveries showed that costs might increase as a function of decreasing calcification substrate abundance, suggesting that shell formation becomes increasingly more costly under future environmental change scenarios. However, despite the anticipated costs, no evidence was found that would indicate the use of functional dissolution as a means to recycle shell material for a more cost-efficient shell formation in N. lapillus. To investigate shell formation responses, I combined morphometric and shell thickness analyses with novel statistical methods to identify natural shape and thickness response of N. lapillus to large scale variability in temperature, salinity, wind speed and the carbonate system across a wide geographic range (from Portugal to Iceland) and through time (over 130 years). I found that along geographical gradients, the state of the carbonate system and, more specifically, the substrate inhibitor ratio ([HCO3−][H+]−1) (SIR) was the main predictor for shape variations in N. lapillus. Populations in regions with a lower SIR tend to form narrower shells with a higher spire to body whorl ratio. In contrast, populations in regions with a higher SIR form wider shells with a much lower spire to body whorl ratio. The results suggest a widespread phenotypic response of N. lapillus to continuing ocean acidification could be expected, affecting its phenotypic response patterns to predator or wave exposure regimes with profound implications for North Atlantic rocky shore communities. On the contrary, investigations of shell shape and thickness changes over the last 130 years from adjacent sampling regions on the Southern North Sea coast revealed that contrary to global predictions, N. lapillus built continuously thicker shells while maintaining a consistent shell shape throughout the last century. Systematic modelling efforts suggested that the observed shell thickening resulted from higher annual temperatures, longer yearly calcification windows, nearshore eutrophication, and enhanced prey abundance, which mitigated the impact of other climate change factors. An investigation into the trace elemental composition of common pollutant metals in the same archival N. lapillus specimens revealed that shell Cu/Ca and Zn/Ca concentration ratios remained remarkably constant throughout the last 130 years despite substantial shifts in the environmental concentration. However, Pb/Ca concentration ratios showed a definite trend closely aligned with leaded petrol emissions in Europe over the same period. Discussing physiological and environmental drivers for the observed shell bound heavy metal patterns, I argue that, unlike for Pb, constraints on environmental dissolved Cu species abundance and biologically mediated control on internal Zn levels were likely responsible for a decoupling of shell-bound to total ambient Cu and Zn concentrations. The results highlight the complexity of internal and external pathways that govern the uptake of heavy metals into the molluscan shell and suggest that the shell of N. lapillus could be a suitable archive for a targeted investigation of Pb pollution in the intertidal zone.

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Different responses of phytoplankton and zooplankton communities to current changing coastal environments

Marine plankton are faced with novel challenges associated with environmental changes such as ocean acidification, warming, and eutrophication. However, data on the effects of simultaneous environmental changes on complex natural communities in coastal ecosystems are relatively limited. Here we made a systematic analysis of biological and environmental parameters in the Bohai Sea over the past three years to suggest that plankton communities responded differently to current changing coastal environments, with the increase of phytoplankton and the decrease of zooplankton. These different changes of phyto- and zooplankton potentially resulted from the fact that both the effect of acidification as a result of pH decline and the effect of warming as a consequence of increasing temperature favored phytoplankton over zooplankton at present. Furthermore, water eutrophication and salinity as well as heavy metals Hg, Zn, and As had more or less diverse consequences for the dynamics of phytoplankton and zooplankton. Differently, with ongoing climate change, we also revealed that both phytoplankton and zooplankton would decrease in the future under the influence of interactions between acidification and warming.

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Bioaccumulation of inorganic and organic mercury in the cuttlefish Sepia officinalis: influence of ocean acidification and food type

The bioaccumulation of mercury (Hg) in marine organisms through various pathways has not yet been fully explored, particularly in cephalopods. This study utilises radiotracer techniques using the isotope 203Hg to investigate the toxicokinetics and the organotropism of waterborne inorganic Hg (iHg) and dietary inorganic and organic Hg (methylHg, MeHg) in juvenile common cuttlefish Sepia officinalis. The effect of two contrasting CO2 partial pressures in seawater (400 and 1600 μatm, equivalent to pH 8.08 and 7.54 respectively) and two types of prey (fish and shrimp) were tested as potential driving factors of Hg bioaccumulation. After 14 days of waterborne exposure, juvenile cuttlefish showed a stable concentration factor of 709 ± 54 and 893 ± 117 at pH 8.08 and 7.54, respectively. The accumulated dissolved i203Hg was depurated relatively rapidly with a radiotracer biological half-life (Tb1/2) of 44 ± 12 and 55 ± 16 days at pH 8.08 and 7.54, respectively. During the whole exposure period, approximately half of the i203Hg was found in the gills, but i203Hg also increased in the digestive gland. When fed with 203Hg-radiolabelled prey, cuttlefish assimilated almost all the Hg provided (>95%) independently of the prey type. Nevertheless, the prey type played a major role on the depuration kinetics with Hg Tb1/2 approaching infinity in fish fed cuttlefish vs. 25 days in shrimp fed cuttlefish. Such a difference is explained by the different proportion of Hg species in the prey, with fish prey containing more than 80% of MeHg vs. only 30% in shrimp. Four days after ingestion of radiolabelled food, iHg was primarily found in the digestive organs while MeHg was transferred towards the muscular tissues. No significant effect of pH/pCO2 variation was observed during both the waterborne and dietary exposures on the bioaccumulation kinetics and tissue distribution of i203Hg and Me203Hg. Dietary exposure is the predominant pathway of Hg bioaccumulation in juvenile cuttlefish.

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Adaptation of a marine diatom to ocean acidification increases its sensitivity to toxic metal exposure


  • Adaptation to OA increased marine diatom’s sensitivity to heavy metals (HM).
  • OA-adapted cells decreased their growth and photosynthesis at high HM levels.
  • The increase in sensitivity is associated with reduced metabolic activity.


Most previous studies investigating the interplay of ocean acidification (OA) and heavy metal on marine phytoplankton were only conducted in short-term, which may provide conservative estimates of the adaptive capacity of them. Here, we examined the physiological responses of long-term (~900 generations) OA-adapted and non-adapted populations of the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum to different concentrations of the two heavy metals Cd and Cu. Our results showed that long-term OA selected populations exhibited significantly lower growth and reduced photosynthetic activity than ambient CO2 selected populations at relatively high heavy metal levels. Those findings suggest that the adaptations to high CO2 results in an increased sensitivity of the marine diatom to toxic metal exposure. This study provides evidence for the costs and the cascading consequences associated with the adaptation of phytoplankton to elevated CO2 conditions, and improves our understanding of the complex interactions of future OA and heavy metal pollution in marine waters.

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Diel fluctuation superimposed on steady high pCO2 generates the most serious cadmium toxicity to marine copepods

Graphical abstract

Coastal systems experience diel fluctuation of pCO2 and cadmium (Cd) pollution; nevertheless, the effect of fluctuating pCO2 on Cd biotoxicity is poorly known. In this study, we initially performed the isotopically enriched organism bioassay to label Tigriopus japonicus with 113Cd (5 μg/L) to determine the Cd accumulation rate constant (kaccu) under ambient (400 μatm) and steadily (1000 μatm) and fluctuatingly elevated (1000 ± 600 μatm) pCO2 conditions for 48 h. Next, T. japonicus was interactively subjected to the above pCO2 exposures at Cd (control, 5, and 500 μg/L) treatments for 7 d. Biochemical and physiological responses for copepods were analyzed. The results showed that steadily increased pCO2 facilitated Cd bioaccumulation compared to ambient pCO2, and it was more under fluctuating acidification conditions. Despite compensatory reactions (e.g., increased energy production), Cd ultimately induced oxidative damage and apoptosis. Meanwhile, combined treatment exhibited higher toxicity (e.g., increased apoptosis) relative to Cd exposure, and even more if fluctuating acidification was considered. Intriguingly, fluctuating acidification inhibited Cd exclusion in Cd-treated copepods compared to steady acidification, linking to higher Cd kaccu and bioaccumulation. Collectively, CO2-driven acidification could aggravate Cd toxicity, providing a mechanistic understanding of the interaction between seawater acidification and Cd pollution in marine copepods.

Continue reading ‘Diel fluctuation superimposed on steady high pCO2 generates the most serious cadmium toxicity to marine copepods’

Phytoplankton community shift in response to experimental Cu addition at the elevated CO2 levels (Arabian Sea, winter monsoon)

Understanding phytoplankton community shifts under multiple stressors is becoming increasingly important. Among other combinations of stressors, the impact of trace metal toxicity on marine phytoplankton under the ocean acidification scenario is an important aspect to address. Such multiple stressor studies are rare from the Arabian Sea, one of the highest productive oceanic provinces within the North Indian Ocean. We studied the interactive impacts of copper (Cu) and CO2 enrichment on two natural phytoplankton communities from the eastern and central Arabian Sea. Low dissolved silicate (DSi < 2 µM) favoured smaller diatoms (e.g. Nitzschia sp.) and non-diatom (Phaeocystis). CO2 enrichment caused both positive (Nitzschia sp. and Phaeocystis sp.) and negative (Cylindrotheca closterium, Navicula sp., Pseudo-nitzschia sp., Alexandrium sp., and Gymnodinium sp.) growth impacts. The addition of Cu under the ambient CO2 level (A-CO2) hindered cell division in most of the species, whereas Chla contents were nearly unaffected. Interestingly, CO2 enrichment seemed to alleviate Cu toxicity in some species (Nitzschia sp., Cylindrotheca closterium, Guinardia flaccida, and Phaeocystis) and increased their growth rates. This could be related to the cellular Cu demand and energy budget at elevated CO2 levels. Dinoflagellates were more sensitive to Cu supply compared to diatoms and prymnesiophytes and could be related to the unavailability of prey. Such community shifts in response to the projected ocean acidification, oligotrophy, and Cu pollution may impact trophic transfer and carbon cycling in this region.

Continue reading ‘Phytoplankton community shift in response to experimental Cu addition at the elevated CO2 levels (Arabian Sea, winter monsoon)’

Integrative assessment of biomarker responses in Mytilus galloprovincialis exposed to seawater acidification and copper ions

Graphical abstract


  • Both OA and Cu ions caused physiological disturbances to the mussel.
  • Mussels have the ability to restore most of the tested parameters from the stress of OA and Cu ions.
  • Gills are more sensitive than digestive glands.
  • IBR analysis demonstrated the co-exposure caused the most brutal impact to the mussel.


The interactive effects of ocean acidification (OA) and copper (Cu) ions on the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis are not well understood. The underlying mechanisms also remain obscure. In this study, individuals of M. galloprovincialis were exposed for 28 days to 25 μg/L and 50 μg/L Cu ions at two pH levels (ambient level – pH 8.1; acidified level – pH 7.6). The mussels were then monitored for 56 days to determine their recovery ability. Physiological parameters (clearance rate and respiration rate), oxidative stress and neurotoxicity biomarkers (activities of superoxide dismutase, lipid peroxidation, catalase, and acetylcholinesterase), as well as the recovery ability of these parameters, were investigated in two typical tissues (i.e., gills and digestive glands). Results showed that (1) OA affected the bioconcentration of Cu in the gills and digestive glands of the mussels; (2) both OA and Cu can lead to physiological disturbance, oxidative stress, cellular damage, energy metabolism disturbance, and neurotoxicity on M. galloprovincialis; (3) gill is more sensitive to OA and Cu than digestive gland; (4) Most of the biochemical and physiological alternations caused by Cu and OA exposures in M. galloprovincialis can be repaired by the recovery experiments; (5) integrated biomarker response (IBR) analysis demonstrated that both OA and Cu ions exposure caused survival stresses to the mussels, with the highest effect shown in the co-exposure treatment. This study highlights the necessity to include OA along with pollutants in future studies to better elucidate the risks of ecological perturbations. The work also sheds light on the recovery of marine animals after short-term environmental stresses when the natural environment has recovered.

Continue reading ‘Integrative assessment of biomarker responses in Mytilus galloprovincialis exposed to seawater acidification and copper ions’

Emergent interactive effects of climate change and contaminants in coastal and ocean ecosystems

The effects of climate change (CC) on contaminants and their potential consequences to marine ecosystem services and human wellbeing are of paramount importance, as they pose overlapping risks. Here, we discuss how the interaction between CC and contaminants leads to poorly constrained impacts that affects the sensitivity of organisms to contamination leading to impaired ecosystem function, services and risk assessment evaluations. Climate drivers, such as ocean warming, ocean deoxygenation, changes in circulation, ocean acidification, and extreme events interact with trace metals, organic pollutants, excess nutrients, and radionuclides in a complex manner. Overall, the holistic consideration of the pollutants-climate change nexus has significant knowledge gaps, but will be important in understanding the fate, transport, speciation, bioavailability, toxicity, and inventories of contaminants. Greater focus on these uncertainties would facilitate improved predictions of future changes in the global biogeochemical cycling of contaminants and both human health and marine ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Emergent interactive effects of climate change and contaminants in coastal and ocean ecosystems’

A global horizon scan of issues impacting marine and coastal biodiversity conservation

The biodiversity of marine and coastal habitats is experiencing unprecedented change. While there are well-known drivers of these changes, such as overexploitation, climate change and pollution, there are also relatively unknown emerging issues that are poorly understood or recognized that have potentially positive or negative impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems. In this inaugural Marine and Coastal Horizon Scan, we brought together 30 scientists, policymakers and practitioners with transdisciplinary expertise in marine and coastal systems to identify new issues that are likely to have a significant impact on the functioning and conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity over the next 5–10 years. Based on a modified Delphi voting process, the final 15 issues presented were distilled from a list of 75 submitted by participants at the start of the process. These issues are grouped into three categories: ecosystem impacts, for example the impact of wildfires and the effect of poleward migration on equatorial biodiversity; resource exploitation, including an increase in the trade of fish swim bladders and increased exploitation of marine collagens; and new technologies, such as soft robotics and new biodegradable products. Our early identification of these issues and their potential impacts on marine and coastal biodiversity will support scientists, conservationists, resource managers and policymakers to address the challenges facing marine ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘A global horizon scan of issues impacting marine and coastal biodiversity conservation’

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