Posts Tagged 'methods'

Shelled pteropods in peril: Assessing vulnerability in a high CO2 ocean

The impact of anthropogenic ocean acidification (OA) on marine ecosystems is a vital concern facing marine scientists and managers of ocean resources. Euthecosomatous pteropods (holoplanktonic gastropods) represent an excellent sentinel for indicating exposure to anthropogenic OA because of the sensitivity of their aragonite shells to the OA conditions less favorable for calcification. However, an integration of observations, experiments and modelling efforts is needed to make accurate predictions of how these organisms will respond to future changes to their environment. Our understanding of the underlying organismal biology and life history is far from complete and must be improved if we are to comprehend fully the responses of these organisms to the multitude of stressors in their environment beyond OA. This review considers the present state of research and understanding of euthecosomatous pteropod biology and ecology of these organisms and considers promising new laboratory methods, advances in instrumentation (such as molecular, trace elements, stable isotopes, palaeobiology alongside autonomous sampling platforms, CT scanning and high-quality video recording) and novel field-based approaches (i.e. studies of upwelling and CO2 vent regions) that may allow us to improve our predictive capacity of their vulnerability and/or resilience. In addition to playing a critical ecological and biogeochemical role, pteropods can offer a significant value as an early-indicator of anthropogenic OA. This role as a sentinel species should be developed further to consolidate their potential use within marine environmental management policy making.

Continue reading ‘Shelled pteropods in peril: Assessing vulnerability in a high CO2 ocean’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coral calcification under environmental change: a direct comparison of the alkalinity anomaly and buoyant weight techniques

Two primary methods—the buoyant weight (BW) and alkalinity anomaly (AA) techniques—are currently used to quantify net calcification rates (G) in scleractinian corals. However, it remains unclear whether they are directly comparable since the few method comparisons conducted to date have produced inconsistent results. Further, such a comparison has not been made for tropical corals. We directly compared GBW and GAA in four tropical and one temperate coral species cultured under various pCO2, temperature, and nutrient conditions. A range of protocols for conducting alkalinity depletion incubations was assessed. For the tropical corals, open-top incubations with manual stirring produced GAA that were highly correlated with and not significantly different from GBW. Similarly, GAA of the temperate coral was not significantly different from GBW when incubations provided water motion using a pump, but were significantly lower than GBW by 16% when water motion was primarily created by aeration. This shows that the two techniques can produce comparable calcification rates in corals but only when alkalinity depletion incubations are conducted under specific conditions. General recommendations for incubation protocols are made, especially regarding adequate water motion and incubation times. Further, the re-analysis of published data highlights the importance of using appropriate regression statistics when both variables are random and measured with error. Overall, we recommend the AA technique for investigations of community and short-term day versus night calcification, and the BW technique to measure organism calcification rates integrated over longer timescales due to practical limitations of both methods. Our findings will facilitate the direct comparison of studies measuring coral calcification using either method and thus have important implications for the fields of ocean acidification research and coral biology in general.

Continue reading ‘Coral calcification under environmental change: a direct comparison of the alkalinity anomaly and buoyant weight techniques’

A novel membrane inlet-infrared gas analysis (MI-IRGA) system for monitoring of seawater carbonate system

Increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations are driving changes in ocean chemistry at unprecedented rates resulting in ocean acidification, which is predicted to impact the functioning of marine biota, in particular of marine calcifiers. However, the precise understanding of such impacts relies on an analytical system that determines the mechanisms and impact of elevated pCO2 on the physiology of organisms at scales from species to entire communities. Recent work has highlighted the need within experiments to control all aspects of the carbonate system to resolve the role of different inorganic carbon species on the physiological responses observed across taxa in real-time. Presently however, there are limited options available for continuous quantification of physiological responses, coupled with real-time calculation of the seawater carbonate chemistry system within microcosm environments. Here, we describe and characterise the performance of a novel pCO2 membrane equilibrium system (the Membrane Inlet Infra-Red Gas Analyser, MI-IRGA) integrated with a continuous pH and oxygen monitoring platform. The system can detect changes in the seawater carbonate chemistry and determine organism physiological responses, while providing the user with real-time control over the microcosm system. We evaluate the systems control, response time and associated error, and demonstrate the flexibility of the system to operate under field conditions and within a laboratory. We use the system to measure physiological parameters (photosynthesis and respiration) for the corals Pocillipora damicornis and Porites cylindrica; in doing so we present a novel dataset examining the interactive role of temperature, light and pCO2 on the physiology of P. cylindrica.

Continue reading ‘A novel membrane inlet-infrared gas analysis (MI-IRGA) system for monitoring of seawater carbonate system’

Coralline algae elevate pH at the site of calcification under ocean acidification

Coralline algae provide important ecosystem services but are susceptible to the impacts of ocean acidification. However, the mechanisms are uncertain, and the magnitude is species specific. Here, we assess whether species-specific responses to ocean acidification of coralline algae are related to differences in pH at the site of calcification within the calcifying fluid/medium (pHcf) using δ11B as a proxy. Declines in δ11B for all three species are consistent with shifts in δ11B expected if B(OH)4− was incorporated during precipitation. In particular, the δ11B ratio in Amphiroa anceps was too low to allow for reasonable pHcf values if B(OH)3 rather than B(OH)4− was directly incorporated from the calcifying fluid. This points towards δ11B being a reliable proxy for pHcf for coralline algal calcite and that if B(OH)3 is present in detectable proportions, it can be attributed to secondary postincorporation transformation of B(OH)4−. We thus show that pHcf is elevated during calcification and that the extent is species specific. The net calcification of two species of coralline algae (Sporolithon durum, and Amphiroa anceps) declined under elevated CO2, as did their pHcf. Neogoniolithon sp. had the highest pHcf, and most constant calcification rates, with the decrease in pHcf being ¼ that of seawater pH in the treatments, demonstrating a control of coralline algae on carbonate chemistry at their site of calcification. The discovery that coralline algae upregulate pHcf under ocean acidification is physiologically important and should be included in future models involving calcification.

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Embracing interactions in ocean acidification research: confronting multiple stressor scenarios and context dependence

Changes in the Earth’s environment are now sufficiently complex that our ability to forecast the emergent ecological consequences of ocean acidification (OA) is limited. Such projections are challenging because the effects of OA may be enhanced, reduced or even reversed by other environmental stressors or interactions among species. Despite an increasing emphasis on multifactor and multispecies studies in global change biology, our ability to forecast outcomes at higher levels of organization remains low. Much of our failure lies in a poor mechanistic understanding of nonlinear responses, a lack of specificity regarding the levels of organization at which interactions can arise, and an incomplete appreciation for linkages across these levels. To move forward, we need to fully embrace interactions. Mechanistic studies on physiological processes and individual performance in response to OA must be complemented by work on population and community dynamics. We must also increase our understanding of how linkages and feedback among multiple environmental stressors and levels of organization can generate nonlinear responses to OA. This will not be a simple undertaking, but advances are of the utmost importance as we attempt to mitigate the effects of ongoing global change.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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