Posts Tagged 'modeling'

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)’

Factors affecting coral recruitment and calcium carbonate accretion rates on a Central Pacific coral reef

Coral recruitment and calcium carbonate (CaCO3) accretion are fundamental processes that help maintain coral reefs. Many reefs worldwide have experienced degradation, including a decrease in coral cover and biodiversity. Successful coral recruitment helps degraded reefs to recover, while CaCO3 accretion by early successional benthic organisms maintains the topographic complexity of a coral reef system. It is therefore important to understand the processes that affect coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion rates in order to understand how coral reefs recover from disturbances.

The aim of this thesis was to determine how biophysical forcing factors affect coral recruitment, calcification and bioerosion on a pristine coral reef. I used artificial settlement tiles to measure coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion at ten sites (four on the fore reef, four on the Western Reef Terrace and two at the Entrance Channel) at Palmyra Atoll. Fungia skeletons and pieces of dead coral rock were used to measure bioerosion rates, which were combined with the CaCO3 accretion rates to obtain a net CaCO3 budget of the reef substratum. Interactions between coral recruits and other benthic organisms on the settlement tiles were recorded to determine the settlement preferences and competitive strength of coral recruits. The settlement preference of Pocillopora damicornis for divots shaped like steephead and bumphead parrotfish bites marks was determined by adding P. damicornis larvae to a container with a settlement tile with the aforementioned divots.

I found that coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion are influenced by biophysical forcing factors. Most pocilloporids likely recruit close to their parents while the origin of poritid larvae is much more distant. Pocilloporid recruitment rates were also significantly correlated with the successional stage of the benthic community on the settlement tiles, especially the cover of biofilm and bryozoa. Biofilm and crustose coralline algae (CCA) were preferred as settlement substrata by coral larvae, however both pocilloporids and poritids settled on a large number of different benthic substrata. P. damicornis larvae showed a significant settlement preference for divots shaped like parrotfish bite marks over a flat settlement surface. Coral recruits were good competitors against encrusting algae but were often outcompeted by filamentous and upright algae. Settlement tiles were almost entirely colonised by benthic organisms within three to twelve months of deployment. The mass of CaCO3 deposited onto the settlement tiles negatively correlated with herbivore grazing pressure on the benthic community. Bioerosion rates within pieces of coral (internal bioerosion) increased over time but overall bioerosion rates (internal and external) rarely exceeded CaCO3 deposition by CCA.

My results show how variability in biophysical forcing factors leads to natural variation in coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion. This thesis highlights the importance of measuring herbivore grazing, CCA and turf algae cover to gain a better understanding of reef resilience. I conclude that models constructed for Caribbean reefs may not be suited to predict resilience in Pacific reefs and that within the Pacific, two different kinds of resilience models need to be constructed, one for human-inhabited coral reefs and one for uninhabited coral reefs.

Continue reading ‘Factors affecting coral recruitment and calcium carbonate accretion rates on a Central Pacific coral reef’

Timing of global regression and microbial bloom linked with the Permian-Triassic boundary mass extinction: implications for driving mechanisms

New high-resolution U-Pb dates indicate a duration of 89 ± 38 kyr for the Permian hiatus and of 14 ± 57 kyr for the overlying Triassic microbial limestone in shallow water settings of the Nanpanjiang Basin, South China. The age and duration of the hiatus coincides with the Permian-Triassic boundary (PTB) and the extinction interval in the Meishan Global Stratotype Section and Point, and strongly supports a glacio-eustatic regression, which best explains the genesis of the worldwide hiatus straddling the PTB in shallow water records. In adjacent deep marine troughs, rates of sediment accumulation display a six-fold decrease across the PTB compatible with a dryer and cooler climate as indicated by terrestrial plants. Our model of the Permian-Triassic boundary mass extinction (PTBME) hinges on the synchronicity of the hiatus with the onset of the Siberian Traps volcanism. This early eruptive phase released sulfur-rich volatiles into the stratosphere, thus simultaneously eliciting a short-lived ice age responsible for the global regression and a brief but intense acidification. Abrupt cooling, shrunk habitats on shelves and acidification may all have synergistically triggered the PTBME. Subsequently, the build-up of volcanic CO2 induced a transient cool climate whose early phase saw the deposition of the microbial limestone.

Continue reading ‘Timing of global regression and microbial bloom linked with the Permian-Triassic boundary mass extinction: implications for driving mechanisms’

The geologic history of seawater pH

Although pH is a fundamental property of Earth’s oceans, critical to our understanding of seawater biogeochemistry, its long-timescale geologic history is poorly constrained. We constrain seawater pH through time by accounting for the cycles of the major components of seawater. We infer an increase from early Archean pH values between ~6.5 and 7.0 and Phanerozoic values between ~7.5 and 9.0, which was caused by a gradual decrease in atmospheric pCO2 in response to solar brightening, alongside a decrease in hydrothermal exchange between seawater and the ocean crust. A lower pH in Earth’s early oceans likely affected the kinetics of chemical reactions associated with the origin of life, the energetics of early metabolisms, and climate through the partitioning of CO2 between the oceans and atmosphere.

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Rapid emergence of climate change in environmental drivers of marine ecosystems

Climate change is expected to modify ecological responses in the ocean, with the potential for important effects on the ecosystem services provided to humankind. Here we address the question of how rapidly multiple drivers of marine ecosystem change develop in the future ocean. By analysing an ensemble of models we find that, within the next 15 years, the climate change-driven trends in multiple ecosystem drivers emerge from the background of natural variability in 55% of the ocean and propagate rapidly to encompass 86% of the ocean by 2050 under a ‘business-as-usual’ scenario. However, we also demonstrate that the exposure of marine ecosystems to climate change-induced stress can be drastically reduced via climate mitigation measures; with mitigation, the proportion of ocean susceptible to multiple drivers within the next 15 years is reduced to 34%. Mitigation slows the pace at which multiple drivers emerge, allowing an additional 20 years for adaptation in marine ecological and socio-economic systems alike.

Continue reading ‘Rapid emergence of climate change in environmental drivers of marine ecosystems’

Increase in acidifying water in the western Arctic Ocean

The uptake of anthropogenic CO2 by the ocean decreases seawater pH and carbonate mineral aragonite saturation state (Ωarag), a process known as Ocean Acidification (OA). This can be detrimental to marine organisms and ecosystems1, 2. The Arctic Ocean is particularly sensitive to climate change3 and aragonite is expected to become undersaturated (Ωarag < 1) there sooner than in other oceans4. However, the extent and expansion rate of OA in this region are still unknown. Here we show that, between the 1990s and 2010, low Ωarag waters have expanded northwards at least 5°, to 85° N, and deepened 100 m, to 250 m depth. Data from trans-western Arctic Ocean cruises show that Ωarag < 1 water has increased in the upper 250 m from 5% to 31% of the total area north of 70° N. Tracer data and model simulations suggest that increased Pacific Winter Water transport, driven by an anomalous circulation pattern and sea-ice retreat, is primarily responsible for the expansion, although local carbon recycling and anthropogenic CO2 uptake have also contributed. These results indicate more rapid acidification is occurring in the Arctic Ocean than the Pacific and Atlantic oceans5, 6, 7, 8, with the western Arctic Ocean the first open-ocean region with large-scale expansion of ‘acidified’ water directly observed in the upper water column.

Continue reading ‘Increase in acidifying water in the western Arctic Ocean’


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