Posts Tagged 'mortality'

Impact of climate change on direct and indirect species interactions

Recent marine climate change research has largely focused on the response of individual species to environmental changes including warming and acidification. The response of communities, driven by the direct effects of ocean change on individual species as well the cascade of indirect effects, has received far less study. We used several rocky intertidal species including crabs, whelks, juvenile abalone, and mussels to determine how feeding, growth, and interactions between species could be shifted by changing ocean conditions. Our 10 wk experiment revealed many complex outcomes which highlight the unpredictability of community-level responses. Contrary to our predictions, the largest impact of elevated CO2 was reduced crab feeding and survival, with a pH drop of 0.3 units. Surprisingly, whelks showed no response to higher temperatures or CO2 levels, while abalone shells grew 40% less under high CO2 conditions. Massive non-consumptive effects of crabs on whelks showed how important indirect effects can be in determining climate change responses. Predictions of species outcomes that account solely for physiological responses to climate change do not consider the potentially large role of indirect effects due to species interactions. For strongly linked species (e.g. predator-prey or competitor relationships), the indirect effects of climate change are much less known than direct effects, but may be far more powerful in reshaping future marine communities.

Continue reading ‘Impact of climate change on direct and indirect species interactions’

The combined effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on the early life history stages of Caribbean coral and its implication for the recovery potential of Florida reefs

The early life history stages of coral are an essential component determining the recovery potential of coral reefs through sexual reproduction and recruitment. The pelagic larval phase is inherent in all coral species regardless of differing reproductive strategies and is the only time in coral life history where large scale movement is possible allowing for the repopulation of reef areas both within and outside the natal reef habitat. In the face of climate change, the larval dispersal and recruitment phase will take place in a warmer more acidic ocean if we continue on the path of unabated fossil fuel emissions. While much research has focused on how increased temperature or ocean acidification affect coral larvae independently, our understanding of how these factors interact to shape larval response is limited, especially in regards to Caribbean coral species.

To gain a better understanding of how the early life history stages of Caribbean coral may be affected by climate change, this dissertation investigates the effects of increased temperature (2.5 °C above historical averages in the Florida Keys) and carbon dioxide levels (900-1000 parts per million CO2) on corals from the Florida Reef tract by investigating the effects on larval metabolism, survivorship, settlement, and post-settlement growth and survival. Additionally, a coupled biophysical model was developed to determine the potential changes in connectivity that may result from the biological effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on the larval phase. The larval respiratory response of three Caribbean coral species revealed Orbicella faveolata as the most environmentally responsive with significant increases in respiration after 1 day exposure to increased temperature (68% greater than control conditions) with a counteracting effect of ocean acidification significantly decreasing respiration. The changes in metabolism over time correlated with decreased time to competency under elevated temperature in O. faveolata larvae, resulting in a greater number of settlers (76% greater than control) and a relative increase in local retention and self-recruitment rates as revealed by the biophysical model (5 and 7% greater than control respectively). However, when increased temperature occurred in combination with elevated CO2 levels, respiration was not significantly increased relative to control conditions and development of competency is minimally impacted. This resulted in a smaller increase in settlers (13% greater than control) and no significant changes in connectivity patterns. The post-settlement phase was similarly impacted with counteracting effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on recruit growth.

Overall, this dissertation reveals the potential for adaptation to increased temperature in at least one important coral species (Orbicella faveolata) that is greatly diminished when encountered in combination with ocean acidification. These results encourage the reduction of carbon emissions to give coral species the chance to adapt to elevated temperatures through the recruitment of more resilient individuals without the additional stress of ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘The combined effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on the early life history stages of Caribbean coral and its implication for the recovery potential of Florida reefs’

Is the chemical composition of biomass the agent by which ocean acidification influences on zooplankton ecology?

Climate change impacts prevail on marine pelagic systems and food webs, including zooplankton, the key link between primary producers and fish. Several metabolic, physiological, and ecological responses of zooplankton species and communities to global stressors have recently been tested, with an emerging field in assessing effects of combined climate-related factors. Yet, integrative studies are needed to understand how ocean acidification interacts with global warming, mediating zooplankton body chemistry and ecology. Here, we tested the combined effects of global warming and ocean acidification, predicted for the year 2100, on a community of calanoid copepods, a ubiquitously important mesozooplankton compartment. Warming combined with tested pCO2 increase affected metabolism, altered stable isotope composition and fatty acid contents, and reduced zooplankton fitness, leading to lower copepodite abundances and decreased body sizes, and ultimately reduced survival. These interactive effects of temperature and acidification indicate that metabolism-driven chemical responses may be the underlying correlates of ecological effects observed in zooplankton communities, and highlight the importance of testing combined stressors with a regression approach when identifying possible effects on higher trophic levels.

Continue reading ‘Is the chemical composition of biomass the agent by which ocean acidification influences on zooplankton ecology?’

Climate change and tropical sponges: The effect of elevated pCO₂ and temperature on the sponge holobiont

As atmospheric CO₂ concentrations rise, associated ocean warming (OW) and ocean acidification (OA) are predicted to cause declines in reef-building corals globally, shifting reefs from coral-dominated systems to those dominated by less sensitive species. Sponges are important structural and functional components of coral reef ecosystems, but despite increasing field-based evidence that sponges may be ‘winners’ in response to environmental degradation, our understanding of how they respond to the combined effects of OW and OA is limited. This PhD thesis explores the response of four abundant Great Barrier Reef species – the phototrophic Carteriospongia foliascens and Cymbastela coralliophila and the heterotrophic Stylissa flabelliformis and Rhopaloeides odorabile to OW and OA levels predicted for 2100, under two CO₂ Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). The overall aim of this research is to bridge gaps in our understanding of how these important coral reef organisms will respond to projected climate change, to begin to explore whether a sponge dominated state is a possible future trajectory for coral reefs.

To determine the tolerance of adult sponges to climate change, these four species were exposed to OW and OA in the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s (AIMS) National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) in a 3-month experimental study. The first data chapter explores the physiological responses of these sponges to OW and OA to gain a broad understanding of sponge holobiont survival and functioning under these conditions. In this chapter I also address the hypothesis that phototrophic and heterotrophic sponges will exhibit differential responses to climate change. In the second and third data chapters I explore the cellular lipid and fatty acid composition of sponges, and how these biochemical constituents vary with OW and OA. Lipids and fatty acids are not only vital energy stores, they form the major components of cell membranes, and the structure and composition of these biochemical constituents ultimately determines the integrity and physiological competency of a cell. Therefore through these analyses I aimed to determine how OW and OA affects the metabolic balance of sponges, and to understand mechanisms underpinning observed systemic sponge responses. Finally, to provide greater insight into the population level impacts of climate change on tropical sponges, in the last data chapter I explore the response of the phototrophic species Carteriospongia foliascens to OW/OA throughout its developmental stages.

I found that while sponges can generally tolerate climate change scenarios predicted under the RCP6.0 conditions for 2100 (30ºC/ pH 7.8), environmental projections for the end of this century under the RCP8.5 (31.5ºC/ pH 7.6) will have significant implications for their survival. Temperature effects were much stronger than OA effects for all species; however, phototrophic and heterotrophic species responded differently to OA. Elevated pCO₂ exacerbated temperature stress in heterotrophic sponges but somewhat ameliorated thermal stress in phototrophic species. Furthermore, sponges with siliceous spiculated skeletons resisted the RCP 8.5 conditions for longer than the aspiculate species. Biochemical analysis revealed that spiculated species also have greater cell membrane support features, which is likely to contribute to the observed stress tolerance. I also found that the additional energy available to phototrophic sponges under OA conditions may be used for investment into cell membrane support, providing protection against thermal stress. Finally, larval survival and settlement success of C. foliascens was unaffected by OW and OA treatments, and juvenile sponges exhibited greater tolerance than their adult counterparts, again with evidence that OA reduces OW stress for some of these life stages.

Based on the species studied here, this thesis confirms that sponges are better able to deal with OW and OA levels predicted for 2100 under RCP6.0, compared to many corals for which survival in a high CO₂ world requires OW to remain below 1.5°C. This suggests sponges may be future ‘winners’ on coral reefs under global climate change. However, if CO₂ atm concentrations reach levels predicted under RCP8.5, the prognosis for sponge survival by the end of this century changes as inter-species sponge tolerances to OW and OA differ. Under this projection it is likely we will also start to see a shift in sponge populations to those dominated by phototrophic sponges with siliceous spiculated skeletons. Overall, this thesis gives a holistic view of OW and OA impacts on tropical sponges and provides the basis from which to explore the potential for a sponge-coral regime shift in a high CO₂ world.

Continue reading ‘Climate change and tropical sponges: The effect of elevated pCO₂ and temperature on the sponge holobiont’

Ocean acidification in the Baltic Sea : implications for the bivalve Macoma balthica

The Baltic Sea is one of the most human-impacted sea areas in the world and its ecosystems are exposed to a variety of stressors of anthropogenic origin. Large changes in the environmental conditions, species and communities of the Baltic Sea are predicted to occur due to global climate change, but the extent and magnitude of the future changes are challenging to estimate due to the multiple stressors simultaneously impacting the system. As an additional threat, future ocean acidification will play a role in modifying the environmental conditions, and these CO2-induced changes are predicted to be fast in the Baltic Sea. This is especially of concern for the species-poor, but functionally essential benthic communities where key species such as bivalve Macoma balthica live at the limits of their tolerance range, and are already regularly disturbed by environmental stressors such as hypoxia. Currently, only very limited knowledge about the effects of future ocean acidification exists for this species.

The overall aim of my thesis was to develop an understanding of the effects of CO2 increase on the vulnerability of Baltic Sea key species, and how this is related to other effects of climate change, e.g. an increase in bottom-water hypoxia. Specifically, I investigated how different life stages of the infaunal bivalve M. balthica could be affected by future ocean acidification. Survival, growth, behaviour and physiological responses were assessed in a combination of laboratory and mesocosm experiments by exposing different life stages of M. balthica to different pH levels over different time periods depending on the life stage in question. While some life stage-based differences in vulnerability and survival were found, the results indicate that reduced pH has a negative effect on all life stages. In larval M. balthica, even a slight pH decrease was found to cause significant negative changes during that delicate life stage, both by slowing growth and by decreasing survival. Other observed impacts included delayed settling of the post-larvae and increasing energetic demand of adult bivalves.

The results suggest consistent negative effects at all life stages with potential major implications for the resilience of M. Balthica populations, which are currently under threat from a range of anthropogenic stressors such as increasing hypoxia. The kind of experimental studies conducted in this thesis are useful for pinpointing mechanisms, but they are always simplifications of reality, however, and are usually conducted over time scales that are short in relation to the time scales over which ocean acidification is affecting populations, communities and ecosystems. To fully understand and to be able to estimate how the complex ecosystems are about to change in the future, incorporating more of the biotic interactions, impacting stressors and relevant environmental conditions are needed for increasing the level of realism in the experiments.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification in the Baltic Sea : implications for the bivalve Macoma balthica’

Responses of juvenile Atlantic silverside, striped killifish, mummichog, and striped bass to acute hypoxia and acidification: Aquatic surface respiration and survival

Diel fluctuations in dissolved oxygen (DO) and pH create hypoxic conditions that alter the quality of shallow estuarine nursery habitats for juvenile fishes. Understanding how different species in these environments mitigate stress associated with intermittent hypoxia through compensatory behaviors, such as aquatic surface respiration (ASR), is important in determining the effect of these stressors on estuarine ecosystems. Behavioral responses of Atlantic silversides (Menidia menidia), striped killifish (Fundulus majalis), mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus), and juvenile striped bass (Morone saxatilis) were independently observed during exposure to two levels of diel-cycling DO (3–9 mg O2 l− 1 and 1–11 mg O2 l− 1) each tested with both the corresponding pH cycle (7.2–7.8 and 6.8–8.1, respectively) and static pH (7.5) under controlled laboratory conditions. In treatments in which DO declined to ~ 3 mg O2 l− 1, none of the species examined exhibited ASR behavior either with or without the associated pH decline. However, ASR was observed during both 4-hour and extended 16-hour exposure where DO declined to ~ 1.0–1.6 mg O2 l− 1 in M. menidia and both Fundulus species. M. saxatilis did not exhibit ASR and no mortalities occurred during 4-hour low DO/pH treatments or during 16 hour exposure to 1.5 mg O2 l− 1. During extended 16-hour treatments, DO thresholds for ASR were not found to be different between F. majalis and F. heteroclitus, but both differed significantly from M. menidia. Across both 4-hour and 16-hour treatments, the onset of ASR was observed in M. menidia at or near lethal levels (1.31–1.62 mg O2 l− 1). No evidence of a pH (pCO2) effect on ASR or survival was found in any species in response to naturally co-varying DO and pH swings, despite pH as low as 6.8 and high pCO2 levels of >~12,000 μatm. These results suggest that utilization of ASR is a species-specific response influenced by the magnitude and duration of hypoxic exposure. ASR may serve as a last-ditch strategy by M. menidia to prolong survival for minutes to hours, but function as a means for F. heteroclitus to mitigate or reduce negative effects of hypoxia on a scale of days to weeks, with F. majalis exhibiting an intermediate response.

Continue reading ‘Responses of juvenile Atlantic silverside, striped killifish, mummichog, and striped bass to acute hypoxia and acidification: Aquatic surface respiration and survival’

Naturally acidified habitat selects for ocean acidification–tolerant mussels

Ocean acidification severely affects bivalves, especially their larval stages. Consequently, the fate of this ecologically and economically important group depends on the capacity and rate of evolutionary adaptation to altered ocean carbonate chemistry. We document successful settlement of wild mussel larvae (Mytilus edulis) in a periodically CO2-enriched habitat. The larval fitness of the population originating from the CO2-enriched habitat was compared to the response of a population from a nonenriched habitat in a common garden experiment. The high CO2–adapted population showed higher fitness under elevated PCO2 (partial pressure of CO2) than the non-adapted cohort, demonstrating, for the first time, an evolutionary response of a natural mussel population to ocean acidification. To assess the rate of adaptation, we performed a selection experiment over three generations. CO2 tolerance differed substantially between the families within the F1 generation, and survival was drastically decreased in the highest, yet realistic, PCO2 treatment. Selection of CO2-tolerant F1 animals resulted in higher calcification performance of F2 larvae during early shell formation but did not improve overall survival. Our results thus reveal significant short-term selective responses of traits directly affected by ocean acidification and long-term adaptation potential in a key bivalve species. Because immediate response to selection did not directly translate into increased fitness, multigenerational studies need to take into consideration the multivariate nature of selection acting in natural habitats. Combinations of short-term selection with long-term adaptation in populations from CO2-enriched versus nonenriched natural habitats represent promising approaches for estimating adaptive potential of organisms facing global change.

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