Posts Tagged 'North Atlantic'

Net community metabolism and seawater carbonate chemistry scale non-intuitively with coral cover

Coral cover and reef health have been declining globally as reefs face local and global stressors including higher temperature and ocean acidification (OA). Ocean warming and acidification will alter rates of benthic reef metabolism (i.e., primary production, respiration, calcification, and CaCO3 dissolution), but our understanding of community and ecosystem level responses is limited in terms of functional, spatial, and temporal scales. Furthermore, dramatic changes in coral cover and benthic metabolism could alter seawater carbonate chemistry on coral reefs, locally alleviating or exacerbating OA. This study examines how benthic metabolic rates scale with changing coral cover (0-100%), and the subsequent influence of these coral communities on seawater carbonate chemistry based on mesocosm experiments in Bermuda and Hawaii. In Bermuda, no significant differences in benthic metabolism or seawater carbonate chemistry were observed for low (40%) and high (80%) coral cover due to large variability within treatments. In contrast, significant differences were detected between treatments in Hawaii with benthic metabolic rates increasing with increasing coral cover. Observed increases in daily net community calcification and nighttime net respiration scaled proportionally with coral cover. This was not true for daytime net community organic carbon production rates, which increased the most between 0 to 20% coral cover and then less so between 20% to 100%. These differences in scaling resulted in larger diel variability in seawater carbonate chemistry as coral cover increased. To place the results of the mesocosm experiments into a broader context, in situ seawater carbon dioxide (CO2) at three reef sites in Bermuda and Hawaii were also evaluated; reefs with higher coral cover experienced a greater range of diel CO2 levels, complementing the mesocosm results. The results from this study highlight the need to consider the natural complexity of reefs and additional biological and physical factors that influence seawater carbonate chemistry on larger spatial and longer temporal scales. Coordinated efforts combining various research approaches (e.g. experiments, field studies, and models) will be required to better understand how benthic metabolism integrates across functional, spatial, and temporal scales, and for making predictions on how coral reefs will respond to climate change.

Continue reading ‘Net community metabolism and seawater carbonate chemistry scale non-intuitively with coral cover’

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’

Ocean acidification impacts spine integrity but not regenerative capacity of spines and tube feet in adult sea urchins

Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) has resulted in a change in seawater chemistry and lowering of pH, referred to as ocean acidification. Understanding how different organisms and processes respond to ocean acidification is vital to predict how marine ecosystems will be altered under future scenarios of continued environmental change. Regenerative processes involving biomineralization in marine calcifiers such as sea urchins are predicted to be especially vulnerable. In this study, the effect of ocean acidification on regeneration of external appendages (spines and tube feet) was investigated in the sea urchin Lytechinus variegatus exposed to ambient (546 µatm), intermediate (1027 µatm) and high (1841 µatm) partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) for eight weeks. The rate of regeneration was maintained in spines and tube feet throughout two periods of amputation and regrowth under conditions of elevated pCO2. Increased expression of several biomineralization-related genes indicated molecular compensatory mechanisms; however, the structural integrity of both regenerating and homeostatic spines was compromised in high pCO2 conditions. Indicators of physiological fitness (righting response, growth rate, coelomocyte concentration and composition) were not affected by increasing pCO2, but compromised spine integrity is likely to have negative consequences for defence capabilities and therefore survival of these ecologically and economically important organisms.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification impacts spine integrity but not regenerative capacity of spines and tube feet in adult sea urchins’

Short-term variability of aragonite saturation state in the central Mid-Atlantic Bight

The uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere has resulted in a decrease in seawater aragonite saturation state (Ωarag), which affects the health of carbonate-bearing organisms and the marine ecosystem. A substantial short-term variability of surface water Ωarag, with an increase of up to 0.32, was observed in the central Mid-Atlantic Bight off the Delaware and the Chesapeake Bays over a short period of 10 days in summer 2015. High-frequency underway measurements for temperature, salinity, percentage saturation of dissolved oxygen, oxygen to argon ratio, pH, fCO2, and measurements based on discrete samples for pH, dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity are used to investigate how physical and biogeochemical processes contribute to the changes of Ωarag. Quantitative analyses show that physical advection and mixing processes are the dominant forces for higher Ωarag in slope waters while biological carbon removal and CO2 degassing contribute to increased Ωarag in shelf waters.

Continue reading ‘Short-term variability of aragonite saturation state in the central Mid-Atlantic Bight’

The regulation of coralline algal physiology, an in-situ study of Corallina officinalis (Corallinales, Rhodophyta)

Calcified macroalgae are critical components of marine ecosystems worldwide, but face considerable threat both from climate change (increasing water temperatures) and ocean acidification (decreasing ocean pH and carbonate saturation). It is thus fundamental to constrain the relationships between key abiotic stressors and the physiological processes that govern coralline algal growth and survival. Here we characterize the complex relationships between the abiotic environment of rock pool habitats, and the physiology of the geniculate red coralline alga, Corallina officinalis (Corallinales, Rhodophyta). Paired assessment of irradiance, water temperature and carbonate chemistry, with C. officinalis net production (NP), respiration (R) and net calcification (NG) was performed in a south-west UK field site, at multiple temporal scales (seasonal, diurnal and tidal). Strong seasonality was observed in NP and night-time R, with a Pmax of 22.35 μmol DIC gDW−1 h−1, Ek of 300 μmol photons m−2 s−1 and R of 3.29 μmol DIC gDW−1 −1 determined across the complete annual cycle. NP showed a significant exponential relationship with irradiance (R2 = 0.67), although was temperature dependent given ambient irradiance > Ek for the majority of the annual cycle. Over tidal emersion periods, dynamics in NP highlighted the ability of C. officinalis to acquire inorganic carbon despite significant fluctuations in carbonate chemistry. Across all data, NG was highly predictable (R2 = 0.80) by irradiance, water temperature and carbonate chemistry, providing a NGmax of 3.94  μmol CaCO3 gDW−1 h−1, and Ek of 113 μmol photons m−2 s−1. Light-NG showed strong seasonality and significant coupling to NP (R2 = 0.65), as opposed to rock pool water carbonate saturation. In contrast, the direction of dark-NG (dissolution vs. precipitation) was strongly related to carbonate saturation, mimicking abiotic precipitation dynamics. Data demonstrated that C. officinalis is adapted to both long-term (seasonal) and short-term (tidal) variability in environmental stressors, although the balance between metabolic processes and the external environment may be significantly impacted by future climate change.

Continue reading ‘The regulation of coralline algal physiology, an in-situ study of Corallina officinalis (Corallinales, Rhodophyta)’

Effects of eutrophication and benthic respiration on water column carbonate chemistry in a traditional hypoxic zone in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

A simple river-ocean mixing approach has been frequently used to examine estuarine and coastal carbonate system speciation. Coastal areas receiving significant nutrient inputs, however, can have the carbonate chemistry greatly deviated from this mixing-only scheme because of disparate, but spatially coupled biogeochemical processes, i.e., intense primary production in surface waters and elevated respiration in bottom waters; the latter often leads to bottom-water hypoxia (dissolved oxygen or DO concentration < 2 mg L− 1) and acidification. As a result of land use change, riverine TA input is known to enhance coastal water buffer capacity, although this effect in eutrophic coastal water has not been systematically studied. The physical disturbances of shallow coastal waters by storms can disrupt bottom hypoxia through overturning the water column. This overturn has been proposed to exacerbate bottom water acidification, because of the different exchange rates of oxygen and CO2, which could lead to a ‘reset’ of oxygen concentration but little change in the total dissolved inorganic carbon concentration. We used data from the summer 2010 hypoxia cruise in the northern Gulf of Mexico shelf, during which a tropical depression (Bonnie) perturbed the bottom water. Carbonate buffer capacity in both surface and subsurface waters along the salinity gradient suggested that eutrophication-induced surface production and bottom respiration far outweighed the influence of river TA variation and temperature changes in determining carbonate changes on centennial time scales. We propose, based on literature-based CO2 flux reported in this area, that the benthic (both aerobic and anaerobic) respiration-produced CO2 flux (with a lesser flux of alkalinity), instead of bottom water reset by storms, could be responsible for further acidifying hypoxic bottom water in addition to water column aerobic respiration.

Continue reading ‘Effects of eutrophication and benthic respiration on water column carbonate chemistry in a traditional hypoxic zone in the Northern Gulf of Mexico’

Ocean acidification dampens warming and contamination effects on the physiological stress response of a commercially important fish

Increases in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases emissions are leading to changes in ocean temperature and carbonate chemistry, the so-called ocean warming and acidification phenomena, respectively. Methylmercury (MeHg) is the most abundant form of mercury (Hg), well-known for its toxic effects on biota and environmental persistency. Despite more than likely co-occurrence in future oceans, the interactive effects of these stressors are largely unknown. Here we assessed organ-dependent Hg accumulation (gills, liver and muscle) within a warming (ΔT = 4 ºC) and acidification (ΔpCO2 = 1100 µatm) context, and the respective phenotypic responses of molecular chaperone and antioxidant enzymatic machineries, in a commercially important fish (the meagre Argyrosomus regius). After 30 days of exposure, although no mortalities were observed in any treatments, Hg concentration was significantly enhanced under warming conditions, significantly more so in the liver. On the other hand, increased CO2 decreased Hg accumulation and, despite negative effects prompted as a sole stressor, consistently elicited an antagonistic effect with temperature and contamination on oxidative stress (catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione-S-tranferase activities) and heat shock (Hsp70 levels) responses. We argue that the mechanistic interactions are grounded on simultaneous increase in excessive hydrogen (H+) and reactive oxygen species (e.g. O2−) free radicals, and subsequent chemical reaction equilibrium balancing. Additional multi-stressor experiments are needed to understand such biochemical mechanism and further disentangle interactive (additive, synergistic or antagonistic) stressor effects on fish ecophysiology in the oceans of tomorrow.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification dampens warming and contamination effects on the physiological stress response of a commercially important fish’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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