Posts Tagged 'North Atlantic'

Multiscale mechanical consequences of ocean acidification for cold-water corals

Ocean acidification is a threat to deep-sea corals and could lead to dramatic and rapid loss of the reef framework habitat they build. Weakening of structurally critical parts of the coral reef framework can lead to physical habitat collapse on an ecosystem scale, reducing the potential for biodiversity support. The mechanism underpinning crumbling and collapse of corals can be described via a combination of laboratory-scale experiments and mathematical and computational models. We synthesise data from electron back-scatter diffraction, micro-computed tomography, and micromechanical experiments, supplemented by molecular dynamics and continuum micromechanics simulations to predict failure of coral structures under increasing porosity and dissolution. Results reveal remarkable mechanical properties of the building material of cold-water coral skeletons of 462 MPa compressive strength and 45–67 GPa stiffness. This is 10 times stronger than concrete, twice as strong as ultrahigh performance fibre reinforced concrete, or nacre. Contrary to what would be expected, CWCs retain the strength of their skeletal building material despite a loss of its stiffness even when synthesised under future oceanic conditions. As this is on the material length-scale, it is independent of increasing porosity from exposure to corrosive water or bioerosion. Our models then illustrate how small increases in porosity lead to significantly increased risk of crumbling coral habitat. This new understanding, combined with projections of how seawater chemistry will change over the coming decades, will help support future conservation and management efforts of these vulnerable marine ecosystems by identifying which ecosystems are at risk and when they will be at risk, allowing assessment of the impact upon associated biodiversity.

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A triple threat: ocean warming, acidification and rare earth elements exposure triggers a superior antioxidant response and pigment production in the adaptable Ulva rigida


  • La and Gd were accumulated in 24h;
  • Elimination of La and Gd did not occur in U. rigida;
  • La and Gd showed different accumulation and elimination patterns in future predicted scenarios;
  • La and Gd triggered an efficient antioxidant defence response in U. rigida;
  • REE and climate change exposure requested a superior antioxidant response.


Anthropogenic increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations will lead to a drop of 0.4 units of seawater pH and ocean warming up to 4.8°C by 2100. Contaminant’s toxicity is known to increase under a climate change scenario. Rare earth elements (REE) are emerging contaminants, that until now have no regulation regarding maximum concentration and discharge into the environment and have become vital to new technologies such as electric and hybrid-electric vehicle batteries, wind turbine generators and low-energy lighting. Studies of REE, namely Lanthanum (La) and Gadolinium (Gd), bioaccumulation, elimination, and toxicity in a multi-stressor environment (e.g., warming and acidification) are lacking. Hence, we investigated the algae phytoremediation capacity, the ecotoxicological responses and total chlorophyll and carotenoid contents in Ulva rigida during 7 days of co-exposure to La or Gd (15 µg L−1 or 10 µg L−1, respectively), and warming and acidification. Additionally, we assessed these metals elimination, after a 7-day phase. After one day of experiment La and Gd clearly showed accumulation/adsorption in different patterns, at future conditions. Unlikely for Gd, Warming and Acidification contributed to the lowest La accumulation, and increased elimination. Lanthanum and Gd triggered an adequate activation of the antioxidant defence system, by avoiding lipid damage. Nevertheless, REE exposure in a near-future scenario triggered an overproduction of ROS that requested an enhanced antioxidant response. Additionally, an increase in total chlorophyll and carotenoids could also indicate an unforeseen energy expense, as a response to a multi-stressor environment.

Continue reading ‘A triple threat: ocean warming, acidification and rare earth elements exposure triggers a superior antioxidant response and pigment production in the adaptable Ulva rigida’

Understanding the impacts of environment and parasitism on Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) vulnerability to ocean acidification

The global process of ocean acidification caused by the absorption of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide decreases the concentration of carbonate ions and reduces the associated seawater saturation state (ΩCaCO3) – making it more energetically costly for marine calcifying organisms to build their shells or skeletons. Bivalves are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of ocean acidification on calcification, and they inhabit estuaries and coastal zones – regions most susceptible to ocean acidification. However, the response of an individual to elevated pCO2 can depend on the carbonate chemistry dynamics of its current environment and the environment of its parents. Additionally, an organism’s response to ocean acidification can depend on its ability to control the chemistry at the site of calcification. Biotic and abiotic stressors can modify bivalves’ control of calcifying fluid chemistry – known as extrapallial fluid (EPF). Understanding the responses of bivalves – which are foundation species – to ocean acidification is essential for predicting the impacts of oceanic change on marine communities. This dissertation uses a culturally, ecologically, and economically important bivalve in the northwest Atlantic – the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) – to explore the effects of environment and species interactions on responses to elevated pCO2.

Chapter 2 describes a field study that characterized diurnal and seasonal carbonate chemistry dynamics of two estuaries in the Gulf of Maine that support Eastern oyster populations. The estuaries were monitored at high temporal resolution (half-hourly) over four years (2018-2021) using pH and conductivity loggers. Measured pH, salinity, and temperature were used to calculate carbonate chemistry parameters. Both estuaries exhibited strong seasonal and diurnal fluctuations in carbonate chemistry. They also experienced pCO2 values that greatly exceeded current atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and those projected for the year 2100.

Chapter 3 describes a laboratory experiment that examined the capacity of intergenerational exposure to mitigate the adverse effects of ocean acidification on larval growth, shell morphology, and survival. Adult oysters were cultured in control or elevated pCO2 conditions for 30 days then crossed using a North Carolina II cross design. Larvae were grown for three days under control and elevated pCO2 conditions. Intergenerational exposure to elevated pCO2 conditions benefited early larval growth and shell morphology, but not survival. However, parental exposure was insufficient to completely counteract the adverse effects of the elevated pCO2 treatment on shell formation and survival.

Chapter 4 describes a laboratory experiment that examined the interplay between ocean acidification and parasite-host dynamics. Eastern oysters infested and not infested with bioeroding sponge (Cliona sp.) were cultured under three pCO2 conditions (539, 1040, 3294 ppm) and two temperatures (23, 27˚C) for 70 days to assess oyster control of EPF chemistry, growth, and survival. Bioeroding sponge infestation and elevated pCO2 reduced oyster net calcification and EPF pH but did not affect condition or survival. Infested oyster EPF pH was consistently lower than seawater pH, while EPF dissolved inorganic carbon was consistently elevated relative to seawater. These findings suggested that infested oysters effectively precipitated repair shell to prevent seawater intrusion into extrapallial fluid through bore holes across all treatments.

Chapter 5 characterizes the concentration of a suite of 56 elements normalized to calcium in EPF and shell of Crassostrea virginica grown under three pCO2 conditions (570, 990, 2912 ppm) and sampled at four timepoints (days 2, 9, 79, 101) to assess effects of pCO2 on organismal control of EPF and shell elemental composition and EPF-to-shell elemental partitioning. Elevated pCO2 significantly influenced the relative abundance of elements in the EPF (29) and shell (13) and altered EPF-to-shell elemental partitioning for 45 elements. Importantly, elevated pCO2 significantly influenced the concentration of several elements in C. virginica shell that are used in other biogenic carbonates as paleo-proxies for other environmental parameters. This result suggests that elevated pCO2 could influence the accuracy of paleo reconstructions.

Overall, this dissertation provides insights that can help improve our understanding of past, present, and future ocean environments. Understanding current local carbonate chemistry dynamics and the capacity for C. virginica to acclimate intergenerationally to elevated pCO2 can inform site and stock selection for aquaculture and restoration efforts. Studying parasite-host environment interactions provides critical insights into the potential for parasitism to alter responses to future ocean acidification. Finally, exploring the impact of elevated pCO2 on elemental composition of EPF and shell allowed us to understand better biomineralization processes, identify potential proxies for seawater pCO2 in bivalves, and offer insights that could help improve the accuracy of paleo reconstructions.

Continue reading ‘Understanding the impacts of environment and parasitism on Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) vulnerability to ocean acidification’

Caribbean king crab larvae and juveniles show tolerance to ocean acidification and ocean warming

Coastal habitats are experiencing decreases in seawater pH and increases in temperature due to anthropogenic climate change. The Caribbean king crab, Maguimithrax spinosissimus, plays a vital role on Western Atlantic reefs by grazing macroalgae that competes for space with coral recruits. Therefore, identifying its tolerance to anthropogenic stressors is critically needed if this species is to be considered as a potential restoration management strategy in coral reef environments. We examined the effects of temperature (control: 28 °C and elevated: 31 °C) and pH (control: 8.0 and reduced pH: 7.7) on the king crab’s larval and early juvenile survival, molt-stage duration, and morphology in a fully crossed laboratory experiment. Survival to the megalopal stage was reduced (13.5% lower) in the combined reduced pH and elevated temperature treatment relative to the control. First-stage (J1) juveniles delayed molting by 1.5 days in the reduced pH treatment, while second-stage (J2) crabs molted 3 days earlier when exposed to elevated temperature. Juvenile morphology did not differ among treatments. These results suggests that juvenile king crabs are tolerant to changes associated with climate change. Given the important role of the king crab as a grazer of macroalgae, its tolerance to climate stressors suggests that it could benefit restoration efforts aimed at making coral reefs more resilient to increasingly warm and acidic oceans into the future.

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Author correction: contrasting drivers and trends of ocean acidification in the subarctic Atlantic

The Original Article was published on 07 July 2021

Correction to: Scientific Reports, published online 07 July 2021

The original version of this Article contained errors.

In Table 2 legend, the symbol of “picomol” was incorrectly given as “nanomol”.

“Average trends obtained with the seasonally detrended data the in situ temperature (T in °C yr−1), salinity (S in yr−1), Total Alkalinity (TA in µmol kg−1 yr−1), salinity-normalized alkalinity (nTA in µmol kg−1 yr−1), total dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC in µmol kg−1 yr−1), salinity-normalized dissolved inorganic carbon (nDIC in µmol kg−1 yr−1), in situ pH in total scale (pHT yr−1), total hydrogen ion concentrations ([H+]T in nanomol kg−1 yr−1), ion carbonate concentration excess over aragonite saturation (exCO3 = in µmol kg−1 yr−1), and anthropogenic CO2.”

now reads:

“Average trends obtained with the seasonally detrended data the in situ temperature (T in °C yr−1), salinity (S in yr−1), Total Alkalinity (TA in µmol kg−1 yr−1), salinity-normalized alkalinity (nTA in µmol kg−1 yr−1), total dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC in µmol kg−1 yr−1), salinity-normalized dissolved inorganic carbon (nDIC in µmol kg−1 yr−1), in situ pH in total scale (pHT yr−1), total hydrogen ion concentrations ([H+]T in picomol kg−1 yr−1), ion carbonate concentration excess over aragonite saturation (exCO3 = in µmol kg−1 yr−1), and anthropogenic CO2.”

Additionally, the article contains a repeated error where the symbol for “pmol” was incorrectly given as “nmol” in the Results section, under the subheading ‘Acidifcation drivers’, in Figure 6 legend, and in the Conclusions.

Furthermore, in Figure 6A and Supplementary Figure S5A “pmol” was incorrectly given as “nmol” in the y-axis. The original Figure 6 and accompanying legend, and Supplementary Information file appear below.

Acidification trends and drivers decomposition (T,S, nDIC and nTA) for the seasonally detrended average time series of total hydrogen ions concentration in pmol/kg/yr (Δ[H+]TA) and for excess of [CO3= ] over the [CO3= ] at aragonite saturation in µmol/kg/yr (Δex[CO3=]B). The nDIC driver trends is split in natural (nCnat) and anthropogenic components (nCanth). The colour code is shown on both panels.

The original Article and accompanying Supplementary Information file have been corrected.

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Ichnodiversity in the eastern Canadian Arctic in the context of polar microbioerosion patterns

Studies of marine microbioerosion in polar environments are scarce. They include our recent investigations of bioerosion traces preserved in sessile balanid skeletons from the Arctic Svalbard archipelago and the Antarctic Ross Sea. Here, we present results from a third study site, Frobisher Bay, in the eastern Canadian Arctic, together with a synthesis of our current knowledge of polar bioerosion in both hemispheres. Barnacles from 62 to 94 m water depth in Frobisher Bay were prepared using the cast-embedding technique to enable visualization of microboring traces by scanning electron microscopy. In total, six ichnotaxa of traces produced by organotrophic bioeroders were found. All recorded ichnotaxa were also present in Mosselbukta, Svalbard, and most in the Ross Sea. Frobisher Bay contrasts with Mosselbukta in that it is a siliciclastic-dominated environment and shows a lower ichnodiversity, which may be accounted for by the limited bathymetrical range and a high turbidity and sedimentation rate. We evaluate potential key ichnotaxa for the cold-temperate and polar regions, of which the most suitable are Flagrichnus baiulus and Saccomorpha guttulata, and propose adapted index ichnocoenoses for the interpretation of palaeobathymetry accordingly. Together, the three studies allow us to make provisional considerations about the biogeographical distribution of polar microbioerosion traces reflecting the ecophysiological limits of their makers.

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Metabolic effect of ocean acidification on common cuttlefish Sepia officinalis early stages

Atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are continuously increasing due to the growing anthropogenic activities, causing a rise in the sea-surface partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2). This change in turn leads to decreased ocean pH, named ocean acidification, and affects the carbonate-silicate cycle. Such modification of seawater chemistry also affects the physiology and behaviour of marine organisms, impacting their metabolism, growth and development during vulnerable early-life stages. Among them, the embryo of the cephalopod cuttlefish develops for ~2 months) in encapsulated eggs with harsh conditions of hypoxia and hypercapnia, potentially worsen by the environmental ocean acidification. In this study, the development and the growth of early-life stages of Sepia officinalis were followed during the whole embryonic developmental period up to 10 days post-hatchling juveniles. Embryos and juveniles were exposed to five elevated pCO2 conditions controlled with a continuous pH-stat system (pH 8.08; 7.82; 7.65; 7.54; 7.43). Metabolites were determined in ready-to-hatch embryos, just hatched embryos and 10 d-old juveniles, using a 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy as a platform for untargeted metabolomics analysis. Consistent with previous studies, our results showed longer embryonic development and decreased hatching success at the lowest pH, but no effect on juvenile weight upon hatching. Metabolomics analysis revealed a metabolic depression in embryos reared at pH 7.43, non-monotonic changes to pH in 10 d-old juveniles, and no clear pH effect in newly hatched juvenile cuttlefish, likely due to the metabolic stress associated with hatching. Those results reveal possible effect of ocean acidification on the cuttlefish recruitment.

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Controls on buffering and coastal acidification in a temperate estuary

Estuaries may be uniquely susceptible to the combined acidification pressures of atmospherically driven ocean acidification (OA), biologically driven CO2 inputs from the estuary itself, and terrestrially derived freshwater inputs. This study utilized continuous measurements of total alkalinity (TA) and the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) from the mouth of Great Bay, a temperate northeastern U.S. estuary, to examine the potential influences of endmember mixing and biogeochemical transformation upon estuary buffering capacity (βH). Observations were collected hourly over 28 months representing all seasons between May 2016 and December 2019. Results indicated that endmember mixing explained most of the observed variability in TA and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), concentrations of which varied strongly with season. For much of the year, mixing dictated the relative proportions of salinity-normalized TA and DIC as well, but a fall season shift in these proportions indicated that aerobic respiration was observed, which would decrease βH by decreasing TA and increasing DIC. However, fall was also the season of weakest statistical correspondence between salinity and both TA and DIC, as well as the overall highest salinity, TA and βH. Potential biogeochemically driven βH decreases were overshadowed by increased buffering capacity supplied by coastal ocean water. A simple modeling exercise showed that mixing processes controlled most monthly changes in TA and DIC, obscuring impacts from air–sea exchange or metabolic processes. Advective mixing contributions may be as important as biogeochemically driven changes to observe when evaluating local estuarine and coastal OA.

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Kelp (Saccharina latissima) mitigates coastal ocean acidification and increases the growth of North Atlantic bivalves in lab experiments and on an oyster farm

Coastal zones can be focal points of acidification where the influx of atmospheric CO2 can be compounded by additional sources of acidity that may collectively impair calcifying organisms. While the photosynthetic action of macrophytes may buffer against coastal ocean acidification, such activity has not been well-studied, particularly among aquacultured seaweeds. Here, we report on field and laboratory experiments performed with North Atlantic populations of juvenile hard clams (Mercenaria mercenaria), eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica), and blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) grown with and without increased CO2 and with and without North Atlantic kelp (Saccharina latissima) over a range of aquaculture densities (0.3 – 2 g L-1). In all laboratory experiments, exposure to elevated pCO2 (>1,800 µatm) resulted in significantly reduced shell- and/or tissue-based growth rates of bivalves relative to control conditions. This impairment was fully mitigated when bivalves were exposed to the same acidification source but also co-cultured with kelp. Saturation states of aragonite were transformed from undersaturated to saturated in the acidification treatments with kelp present, while the acidification treatments remained undersaturated. In a field experiment, oysters grown near aquacultured kelp were exposed to higher pH waters and experienced significantly faster shell and tissue based growth rates compared to individuals grown at sites away from kelp. Collectively, these results suggest that photosynthesis by S. latissima grown at densities associated with aquaculture increased pH and decreased pCO2, fostering a carbonate chemistry regime that maximized the growth of juvenile bivalves. As S. latissima has been shown to benefit from increased CO2, growing bivalves and kelp together under current or future acidification scenarios may be a synergistically beneficial integrated, multi-trophic aquaculture approach.

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Acidification impacts and acclimation potential of foraminifera

Ocean acidification is expected to negatively affect many ecologically important organisms. Here we explored the response of Caribbean benthic foraminiferal communities to naturally discharging low-pH waters similar to expected future projections for the end of the 21st century. At low-pH (~ 7.7 pH units), low calcite saturation, agglutinated and symbiont-bearing species were relatively more abundant, indicating higher resistance to potential carbonate chemistry changes. Diversity and other taxonomical metrics declined steeply with decreasing pH despite exposure of this ecosystem for millennia to low pH conditions, suggesting that tropical foraminifera communities will be negatively impacted under acidification scenarios SSP3-7.0 and SSP5-8.5. The species Archaias angulatus, a major contributor to sediment production in the Caribbean was able to calcify at conditions more extreme than those projected for the late 21st century (7.1 pH units), but the calcified tests were of lower density than those exposed to high-pH ambient conditions (7.96 pH units), indicating that reef foraminiferal carbonate budget might decrease. Smaller foraminifera were highly sensitive to decreasing pH and our results demonstrate their potential as indicators to monitor increasing OA conditions.

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Assessment of paracetamol toxic effects under varying seawater pH conditions on the marine polychaete Hediste diversicolor using biochemical endpoints

Simple Summary

Context of climate change is being widely studied, nevertheless its effects in the toxicity of other contaminants have been poorly study. Particularly, the effects of ocean acidification on the modulation of pharmaceutical absorption and consequent effects, have not been extensively addressed before. In this study, we aimed to assess the effects of ocean acidification (specifically pH values of 8.2, 7.9, and 7.6) combined with paracetamol exposure (0, 30, 60, and 120 µg/L) on the polychaeta Hediste diversicolor. To do so, specific biomarkers were measured namely (CAT), glutathione S-transferases (GSTs), acetylcholinesterase (AChE), and cyclooxygenase (COX) activities, as well as thiobarbituric acid reactive substance (TBARS), were quantified to serve as ecotoxicological endpoints. Alterations of CAT, and GSTs activities, and TBARS levels indicate an alteration in redox balances. Differences in exposed pH levels indicate the possible modulation of the absorption of this pharmaceutical in ocean acidifications scenarios. Alterations in AChE were only observed following paracetamol exposure, not being altered by media pH. Hereby obtained results suggest that seawater acidification is detrimental to marine wildlife, since it may enhance toxic effects caused by environmental realistic concentrations of pharmaceuticals. This work is crucial to understand the potential effects of pharmaceuticals in a climate change scenario.


Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are likely to lower ocean pH values, after its dissolution in seawater. Additionally, pharmaceuticals drugs are environmental stressors due to their intrinsic properties and worldwide occurrence. It is thus of the utmost importance to assess the combined effects of pH decreases and pharmaceutical contamination, considering that their absorption (and effects) are likely to be strongly affected by changes in oceanic pH. To attain this goal, individuals of the marine polychaete Hediste diversicolor were exposed to distinct pH levels (8.2, 7.9, and 7.6) and environmentally relevant concentrations of the acidic drug paracetamol (PAR: 0, 30, 60, and 120 µg/L). Biomarkers such as catalase (CAT), glutathione S-transferases (GSTs), acetylcholinesterase (AChE), and cyclooxygenase (COX) activities, as well as peroxidative damage (through thiobarbituric acid reactive substance (TBARS) quantification), were quantified to serve as ecotoxicological endpoints. Data showed a general increase in CAT and a decrease in GST activities (with significant fluctuations according to the tested conditions of PAR and pH). These changes are likely to be associated with alterations of the redox cycle driven by PAR exposure. In addition, pH levels seemed to condition the toxicity caused by PAR, suggesting that the toxic effects of this drug were in some cases enhanced by more acidic conditions. An inhibition of AChE was observed in animals exposed to the highest concentration of PAR, regardless of the pH value. Moreover, no lipid peroxidation was observed in most individuals, although a significant increase in TBARS levels was observed for polychaetes exposed to the lowest pH. Finally, no alterations of COX activities were recorded on polychaetes exposed to PAR, regardless of the pH level. The obtained results suggest that seawater acidification is detrimental to marine wildlife, since it may enhance toxic effects caused by environmental realistic concentrations of acidic drugs, such as PAR. This work was crucial to evidence that ocean acidification, in the context of a global change scenario of increased levels of both atmospheric and oceanic CO2, is a key factor in understanding the putative enhanced toxicity of most pharmaceutical drugs that are of an acidic nature.

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Impaired hatching exacerbates the high CO2 sensitivity of embryonic sand lance Ammodytes dubius

Rising oceanic pCO2 levels could affect many traits in fish early life stages, but only few species to date have shown direct CO2-induced survival reductions. This might partly be because species from less CO2-variable, offshore environments in higher latitudes are currently underrepresented in the literature. We conducted new experimental work on northern sand lance Ammodytes dubius, a keystone forage fish on offshore Northwest Atlantic sand banks, which was recently suggested to be highly CO2-sensitive. In two complementary trials, we produced embryos from wild, Gulf of Maine (GoM) spawners and reared them at several pCO2 levels (~400–2000 µatm) in combination with static (6, 7, 10°C) and dynamic (10 → 5°C) temperature treatments. Again, we consistently observed large, CO2-induced reductions in hatching success (–23% at 1000 µatm, -61% at ~2000 µatm), and the effects were temperature-independent. To distinguish pCO2 effects during development from potential impacts on hatching itself, some embryos were switched between high and control pCO2 treatments just prior to hatch. This indeed altered hatching patterns consistent with the CO2-impaired hatching hypothesis. High CO2 also delayed the day of first hatch in one trial and peak hatch in the other, where later-hatched larvae were of similar size but with progressively less endogenous energy reserves. For context, we extracted seasonal pCO2 projections for Stellwagen Bank (GoM) from regional ensemble simulations, which indicated a CO2-induced reduction in sand lance hatching success to 71% of contemporary levels by 2100. The species’ unusual CO2 sensitivity has large ecological and scientific ramifications that warrant future in-depth research.

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Dynamic energy budget modeling of Atlantic surfclam, Spisula solidissima, under future ocean acidification and warming


  • Surfclams were exposed to OA levels inducing effects on physiological rates
  • A DEB model was calibrated integrating effects on ingestion and maintenance costs
  • The model was validated on Georges Bank and Mid-Atlantic Bight population data
  • Effects of future OA and warming conditions projected by RCP scenarios were simulated
  • Under high pCO2 emissions, DEB projects effects on growth and reproduction by 2100


A dynamic energy budget (DEB) model integrating pCO2 was used to describe ocean acidification (OA) effects on Atlantic surfclam, Spisula solidissima, bioenergetics. Effects of elevated pCO2 on ingestion and somatic maintenance costs were simulated, validated, and adapted in the DEB model based upon growth and biological rates acquired during a 12-week laboratory experiment. Temperature and pCO2 were projected for the next 100 years following the intergovernmental panel on climate change representative concentration pathways scenarios (2.6, 6.0, and 8.5) and used as forcing variables to project surfclam growth and reproduction. End-of-century water warming and acidification conditions resulted in simulated faster growth for young surfclams and more energy allocated to reproduction until the beginning of the 22nd century when a reduction in maximum shell length and energy allocated to reproduction was observed for the RCP 8.5 scenario.

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Editorial: acidification and hypoxia in marginal seas

Editorial on the Research Topic
Acidification and Hypoxia in Marginal Seas

Ocean acidification and hypoxia (dissolved oxygen <2 mg L−1 or <62 μmol L−1) are universal environmental concerns that can impact ecological and biogeochemical processes, including element cycling, carbon sequestration, community shifts, contributing to biodiversity reduction, and reducing marine ecosystem services (Riebesell et al., 2000Feely et al., 20042009Andersson et al., 2005Doney, 2006Cohen and Holcomb, 2009Doney et al., 20092020Kleypas and Yates, 2009Ekstrom et al., 2015Gattuso et al., 2015). While the stressors are global in their occurrence, local and regional impacts might be enhanced and even more accelerated, thus requiring even greater and faster consideration (Doney et al., 2020).

The driving mechanisms of acidification and hypoxia are inextricably linked in near-shore and coastal habitats. Along coastal shelf and its adjacent marginal seas, where the natural variability of multiple stressors is high, human-induced eutrophication is additionally enhancing both local acidification and hypoxia. For example, the well-known eutrophication of surface waters in the northern Gulf of Mexico caused hypoxic conditions that result in a pH decrease by 0.34 in the oxygen-depleted bottom water, which is significantly more than the pH decrease via atmospheric CO2 sequestration alone (pH decrease by 0.11; Cai et al., 2011). Similar changes in coastal conditions involving biological respiration and atmospheric CO2 invasion have also been observed in other marginal seas, urbanized estuaries, salt marshes and mangroves (Feely et al., 200820102018Cai et al., 2011Howarth et al., 2011). Other natural and anthropogenic processes, such as increased wind intensity and coastal upwelling, enhanced stratification due to global warming, along with more intense benthic respiration, more frequent extreme events, oscillation of water circulations, and variations in the terrestrial carbon and/or alkalinity fluxes, etc., all influence the onset and maintenance of acidification and/or hypoxia. For example, coastal upwelling brings both low pH and hypoxic water from below and enhances acidification and hypoxia in the coastal regions (Feely et al., 2008). Although acidification and hypoxia in the open oceans have received considerable attention already, the advances in our understanding of the driving mechanisms and the temporal evolution under global climate change is still poorly understood, particularly with respect to the region-specific differences, various scales of temporal and spatial variability, predictability patterns, and interactive multiple stressor impacts. Therefore, coastal ecosystems have a much broader range of rates of change in pH than the open ocean does (Carstensen and Duarte, 2019). The importance of understanding acidification and hypoxia for the biogeochemical and ecosystem implications in marginal seas is essential for climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy implementations in the future.

The scope of this Research Topic is to cover the most recent advances related to the status of acidification and hypoxia in marginal seas, the coupling mechanisms of multi-drivers and human impacts, ecosystem responses, prediction of their evolution over space and time, and under future climate change scenarios. The authors of this Research Topic contributed a total of 35 papers covering a wide variety of subjects spanning from acidification and/or hypoxia (OAH) status, the carbonate chemistry baseline and trends, the impacts of OAH on the habitat suitability and ecosystem implications, and the long-term changes and variability of OAH in marginal seas.

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Tidal mixing of estuarine and coastal waters in the western English Channel is a control on spatial and temporal variability in seawater CO2 (update)

Surface ocean carbon dioxide (CO2) measurements are used to compute the oceanic air–sea CO2 flux. The CO2 flux component from rivers and estuaries is uncertain due to the high spatial and seasonal heterogeneity of CO2 in coastal waters. Existing high-quality CO2 instrumentation predominantly utilises showerhead and percolating style equilibrators optimised for open-ocean observations. The intervals between measurements made with such instrumentation make it difficult to resolve the fine-scale spatial variability of surface water CO2 at timescales relevant to the high frequency variability in estuarine and coastal environments. Here we present a novel dataset with unprecedented frequency and spatial resolution transects made at the Western Channel Observatory in the south-west of the UK from June to September 2016, using a fast-response seawater CO2 system. Novel observations were made along the estuarine–coastal continuum at different stages of the tide and reveal distinct spatial patterns in the surface water CO2 fugacity (fCO2) at different stages of the tidal cycle. Changes in salinity and fCO2 were closely correlated at all stages of the tidal cycle and suggest that the mixing of oceanic and riverine endmembers partially determines the variations in fCO2. The correlation between salinity and fCO2 was different in Cawsand Bay, which could be due to enhanced gas exchange or to enhanced biological activity in the region. The observations demonstrate the complex dynamics determining spatial and temporal patterns of salinity and fCO2 in the region. Spatial variations in observed surface salinity were used to validate the output of a regional high-resolution hydrodynamic model. The model enables a novel estimate of the air–sea CO2 flux in the estuarine–coastal zone. Air–sea CO2 flux variability in the estuarine–coastal boundary region is influenced by the state of the tide because of strong CO2 outgassing from the river plume. The observations and model output demonstrate that undersampling the complex tidal and mixing processes characteristic of estuarine and coastal environment biases quantification of air–sea CO2 fluxes in coastal waters. The results provide a mechanism to support critical national and regional policy implementation by reducing uncertainty in carbon budgets.

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Response of Cymodocea nodosa to ocean acidification and warming in the Canary Islands: direct and indirect effects


  • Ocean acidification increase growth and gross primary production of Cymodocea nodosa.
  • The rise of temperature limited the net and gross primary production of Cymodocea nodosa.
  • A positive effect of decrased pH on greater vulnerability to consumption by Paracentrotus lividus.
  • A future scenario of climate change will affect metabolic rates of C.nodosa.
  • Different responses to climate change have been observed by C. nodosa from Canary Islands.


As detected in warming and ocean acidification, global change can have profound impact on marine life. Its effects on seagrasses are becoming increasingly well-known, since several studies have focused on the responses of these species to global change conditions. However a few studies have assessed the combined effect of temperature and acidification on seagrasses. Overall in this study, the combined effects of increased ocean temperature and pH levels expected at the end of this century (+5 °C and pH 7.5) on Cymodocea nodosa from Canary Islands, were evaluated for one month through manipulative laboratory experiments. Growth, net production, respiration, gross primary production, chlorophyll-a concentration and its vulnerability to herbivory were quantified. Results showed a positive effect of decreased pH on growth and gross primary production, as well as greater vulnerability to consumption by the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus. In contrast, increased temperature limited net and gross primary production. This study shows than in future scenarios, C. nodosa from the Canary Islands may be a losing species in the global change stakes.

Continue reading ‘Response of Cymodocea nodosa to ocean acidification and warming in the Canary Islands: direct and indirect effects’

Resilience of black sea bass embryos to increased levels of carbon dioxide

After a decade of research on how embryonic fish will respond to the increased dissolved carbon dioxide (ρCO2) levels predicted for the next century, no uniform response to near future acidification has been observed among marine species. We exposed Black Sea Bass Centropristis striata (BSB) embryos to varied levels of ρCO2 (microatmospheres [μatm]) for 48 h during seasonal experiments conducted in 2013–2015 to compare embryonic response among multiple broodstocks. The relationship between ρCO2 concentration and hatching success was inconsistent among years, with a nonlinear, inverse relationship noted in 2014 only, explaining 13% of observed variance. Conversely, ρCO2 was a good predictor of unhatched BSB embryos after 48 h for all years combined (39%) and for 2013 (38%). The ρCO2 concentration was a good predictor of the frequency of vertebral column anomalies for individual years (2013: 40%; 2014: 12%; 2015: 38%) but not when data were pooled for all years. In 2013 and 2015, vertebral column anomalies were relatively consistent below 1,000 μatm and were elevated above that threshold. Preliminary results suggest that BSB embryos may demonstrate resilience to future ρCO2 levels, but the results also highlight the challenges associated with drawing broad conclusions given observed variability in results obtained from different broodstocks and study years.

Continue reading ‘Resilience of black sea bass embryos to increased levels of carbon dioxide’

Parallel between the isotopic composition of coccolith calcite and carbon levels across Termination II: developing a new paleo-CO2 probe

Beyond the pCO2 records provided by ice core measurements, the quantification of atmospheric CO2 concentrations and changes thereof relies on proxy data, the development of which represents a foremost challenge in paleoceanography. In the paleoceanographic toolbox, the coccolithophores occupy a notable place, as the magnitude of the carbon isotopic fractionation between ambient CO2 and a type of organic compounds that these photosynthetic microalgae synthesize (the alkenones) represents a relatively robust proxy to reconstruct past atmospheric CO2 concentrations during the Cenozoic. The isotopic composition of coeval calcite biominerals found in the sediments and also produced by the coccolithophores (the coccoliths) have been found to record an ambient CO2 signal through culture and sediment analyses. These studies have, however, not yet formalized a transfer function that quantitatively ties the isotopic composition of coccolith calcite to the concentrations of aqueous CO2 and, ultimately, to atmospheric CO2 levels. Here, we make use of a microseparation protocol to compare the isotopic response of two size-restricted coccolith assemblages from the North Atlantic to changes in surface ocean CO2 during Termination II (ca. 130–140 ka). Performing paired measurements of the isotopic composition (δ13C and δ18O) of relatively large and small coccoliths provides an isotopic offset that can be designated as a “differential vital effect”. We find that the evolution of this offset follows that of aqueous CO2 concentrations computed from the ice core CO2 curve and an independent temperature signal. We interpret this biogeochemical feature to be the result of converging carbon fixation strategies between large and small cells as the degree of carbon limitation for cellular growth decreases across the deglaciation. We are therefore able to outline a first-order trend between the coccolith differential vital effects and aqueous CO2 in the range of Quaternary CO2 concentrations. Although this study would benefit from further constraints on the other controls at play on coccolith geochemistry (growth rate, air–sea gas exchange, etc.), this test of the drivers of coccolith Δδ13C and Δδ18O in natural conditions is a new step in the development of a coccolith paleo-CO2 probe.

Continue reading ‘Parallel between the isotopic composition of coccolith calcite and carbon levels across Termination II: developing a new paleo-CO2 probe’

Surface ocean warming and acidification driven by rapid carbon release precedes Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum

The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) is recognized by a major negative carbon isotope (δ13C) excursion (CIE) signifying an injection of isotopically light carbon into exogenic reservoirs, the mass, source, and tempo of which continue to be debated. Evidence of a transient precursor carbon release(s) has been identified in a few localities, although it remains equivocal whether there is a global signal. Here, we present foraminiferal δ13C records from a marine continental margin section, which reveal a 1.0 to 1.5‰ negative pre-onset excursion (POE), and concomitant rise in sea surface temperature of at least 2°C and a decline in ocean pH. The recovery of both δ13C and pH before the CIE onset and apparent absence of a POE in deep-sea records suggests a rapid (< ocean mixing time scales) carbon release, followed by recovery driven by deep-sea mixing. Carbon released during the POE is therefore likely more similar to ongoing anthropogenic emissions in mass and rate than the main CIE.

Continue reading ‘Surface ocean warming and acidification driven by rapid carbon release precedes Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum’

An integrated multiple driver mesocosm experiment reveals the effect of global change on planktonic food web structure

Global change puts coastal marine systems under pressure, affecting community structure and functioning. Here, we conducted a mesocosm experiment with an integrated multiple driver design to assess the impact of future global change scenarios on plankton, a key component of marine food webs. The experimental treatments were based on the RCP 6.0 and 8.5 scenarios developed by the IPCC, which were Extended (ERCP) to integrate the future predicted changing nutrient inputs into coastal waters. We show that simultaneous influence of warming, acidification, and increased N:P ratios alter plankton dynamics, favours smaller phytoplankton species, benefits microzooplankton, and impairs mesozooplankton. We observed that future environmental conditions may lead to the rise of Emiliania huxleyi and demise of Noctiluca scintillans, key species for coastal planktonic food webs. In this study, we identified a tipping point between ERCP 6.0 and ERCP 8.5 scenarios, beyond which alterations of food web structure and dynamics are substantial.

Continue reading ‘An integrated multiple driver mesocosm experiment reveals the effect of global change on planktonic food web structure’

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