Posts Tagged 'North Pacific'

Rapid bioerosion in a tropical upwelling coral reef

Coral reefs persist in an accretion-erosion balance, which is critical for understanding the natural variability of sediment production, reef accretion, and their effects on the carbonate budget. Bioerosion (i.e. biodegradation of substrate) and encrustation (i.e. calcified overgrowth on substrate) influence the carbonate budget and the ecological functions of coral reefs, by substrate formation/consolidation/erosion, food availability and nutrient cycling. This study investigates settlement succession and carbonate budget change by bioeroding and encrusting calcifying organisms on experimentally deployed coral substrates (skeletal fragments of Stylophora pistillata branches). The substrates were deployed in a marginal coral reef located in the Gulf of Papagayo (Costa Rica, Eastern Tropical Pacific) for four months during the northern winter upwelling period (December 2013 to March 2014), and consecutively sampled after each month. Due to the upwelling environmental conditions within the Eastern Tropical Pacific, this region serves as a natural laboratory to study ecological processes such as bioerosion, which may reflect climate change scenarios. Time-series analyses showed a rapid settlement of bioeroders, particularly of lithophagine bivalves of the genus Lithophaga/Leiosolenus (Dillwyn, 1817), within the first two months of exposure. The observed enhanced calcium carbonate loss of coral substrate (>30%) may influence seawater carbon chemistry. This is evident by measurements of an elevated seawater pH (>8.2) and aragonite saturation state (Ωarag >3) at Matapalo Reef during the upwelling period, when compared to a previous upwelling event observed at a nearby site in distance to a coral reef (Marina Papagayo). Due to the resulting local carbonate buffer effect of the seawater, an influx of atmospheric CO2 into reef waters was observed. Substrates showed no secondary cements in thin-section analyses, despite constant seawater carbonate oversaturation (Ωarag >2.8) during the field experiment. Micro Computerized Tomography (μCT) scans and microcast-embeddings of the substrates revealed that the carbonate loss was primarily due to internal macrobioerosion and an increase in microbioerosion. This study emphasizes the interconnected effects of upwelling and carbonate bioerosion on the reef carbonate budget and the ecological turnovers of carbonate producers in tropical coral reefs under environmental change.

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Effect of seawater temperature, pH, and nutrients on the distribution and character of low abundance shallow water benthic foraminifera in the Galápagos

In order to help predict the effects of anthropogenic stressors on shallow water carbonate environments, it is important to focus research on regions containing natural oceanographic gradients, particularly with respect to interactions between oceanography and ecologically sensitive carbonate producers. The Galápagos Archipelago, an island chain in the eastern equatorial Pacific, spans a natural nutrient, pH, and temperature gradient due to the interaction of several major ocean currents. Further, the region is heavily impacted by the El Niño—Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Galápagos exhibited widespread coral bleaching and degradation following the strong ENSO events of 1982–1983 and 1997–1998. These findings are coupled with reports of unusually low abundances of time-averaged benthic foraminiferal assemblages throughout the region. Foraminifera, shelled single-celled protists, are sensitive to environmental change and rapidly respond to alterations to their surrounding environment, making them ideal indicator species for the study of reef water quality and health. Here, statistical models and analyses were used to compare modern shallow water benthic foraminiferal assemblages from 19 samples spanning the Galápagos Archipelago to predominant oceanographic parameters at each collection site. Fisher α diversity indices, Ternary diagrams, Canonical Correspondence Analysis, regression tree analysis and FORAM-Index (FI; a single metric index for evaluating water quality associated with reef development) implied a combined impact from ENSO and upwelling from Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC) waters to primarily impact foraminiferal abundances and drive assemblage patterns throughout the archipelago. For instance, repeated ENSO temperature anomalies might be responsible for low foraminiferal density, while chronically high nutrients and low aragonite saturation and low pH—induced by EUC upwelling and La Niña anomalies—likely inhibited post-ENSO recovery, and caused foraminiferal assemblages to exhibit a heterotrophic dominance in the southern archipelago. What resulted are low FI values in the southern collection sites, indicating environments not conducive to endosymbiont development and/or recovery.

Continue reading ‘Effect of seawater temperature, pH, and nutrients on the distribution and character of low abundance shallow water benthic foraminifera in the Galápagos’

Carbon cycling in the North American coastal ocean: a synthesis

A quantification of carbon fluxes in the coastal ocean and across its boundaries, specifically the air-sea, land-to-coastal-ocean and coastal-to-open-ocean interfaces, is important for assessing the current state and projecting future trends in ocean carbon uptake and coastal ocean acidification, but is currently a missing component of global carbon budgeting. This synthesis reviews recent progress in characterizing these carbon fluxes with focus on the North American coastal ocean. Several observing networks and high-resolution regional models are now available. Recent efforts have focused primarily on quantifying net air-sea exchange of carbon dioxide (CO2). Some studies have estimated other key fluxes, such as the exchange of organic and inorganic carbon between shelves and the open ocean. Available estimates of air-sea CO2 flux, informed by more than a decade of observations, indicate that the North American margins act as a net sink for atmospheric CO2. This net uptake is driven primarily by the high-latitude regions. The estimated magnitude of the net flux is 160±80TgC/y for the North American Exclusive Economic Zone, a number that is not well constrained. The increasing concentration of inorganic carbon in coastal and open-ocean waters leads to ocean acidification. As a result conditions favouring dissolution of calcium carbonate occur regularly in subsurface coastal waters in the Arctic, which are naturally prone to low pH, and the North Pacific, where upwelling of deep, carbon-rich waters has intensified and, in combination with the uptake of anthropogenic carbon, leads to low seawater pH and aragonite saturation states during the upwelling season. Expanded monitoring and extension of existing model capabilities are required to provide more reliable coastal carbon budgets, projections of future states of the coastal ocean, and quantification of anthropogenic carbon contributions.

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Chapter 16 – Taiwan

The economy and population in Taiwan grew rapidly in the 20th century, during which time little attention was paid to marine environmental protection. Discharges of heavy metals, BOD, COD, organic/inorganic nitrogen, and phosphorous have, as a result, caused environmental problems. Besides pollutants brought by long-range transport such as dust storms, haze, and water-borne radiation, locally sourced pollutants were transported to the coastal area by small mountain rivers on the narrow island. This has become a great problem for the coastal environment and a threat to both riverine and coastal organisms. Knowledge about these anthropogenic substances has been increasing due to improved analytical technology and concern has been increasing due to the adverse health effects that are being identified. Therefore, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, radioactive substances, and many emerging contaminants have become new targets for investigation in recent years in the coastal areas where they end up. Their potential risks to the ecosystems have been confirmed, but there are still no relevant regulations for their prevention. Furthermore, there will be more new chemicals that will cause concern in the future. This chapter focuses on these issues as well as on several contaminants that should be investigated further in Taiwan’s coastal environment.

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Possible roles of glutamine synthetase in responding to environmental changes in a scleractinian coral

Glutamine synthetase is an enzyme that plays an essential role in the metabolism of nitrogen by catalyzing the condensation of glutamate and ammonia to form glutamine. In this study, the activity and responses of glutamine synthetase towards environmental changes were investigated in the scleractinian coral Pocillopora damicornis. The identified glutamine synthetase (PdGS) was comprised of 362 amino acids and predicted to contain one Gln-synt_N and one Gln-synt_C domain. Expression of PdGS mRNA increased significantly after 12 h (1.28-fold, p < 0.05) of exposure to elevated ammonium, while glutamine synthetase activity increased significantly from 12 to 24 h, peaking at 12 h (54.80 U mg−1, p < 0.05). The recombinant protein of the mature PdGS (rPdGS) was expressed in E. coli BL21, and its activities were detected under different temperature, pH and glufosinate levels. The highest levels of rPdGS activity were observed at 25 °C and pH 8 respectively, but decreased significantly at lower temperature, and higher or lower pH. Furthermore, the level of rPdGS activities was negatively correlated with the concentration of glufosinate, specifically decreasing at 10−5 mol L−1 glufosinate to be less than 50% (p < 0.05) of that in the blank. These results collectively suggest that PdGS, as a homologue of glutamine synthetase, was involved in the nitrogen assimilation in the scleractinian coral. Further, its physiological functions could be suppressed by high temperature, ocean acidification and residual glufosinate, which might further regulate the coral-zooxanthella symbiosis via the nitrogen metabolism in the scleractinian coral P. damicornis.

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Development of the sea urchin Heliocidaris crassispina from Hong Kong is robust to ocean acidification and copper contamination


• Ocean acidification will increase the fraction of the most toxic form of copper, increasing its bioavailability to marine organisms
• We tested the hypothesis that copper contaminated waters are more toxic to sea urchin larvae under future pH conditions in three laboratory experiments
• Larvae are robust to the pH and the copper levels we tested (little/no mortality)
• However, significant sub-lethal effects, could have indirect consequences on survival


Metallic pollution is of particular concern in coastal cities. In the Asian megacity of Hong Kong, despite water qualities have improved over the past decade, some local zones are still particularly affected and could represent sinks for remobilization of labile toxic species such as copper. Ocean acidification is expected to increase the fraction of the most toxic form of copper (Cu2+) by 2.3-folds by 2100 (pH ≈7.7), increasing its bioavailability to marine organisms. Multiple stressors are likely to exert concomitant effects (additive, synergic or antagonist) on marine organisms.

Here, we tested the hypothesis that copper contaminated waters are more toxic to sea urchin larvae under future pH conditions. We exposed sea urchin embryos and larvae to two low-pH and two copper treatments (0.1 and 1.0 μM) in three separate experiments. Over the short time typically used for toxicity tests (up to 4-arm plutei, i.e. 3 days), larvae of the sea urchin Heliocidaris crassispina were robust and survived the copper levels present in Hong Kong waters today (≤0.19 μM) as well as the average pH projected for 2100. We, however, observed significant mortality with lowering pH in the longer, single-stressor experiment (Expt A: 8-arm plutei, i.e. 9 days). Abnormality and arm asymmetry were significantly increased by pH or/and by copper presence (depending on the experiment and copper level). Body size (d3; but not body growth rates in Expt A) was significantly reduced by both lowered pH and added copper. Larval respiration (Expt A) was doubled by a decrease at pHT from 8.0 to 7.3 on d6. In Expt B1.0 and B0.1, larval morphology (relative arm lengths and stomach volume) were affected by at least one of the two investigated factors.

Although the larvae appeared robust, these sub-lethal effects may have indirect consequences on feeding, swimming and ultimately survival. The complex relationship between pH and metal speciation/uptake is not well-characterized and further investigations are urgently needed to detangle the mechanisms involved and to identify possible caveats in routinely used toxicity tests.

Continue reading ‘Development of the sea urchin Heliocidaris crassispina from Hong Kong is robust to ocean acidification and copper contamination’

Projected amplification of food web bioaccumulation of MeHg and PCBs under climate change in the Northeastern Pacific

Climate change increases exposure and bioaccumulation of pollutants in marine organisms, posing substantial ecophysiological and ecotoxicological risks. Here, we applied a trophodynamic ecosystem model to examine the bioaccumulation of organic mercury (MeHg) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in a Northeastern Pacific marine food web under climate change. We found largely heterogeneous sensitivity in climate-pollution impacts between chemicals and trophic groups. Concentration of MeHg and PCBs in top predators, including resident killer whales, is projected to be amplified by 8 and 3%, respectively, by 2100 under a high carbon emission scenario (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5) relative to a no-climate change control scenario. However, the level of amplification increases with higher carbon emission scenario for MeHg, but decreases for PCBs. Such idiosyncratic responses are shaped by the differences in bioaccumulation pathways between MeHg and PCBs, and the modifications of food web dynamics between different levels of climate change. Climate-induced pollutant amplification in mid-trophic level predators (Chinook salmon) are projected to be higher (~10%) than killer whales. Overall, the predicted trophic magnification factor is ten-fold higher in MeHg than in PCBs under high CO2 emissions. This contribution highlights the importance of understanding the interactions with anthropogenic organic pollutants in assessing climate risks on marine ecosystems.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book