Posts Tagged 'nutrients'

Nutrient loading fosters seagrass productivity under ocean acidification

The effects of climate change are likely to be dependent on local settings. Nonetheless, the compounded effects of global and regional stressors remain poorly understood. Here, we used CO2 vents to assess how the effects of ocean acidification on the seagrass, Posidonia oceanica, and the associated epiphytic community can be modified by enhanced nutrient loading. P. oceanica at ambient and low pH sites was exposed to three nutrient levels for 16 months. The response of P. oceanica to experimental conditions was assessed by combining analyses of gene expression, plant growth, photosynthetic pigments and epiphyte loading. At low pH, nutrient addition fostered plant growth and the synthesis of photosynthetic pigments. Overexpression of nitrogen transporter genes following nutrient additions at low pH suggests enhanced nutrient uptake by the plant. In addition, enhanced nutrient levels reduced the expression of selected antioxidant genes in plants exposed to low pH and increased epiphyte cover at both ambient and low pH. Our results show that the effects of ocean acidification on P. oceanica depend upon local nutrient concentration. More generally, our findings suggest that taking into account local environmental settings will be crucial to advance our understanding of the effects of global stressors on marine systems.

Continue reading ‘Nutrient loading fosters seagrass productivity under ocean acidification’

Impact of climate change variables on nutrient cycling by marine microorganisms in the Southern California Bight and Ross Sea, Antarctica

Ocean environments are being impacted by climate warming, elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels, and shifting nutrient sources and sinks. It is essential to quantify the sensitivity of microorganisms to these effects of global change because they form the base of the marine food web and are an integral component of nutrient cycling on the planet. Their role in photosynthesis, nutrient uptake, and transfer of organic matter into higher trophic levels or to the deep ocean via the biological pump render microorganisms key in ecosystem structure and function and in regulating the global climate. The goal of this dissertation research was to determine how changing environmental conditions impact microbial communities and the rates at which they take up nutrients. Research for this dissertation took place in the Southern California Bight and in the Ross Sea, Antarctica, where fully factorial designs were used to investigate the response of microorganisms to multiple global change parameters. Nutrient uptake rates were measured using 13C and 15N stable isotopes for carbon and nitrogen substrates and 33P radioisotopes for phosphorus substrates. In the Southern California Bight, a microbial assemblage was collected and incubated in an ‘ecostat’ continuous culture system, where elevated temperature, CO2, and the dominant nitrogen substrate (nitrate or urea) in the diluent were manipulated. During this experiment uptake rates of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), nitrate (NO3-), and urea were determined for two microbial size classes (0.7-5.0 μm and >5.0 μm). Urea uptake rates were greater than NO3-, and uptake rates of urea and DIC for both size fractions increased at elevated temperature, while uptake rates of NO3- by smaller microorganisms increased when CO2 levels were high. In the Ross Sea, the impact of elevated temperature, CO2, and iron addition on DIC and NO3- uptake rates by two size classes (0.7-5.0 μm and >5.0 μm ) of a late-season microbial community were investigated using a semi-continuous and continuous ‘ecostat’ culturing approach. Temperature impacted the microbial community the most, significantly increasing NO3- and DIC uptake rates by larger microorganisms. The effects of iron addition were more apparent when temperature was also elevated, and CO2 did not impact rates. Bioassay experiments were also conducted in the Ross Sea to determine how increasing and decreasing the N:P supply ratio in combination with other parameters (temperature and iron) impact uptake rates of DIC, NO3-, and amino acids. Results from these experiments show that changes to the dissolved N:P supply ratio have the potential to alter nutrient uptake rates over short time scales, but that temperature elevation and iron addition have a larger impact. Additional experiments were completed on diatoms (Fragilariopsis cylindrus and Pseudo-nitzschia subcurvata) and Phaeocystis antarctica, three important phytoplankton species collected from the Ross Sea, to assess how temperature elevation and iron addition impact uptake rates of a number of inorganic and organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus substrates. These culture studies generally show that when temperature is increased, diatoms are able to take up nutrients more rapidly than Phaeocystis antarctica.
Results from this dissertation show that nutrient cycles and phytoplankton communities in the Southern California Bight and the Ross Sea, Antarctica will likely be different in the future. Although all variables tested were found to exert some influence on microbial nutrient cycling, temperature elevation generally had the largest effect, increasing biomass and uptake rates, structuring the composition of the microbial community, and altering stoichiometry. This research did not include top down effects and it is limited spatially and temporally, however, it demonstrates the importance of studying different nutrient substrates and looking at multiple interactive stressors to gain a more comprehensive view of potential change.

Continue reading ‘Impact of climate change variables on nutrient cycling by marine microorganisms in the Southern California Bight and Ross Sea, Antarctica’

Resilience of the larval slipper limpet Crepidula onyx to direct and indirect-diet effects of ocean acidification

Ocean acidification (OA) is known to directly impact larval physiology and development of many marine organisms. OA also affects the nutritional quality and palatability of algae, which are principal food sources for many types of planktonic larvae. This potential indirect effect of OA via trophic interactions, however, has not been fully explored. In this study, veligers of Crepidula onyx were exposed to different pH levels representing the ambient (as control) and low pH values (pH 7.7 and pH 7.3) for 14 days, and were fed with Isochrysis galbana cultured at these three respective pHs. pH, diet, nor their interactions had no effect on larval mortality. Decrease in pH alone had a significant effect on growth rate and shell size. Structural changes (increased porosity) in larval shells were also observed in the low pH treatments. Interactions between acidification and reduced diet quality promoted earlier settlement. Unlike other calcifying molluscs, this population of slipper limpets introduced to Hong Kong in 1960s appeared to be resilient to OA and decreased algal nutritional value. If this robustness observed in the laboratory applies to the field, competition with native invertebrates may intensify and this non-native snail could flourish in acidified coastal ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Resilience of the larval slipper limpet Crepidula onyx to direct and indirect-diet effects of ocean acidification’

Combined effects of experimental acidification and eutrophication on reef sponge bioerosion rates

Health of tropical coral reefs depends largely on the balance between constructive (calcification and cementation) and destructive forces (mechanical-chemical degradation). Gradual increase in dissolved CO2 and the resulting decrease in carbonate ion concentration (“ocean acidification”) in ocean surface water may tip the balance toward net mass loss for many reefs. Enhanced nutrients and organic loading in surface waters (“eutrophication”), may increase the susceptibility of coral reef and near shore environments to ocean acidification. The impacts of these processes on coral calcification have been repeatedly reported, however the synergetic effects on bioerosion rates by sponges are poorly studied. Erosion by excavating sponges is achieved by a combination of chemical dissolution and mechanical chip removal. In this study, Cliona caribbaea, a photosymbiont-bearing excavating sponge widely distributed in Caribbean reef habitats, was exposed to a range of CO2 concentrations, as well as different eutrophication levels. Total bioerosion rates, estimated from changes in buoyant weights over 1 week, increased significantly with pCO2 but not with eutrophication. Observed chemical bioerosion rates were positively affected by both pCO2 and eutrophication but no interaction was revealed. Net photosynthetic activity was enhanced with rising pCO2 but not with increasing eutrophication levels. These results indicate that an increase in organic matter and nutrient renders sponge bioerosion less dependent on autotrophic products. At low and ambient pCO2, day-time chemical rates were ~50% higher than those observed at night-time. A switch was observed in bioerosion under higher pCO2 levels, with night-time chemical bioerosion rates becoming comparable or even higher than day-time rates. We suggest that the difference in rates between day and night at low and ambient pCO2 indicates that the benefit of acquired energy from photosynthetic activity surpasses the positive effect of increased pCO2 levels at night due to holobiont respiration. This implies that excavation must cost cellular energy, by processes, such as ATP usage for active Ca2+ and/or active proton pumping. Additionally, competition for dissolved inorganic carbon species may occur between bioerosion and photosynthetic activity by the symbionts. Either way, the observed changing role of symbionts in bioerosion can be attributed to enhanced photosynthetic activity at high pCO2 levels.

Continue reading ‘Combined effects of experimental acidification and eutrophication on reef sponge bioerosion rates’

Transgenerational exposure of North Atlantic bivalves to ocean acidification renders offspring more vulnerable to low pH and additional stressors

While early life-stage marine bivalves are vulnerable to ocean acidification, effects over successive generations are poorly characterized. The objective of this work was to assess the transgenerational effects of ocean acidification on two species of North Atlantic bivalve shellfish, Mercenaria mercenaria and Argopecten irradians. Adults of both species were subjected to high and low pCO2 conditions during gametogenesis. Resultant larvae were exposed to low and ambient pH conditions in addition to multiple, additional stressors including thermal stress, food-limitation, and exposure to a harmful alga. There were no indications of transgenerational acclimation to ocean acidification during experiments. Offspring of elevated pCO2-treatment adults were significantly more vulnerable to acidification as well as the additional stressors. Our results suggest that clams and scallops are unlikely to acclimate to ocean acidification over short time scales and that as coastal oceans continue to acidify, negative effects on these populations may become compounded and more severe.

Continue reading ‘Transgenerational exposure of North Atlantic bivalves to ocean acidification renders offspring more vulnerable to low pH and additional stressors’

Sponge bioerosion on changing reefs: ocean warming poses physiological constraints to the success of a photosymbiotic excavating sponge

Excavating sponges are prominent bioeroders on coral reefs that in comparison to other benthic organisms may suffer less or may even benefit from warmer, more acidic and more eutrophic waters. Here, the photosymbiotic excavating sponge Cliona orientalis from the Great Barrier Reef was subjected to a prolonged simulation of both global and local environmental change: future seawater temperature, partial pressure of carbon dioxide (as for 2100 summer conditions under “business-as-usual” emissions), and diet supplementation with particulate organics. The individual and combined effects of the three factors on the bioerosion rates, metabolic oxygen and carbon flux, biomass change and survival of the sponge were monitored over the height of summer. Diet supplementation accelerated bioerosion rates. Acidification alone did not have a strong effect on total bioerosion or survival rates, yet it co-occurred with reduced heterotrophy. Warming above 30 °C (+2.7 °C above the local maximum monthly mean) caused extensive bleaching, lower bioerosion, and prevailing mortality, overriding the other factors and suggesting a strong metabolic dependence of the sponge on its resident symbionts. The growth, bioerosion capacity and likelihood of survival of C. orientalis and similar photosymbiotic excavating sponges could be substantially reduced rather than increased on end-of-the-century reefs under “business-as-usual” emission profiles.

Continue reading ‘Sponge bioerosion on changing reefs: ocean warming poses physiological constraints to the success of a photosymbiotic excavating sponge’

Divergent responses in growth and nutritional quality of coastal macroalgae to the combination of increased pCO2 and nutrients


  • Growth rates and tissue quality of two common macroalgal species were assessed under conditions of high pCO2 and nutrient loading under monoculture and biculture.
  • Ephemeral macroalgae exhibited significant increases in growth under high pCO2 and high nutrients.
  • Growth rates of perennial macroalgae were unaffected by environmental treatments.
  • Tissue quality of both species increased via decreases in C:N when nutrients were increased.
  • Biculture appears to impact resource acquisition of perennial macroalgae as evidence of higher tissue C:N when compared to monoculture tissue.


Coastal ecosystems are subjected to global and local environmental stressors, including increased atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) (and subsequent ocean acidification) and nutrient loading. Here, we tested how two common macroalgal species in the Northwest Atlantic (Ulva spp. and Fucus vesiculosus Linneaus) respond to the combination of increased CO2 and nutrient loading. We utilized two levels of pCO2 with two levels of nutrients in a full factorial design, testing the growth rates and tissue quality of Ulva and Fucus grown for 21 days in monoculture and biculture. We found that the opportunistic, fast-growing Ulva exhibited increased growth rates under high pCO2 and high nutrients, with growth rates increasing three-fold above Ulva grown in ambient pCO2 and ambient nutrients. By contrast, Fucus growth rates were not impacted by either environmental factor. Both species exhibited a decline in carbon to nitrogen ratios (C:N) with elevated nutrients, but pCO2 concentration did not alter tissue quality in either species. Species grown in biculture exhibited similar growth rates to those in monoculture conditions, but Fucus C:N increased significantly when grown with Ulva, indicating an effect of the presence of Ulva on Fucus. Our results suggest that the combination of ocean acidification and nutrients will enhance abundance of opportunistic algal species in coastal systems and will likely drive macroalgal community shifts, based on species-specific responses to future conditions.

Continue reading ‘Divergent responses in growth and nutritional quality of coastal macroalgae to the combination of increased pCO2 and nutrients’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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