Posts Tagged 'otherprocess'

The potential of kelp Saccharina japonica in shielding Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas from elevated seawater pCO2 stress

Ocean acidification (OA) caused by elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration is predicted to have negative impacts on marine bivalves in aquaculture. However, to date, most of our knowledge is derived from short-term laboratory-based experiments, which are difficult to scale to real-world production. Therefore, field experiments, such as this study, are critical for improving ecological relevance. Due to the ability of seaweed to absorb dissolved carbon dioxide from the surrounding seawater through photosynthesis, seaweed has gained theoretical attention as a potential partner of bivalves in integrated aquaculture to help mitigate the adverse effects of OA. Consequently, this study investigates the impact of elevated pCO2 on the physiological responses of the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas in the presence and absence of kelp (Saccharina japonica) using in situ mesocosms. For 30 days, mesocosms were exposed to six treatments, consisting of two pCO2 treatments (500 and 900 μatm) combined with three biotic treatments (oyster alone, kelp alone, and integrated kelp and oyster aquaculture). Results showed that the clearance rate (CR) and scope for growth (SfG) of C. gigas were significantly reduced by elevated pCO2, whereas respiration rates (MO2) and ammonium excretion rates (ER) were significantly increased. However, food absorption efficiency (AE) was not significantly affected by elevated pCO2. The presence of S. japonica changed the daytime pHNBS of experimental units by ~0.16 units in the elevated pCO2 treatment. As a consequence, CR and SfG significantly increased and MO2 and ER decreased compared to C. gigas exposed to elevated pCO2 without S. japonica. These findings indicate that the presence of S. japonica in integrated aquaculture may help shield C. gigas from the negative effects of elevated seawater pCO2.

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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.

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Effect of different pCO2 concentrations in seawater on meiofauna: abundance of communities in sediment and survival rate of harpacticoid copepods

The amount of CO2 dissolved in the ocean has been increasing continuously, and the results using climate change models show that the CO2 concentration of the ocean will increase by over 1000 ppm by 2100. Ocean acidification is expected to have a considerable impact on marine ecosystems. To find out about the impacts of ocean acidification on meiofaunal communities and copepod groups, we analyzed the differences in the abundance of meiofauna communities in sediment and the survival rate of harpacticoid copepod assemblages separated from the sediment, between 400 and 1000 ppm pCO2 for a short period of 5 days. In experiments with communities in sediments exposed to different pCO2 concentrations, there was no significant difference in the abundance of total meiofauna and nematodes. However, the abundance of the harpacticoid copepod community was significantly lower at 1000 ppm than that at 400 ppm pCO2. On the other hand, in experiments with assemblages of harpacticoid copepods directly exposed to seawater, there was no significant difference in their survival rates between the two concentrations. Our findings suggest that a CO2 concentration of 1000 ppm in seawater can cause changes in the abundance of specific taxa such as harpacticoid copepods among the meiofauna communities in sediments.

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Adaptive potential of coastal invertebrates to environmental stressors and climate change

Climate change presents multiple stressors that are impacting marine life. As carbon dioxide emissions continue to increase in the atmosphere, atmospheric and sea water temperatures increase. In addition, more carbon dioxide is absorbed into the oceans, reducing pH and aragonite saturation state, resulting in ocean acidification (OA). Tightly coupled with OA is hypoxia due to deep stratified sea water becoming increasingly acidified and deoxygenated. The effects of these climate stressors have been studied in detail for only a few marine animal models. However, there are still many taxa and developmental stages in which we know very little about the impacts. Using genomic techniques, we examine the adaptive potential of three local marine invertebrates under three different climate stressors: marine disease exacerbated by thermal stress, OA, and combined stressors OA with hypoxia (OAH). As sea water temperatures rise, the prevalence of marine diseases increases, as seen in the sea star wasting syndrome (SSWS). The causation of SSWS is still widely debated; however reduced susceptibility to SSWS could aid in understanding disease progression. By examining genetic variation in Pisaster ochraceous collected during the SSWS outbreak, we observed weak separation between symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. OA has been widely studied in many marine organisms, including Crassostrea gigas. However, limited studies have parsed the effects of OA during settlement, with no studies assessing the functionality of settlement and how it is impacted by OA. We investigated the effects of OA on settlement and gene expression during the transition from larval to juvenile stages in Pacific oysters. While OA and hypoxia are common climate stressors examined, the combined effects have scarcely examined. Further, the impacts of OAH have been narrowly focused on a select few species, with many economically important organisms having no baseline information on how they will persist as OAH severity increases. To address these gaps in our knowledge, we measured genetic variation in metabolic rates during OA for the species Haliotis rufescens to assess their adaptive potential through heritability measurements. We discuss caveats and considerations when utilizing similar heritability estimate methods for other understudied organisms. Together, these studies will provide novel information on the biological responses and susceptibility of difference coastal species to stressors associated with global climate change. These experiments provide information on both the vulnerability of current populations and their genetic potential for adaptation to changing ocean conditions.

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The effects of ocean acidification on microbial nutrient cycling and productivity in coastal marine sediments

Ocean Acidification (OA), commonly referred to as the “other CO₂ problem,” illustrates the current rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels, precipitated in large by human-related activity (e.g., fossil fuel combustion and mass deforestation). The dissolution of atmospheric CO₂ into the surface of the ocean over time has reduced oceanic pH levels by 0.1 units since the start of the pre-industrial era and has resulted in wholesale shifts in seawater carbonate chemistry on a planetary scale. The chemical processes of ocean acidification are increasingly well documented, demonstrating clear rates of increase for global CO₂ emissions predicted by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) under the business-as-usual CO₂ emissions scenario. The ecological impact of ocean acidification alters seawater chemical speciation and disrupts vital biogeochemical cycling processes for various chemicals and compounds. Whereby the unidentified potential fallout of this is the cascading effects on the microbial communities within the benthic sediments. These microorganisms drive the marine ecosystem through a network of vast biogeochemical cycling processes aiding in the moderation of ecosystem-wide primary productivity and fundamentally regulating the global climate. The benthic sediments are determinably one of the largest and most diverse ecosystems on the planet. Marine sediments are also conceivably one of the most productive in terms of microbial activity and nutrient flux between the water-sediment interface (i.e., boundary layer). The absorption and sequestering of CO₂ from the atmosphere have demonstrated significant impacts on various marine taxa and their associated ecological processes. This is commonly observed in the reduction in calcium carbonate saturation states in most shell-forming organisms (i.e., plankton, benthic mollusks, echinoderms, and Scleractinia corals). However, the response of benthic sediment microbial communities to a reduction in global ocean pH remains considerably less well characterized. As these microorganisms operate as the lifeblood of the marine ecosystem, understanding their response and physiological plasticity to increased levels of CO₂ is of critical importance when it comes to investigating regional and global implications for the effects of ocean acidification.

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The diel and seasonal heterogeneity of carbonate chemistry and dissolved oxygen in three types of macroalgal habitats

As concerns about ocean acidification continue to grow, the importance of macroalgal communities in buffering coastal seawater biogeochemistry through their metabolisms is gaining more attention. However, studies on diel and seasonal fluctuations in seawater chemistry within these communities are still rare. Here, we characterized the spatial and temporal heterogeneity in diel and seasonal dynamics of seawater carbonate chemistry and dissolved oxygen (DO) in three types of macroalgal habitats (UAM: ulvoid algal mat dominated, TAM: turf algal mat dominated, and SC: Sargassum horneri and coralline algae dominated). Our results show that diel fluctuations in carbonate parameters and DO varied significantly among habitat types and seasons due to differences in their biological metabolisms (photosynthesis and calcification) and each site’s hydrological characteristics. Specifically, carbonate parameters were most affected by biological metabolisms at the SC site, and by environmental variables at the UAM site. Also, we demonstrate that macroalgal communities reduced ocean acidification conditions when ocean temperatures supported photosynthesis and thereby the absorption of dissolved inorganic carbon. However, once temperatures exceeded the optimum ranges for macroalgae, respiration within these communities exceeded photosynthesis and increased CO2 concentrations, thereby exacerbating ocean acidification conditions. We conclude that the seawater carbonate chemistry is strongly influenced by the metabolisms of the dominant macroalgae within these different habitat types, which may, in turn, alter their buffering capacity against ocean acidification.

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Coral symbiosis carbon flow: a numerical model study spanning cellular to ecosystem levels

Corals rely on a symbiotic relationship with algae (zooxanthellae), which reside in the host tissue and play a critical role for host metabolism through photosynthesis, respiration, carbon translocation, and calcification. These processes affect coral reefs on different scales from cellular to organismal and ecosystem levels. A process-based dynamic model was developed and coupled with a one-dimensional (1-D) biogeochemical model to describe coral photosynthesis, respiration, and carbon translocation at the cellular level, calcification and ion transport in different coral polyp components (i.e., coelenteron, calcifying fluid) at the organismal level; and the exchange of material between corals and the ambient seawater at the ecosystem level. Major processes controlling the carbon budget in internal symbiosis were identified. For the symbiont, photosynthesis is the primary carbon source and translocation to the host is the major sink. For the host, most of the carbon translocated from the symbiont is lost through mucus leakage. In the host dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) pool, most of the carbon is obtained from the surrounding seawater through uptake; photosynthesis and calcification are the major sinks of DIC. Based on a series of scenario studies, the model produced increase of photosynthesis rate with decline of calcification rate under higher air pCO2 and associated carbonate chemistry variabilities in different polyp components. The model results support the hypothesis that elevated pCO2 stimulates photosynthesis, resulting in a reduced supply of DIC to calcification. Such coupled models allow the exploration of process-based mechanisms, complementing laboratory and field studies.

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Effect of temperature and pH on the Millepora alcicornis and Mussismilia harttii corals in light of a spectral reflectance response

The increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) atmospheric levels contributes to the rise in temperature and ocean acidification; consequently, it directly impacts coral reefs. The increase in seawater temperature is the primary factor that causes the collapse of coral-algal symbiosis, which can be followed by coral death and, generally, ocean acidification impairs biogenic calcification and promotes dissolution of carbonate substrata. These harmful effects on corals associated with the continuous increase in CO2 atmospheric levels raise widespread concerns about the coral reef decline, intensifying the efforts to understand/monitor their effects on these organisms. The objective of this study was to evaluate the physiological effect of temperature increase, water acidification (i.e. decrease in pH), and their effects combined (temperature increase with water acidification), through the reflectance analyses and maximum photosynthetic capacity of zooxanthellae (Fv/Fm) in two coral species: Millepora alcicornis and Mussismilia harttii. Fragments of four large colonies of each specie were collected, fragmented, and submitted to four different treatments for 15 days: (i) control treatment (under identical temperature and pH conditions observed in the sampling seawater site), (ii) temperature treatment (with an increase temperature of around ≅2ºC); (iii) water acidification treatment (with a decrease of nearly 0.3 in pH); and (iv) a treatment of combined effects from water temperature rising and acidification. Spectral reflectance and Fv/Fm were measured from samples of these species in a marine mesocosm. Data of reflectance, first and second-order derivative, area under the curve, full width at half maximum (FWHM), depth values and the Fv/Fm were used to classify the coral species and treatments through the linear discriminant analysis (LDA). Coral samples were exposed to the increased temperature bleached, whilst decreased pH caused a slight reduction in reflectance albedo with minimal effects on Fv/Fm. The combined factors (treatment iv) triggered a bleaching response, presenting spectral reflectance and colouring patterns similar to those observed in bleached corals, especially for M. alcicornis. The two-way ANOVA indicated statistically meaningful spectral differences between treatments for the second-order derivatives at 634 nm and for Fv/Fm values. However, there was no statistically meaningful interaction effect due to the treatment type and coral species response for the second-order derivative at 670 nm and to the Fv/Fm values. LDA classified the corals’ species and the corals in different treatment, using their spectral responses and Fv/Fm results, with high accuracy (96.7% and 73.3%, respectively), reinforcing its application for coral physiology evaluation and species classification. The control and combined groups achieved the best classification scores, with only one misclassification.

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Potential resilience to ocean acidification of benthic foraminifers living in Posidonia oceanica meadows: the case of the shallow venting site of Panarea

This research shows the results regarding the response to acidic condition of the sediment and Posidonia foraminiferal assemblages collected around the Panarea Island. The Aeolian Archipelago represents a natural laboratory and a much-promising study site for multidisciplinary marine research (carbon capture and storage, geochemistry of hydrothermal fluids and ocean acidification vs. benthic and pelagic organisms). The variability and the complexity of the interaction of the ecological factors characterizing extreme environments such as shallow hydrothermal vents did not allow us to carry out a real pattern of biota responses in situ, differently from those observed under controlled laboratory conditions. However, the study provides new insights into foraminiferal response to increasing ocean acidification (OA) in terms of biodiversity, faunal density, specific composition of the assemblages and morphological variations of the shells. The study highlights how the foraminiferal response to different pH conditions can change depending on different environmental conditions and microhabitats (sediments, Posidonia leaves and rhizomes). Indeed, mineral sediments were more impacted by acidification, whereas Posidonia microhabitats, thanks to their buffer effect, can offer “refugia” and more mitigated acidic environment. At species level, rosalinids and agglutinated group represent the most abundant taxa showing the most specific resilience and capability to face acidic conditions.

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Differential responses of dominant and rare epiphytic bacteria from a submerged macrophyte to elevated CO2

Epiphytic bacteria develop complex interactions with their host macrophytes and play an important role in the ecological processes in freshwater habitats. However, how dominant and rare taxa respond to elevated atmospheric CO2 remains unclear. A manipulated experiment was carried out to explore the effects of elevated CO2 on the diversity or functional characteristics of leaf epiphytic dominant and rare bacteria from a submerged macrophyte. Three levels (high, medium, normal) of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) were applied to the overlying water. The physicochemical properties of the overlying water were measured. Elevated atmospheric CO2 significantly decreased the pH and dissolved oxygen (DO) of overlying water. Proteobacteria, Cyanobacteria, Bacteroidetes, Planctomycetes, and Actinobacteria are the dominant phyla of leaf epiphytic bacteria from Myriophyllum spicatum, occupying over 90% of the accumulated relative abundances. The aquatic DIC level and further pH significantly drove the epiphytic community composition differences among the three DIC levels. For dominant epiphytic bacteria, the functional potential of nutrient processes and mutualistic relationships were strongly affected by a high DIC level, while responses of rare epiphytic bacteria were more related to trace element processes, pathogens, and defense strategies under a high DIC level. Our results showed the responses of epiphytic bacteria to elevated CO2 varied across dominant and rare taxa.

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The role of epiphytes in seagrass productivity under ocean acidification

Ocean Acidification (OA), due to rising atmospheric CO2, can affect the seagrass holobiont by changing the plant’s ecophysiology and the composition and functioning of its epiphytic community. However, our knowledge of the role of epiphytes in the productivity of the seagrass holobiont in response to environmental changes is still very limited. CO2 vents off Ischia Island (Italy) naturally reduce seawater pH, allowing to investigate the adaptation of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica L. (Delile) to OA. Here, we analyzed the percent cover of different epiphytic groups and the epiphytic biomass of P. oceanica leaves, collected inside (pH 6.9–7.9) and outside (pH 8.1–8.2) the CO2 vents. We estimated the contribution of epiphytes to net primary production (NPP) and respiration (R) of leaf sections collected from the vent and ambient pH sites in laboratory incubations. Additionally, we quantified net community production (NCP) and community respiration (CR) of seagrass communities in situ at vent and ambient pH sites using benthic chambers. Leaves at ambient pH sites had a 25% higher total epiphytic cover with encrusting red algae (32%) dominating the community, while leaves at vent pH sites were dominated by hydrozoans (21%). Leaf sections with and without epiphytes from the vent pH site produced and respired significantly more oxygen than leaf sections from the ambient pH site, showing an average increase of 47 ± 21% (mean ± SE) in NPP and 50 ± 4% in R, respectively. Epiphytes contributed little to the increase in R; however, their contribution to NPP was important (56 ± 6% of the total flux). The increase in productivity of seagrass leaves adapted to OA was only marginally reflected by the results from the in situ benthic chambers, underlining the complexity of the seagrass community response to naturally occurring OA conditions.

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The olfactory tract: basis for future evolution in response to rapidly changing ecological niches

Within the forebrain the olfactory sensory system is unique from other sensory systems both in the projections of the olfactory tract and the ongoing neurogenic potential, characteristics conserved across vertebrates. Olfaction plays a crucial role in behaviors such as mate choice, food selection, homing, escape from predators, among others. The olfactory forebrain is intimately associated with the limbic system, the region of the brain involved in learning, memory, and emotions through interactions with the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system. Previously thought to lack a limbic system, we now know that teleost fishes process emotions, have exceptional memories, and readily learn, behaviors that are often associated with olfactory cues. The association of neuromodulatory hormones, and more recently, the immune system, with odor cues underlies behaviors essential for maintenance and adaptation within natural ecological niches. Increasingly anthropogenic perturbations affecting ecosystems are impacting teleost fishes worldwide. Here we examine the role of the olfactory tract as the neural basis for the integration of environmental cues and resulting behaviors necessary for the regulation of biotic interactions that allow for future adaptation as the climate spins out of control.

“I should think we might fairly gauge the future of biological science, centuries ahead, by estimating the time it will take to reach a complete, comprehensive understanding of odor. It may not seem a profound enough problem to dominate all the life sciences, but it contains, piece by piece all the mysteries.”

—Lewis Thomas (1985).

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Global climate change and the Baltic Sea ecosystem: direct and indirect effects on species, communities and ecosystem functioning

Climate change has multiple effects on Baltic Sea species, communities and ecosystem functioning through changes in physical and biogeochemical environmental characteristics of the sea. Associated indirect and secondary effects on species interactions, trophic dynamics and ecosystem function are expected to be significant. We review studies investigating species-, population- and ecosystem-level effects of abiotic factors that may change due to global climate change, such as temperature, salinity, oxygen, pH, nutrient levels, and the more indirect biogeochemical and food web processes, primarily based on peer-reviewed literature published since 2010.

For phytoplankton, clear symptoms of climate change, such as prolongation of the growing season, are evident and can be explained by the warming, but otherwise climate effects vary from species to species and area to area. Several modelling studies project a decrease of phytoplankton bloom in spring and an increase in cyanobacteria blooms in summer. The associated increase in N:P ratio may contribute to maintaining the “vicious circle of eutrophication”. However, uncertainties remain because some field studies claim that cyanobacteria have not increased and some experimental studies show that responses of cyanobacteria to temperature, salinity and pH vary from species to species. An increase of riverine dissolved organic matter (DOM) may also decrease primary production, but the relative importance of this process in different sea areas is not well known. Bacteria growth is favoured by increasing temperature and DOM, but complex effects in the microbial food web are probable. Warming of seawater in spring also speeds up zooplankton growth and shortens the time lag between phytoplankton and zooplankton peaks, which may lead to decreasing of phytoplankton in spring. In summer, a shift towards smaller-sized zooplankton and a decline of marine copepod species has been projected.

In deep benthic communities, continued eutrophication promotes high sedimentation and maintains good food conditions for zoobenthos. If nutrient abatement proceeds, improving oxygen conditions will first increase zoobenthos biomass, but the subsequent decrease of sedimenting matter will disrupt the pelagic–benthic coupling and lead to a decreased zoobenthos biomass. In the shallower photic systems, heatwaves may produce eutrophication-like effects, e.g. overgrowth of bladderwrack by epiphytes, due to a trophic cascade. If salinity also declines, marine species such as bladderwrack, eelgrass and blue mussel may decline. Freshwater vascular plants will be favoured but they cannot replace macroalgae on rocky substrates. Consequently invertebrates and fish benefiting from macroalgal belts may also suffer. Climate-induced changes in the environment also favour establishment of non-indigenous species, potentially affecting food web dynamics in the Baltic Sea.

As for fish, salinity decline and continuing of hypoxia is projected to keep cod stocks low, whereas the increasing temperature has been projected to favour sprat and certain coastal fish. Regime shifts and cascading effects have been observed in both pelagic and benthic systems as a result of several climatic and environmental effects acting synergistically.

Knowledge gaps include uncertainties in projecting the future salinity level, as well as stratification and potential rate of internal loading, under different climate forcings. This weakens our ability to project how pelagic productivity, fish populations and macroalgal communities may change in the future. The 3D ecosystem models, food web models and 2D species distribution models would benefit from integration, but progress is slowed down by scale problems and inability of models to consider the complex interactions between species. Experimental work should be better integrated into empirical and modelling studies of food web dynamics to get a more comprehensive view of the responses of the pelagic and benthic systems to climate change, from bacteria to fish. In addition, to better understand the effects of climate change on the biodiversity of the Baltic Sea, more emphasis should be placed on studies of shallow photic environments.

The fate of the Baltic Sea ecosystem will depend on various intertwined environmental factors and on development of the society. Climate change will probably delay the effects of nutrient abatement and tend to keep the ecosystem in its “novel” state. However, several modelling studies conclude that nutrient reductions will be a stronger driver for ecosystem functioning of the Baltic Sea than climate change. Such studies highlight the importance of studying the Baltic Sea as an interlinked socio-ecological system.

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The symbiotic relationship between the Antarctic limpet, Nacella concinna, and epibiont coralline algae

The Antarctic limpet, Nacella concinna, is one of the most abundant benthic marine invertebrates found in the intertidal zone of King George Island, Antarctica. The shell of N. concinna is often encrusted with the coralline algae Clathromorphum obtectulum. In this study, to reveal the relationship between the limpet and coralline algae, we examined how the coralline algae affect the physical condition (survival and health) and morphology of the limpet. We cultured the limpets for 22 days and compared mortality, weight, condition factor (CF), fatty acid content, and the structure of the shell surface between limpets both with and without coralline algae in the laboratory. We also measured the environmental factors (i.e., temperature, pH, and salinity) of the seawater at each sampling site and the CF of the limpets and correlated them with coverage of coralline algae. The presence of coralline algae significantly increased the mortality of the limpets by 40% and the shell weight by 1.4-fold but did not affect the CF. Additionally, coralline algae altered the fatty acid profiles related to the limpet’s lipid metabolism (saturated fatty acids (SFA) and some polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)). Specifically, C16:0, C17:0, C18:0, and total SFA increased, whereas C18:2 and C18:3 decreased. However, observations with a scanning electron microscope showed that shell damage in limpets with coralline algae was much less than in limpets without coralline algae, suggesting that coralline algae may provide protection against endolithic algae. The area of coralline algae on the limpet shell was positively correlated with the pH and temperature of the seawater. The results suggest that although coralline algae are generally assumed to be parasitical, the relationship between N. concinna and coralline algae may change to mutualism under certain conditions.

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No evidence of altered relationship between diet and consumer fatty acid composition in a natural plankton community under combined climate drivers

Fatty acids (FA), especially polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), are key biomolecules involved in immune responses, reproduction, and membrane fluidity. PUFA in marine environments are synthesized exclusively by primary producers. Therefore the FA composition of these organisms at the base of the food web (i.e., phytoplankton) and their primary consumers (i.e., zooplankton) are important determinants of the health and productivity of entire ecosystems as they are transferred to higher trophic levels. However, environmental conditions such as seawater pH and temperature, which are already changing in response to climate change and predicted to continue to change in the future, can affect the FA composition of phytoplankton and zooplankton at both the organismal and community level. During a 20 day mesocosm experiment, we tested the effect of ocean acidification alone and in combination with ocean warming on 1) the fatty acid composition of a natural prey community for zooplankton (i.e. phytoplankton and microzooplankton), 2) the fatty acid composition of zooplankton, and 3) the relationship between prey and consumer fatty acid compositions in coastal waters. Significant effects of the climate stressors were not detected in the fatty acid composition of the prey or the relationship between diet and consumer fatty acids. A significant decrease in C18:4n-3 (stearidonic acid) was observed in the zooplankton but not their diet, but understanding the mechanism behind this decrease and its potential biological implications requires further investigation. These results highlight the importance of multi-stressor investigations on dynamics and variability contained within natural coastal plankton communities.

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Species specific responses to grazer cues and acidification in phytoplankton- winners and losers in a changing world

Phytoplankton induce defensive traits in response to chemical alarm signals from grazing zooplankton. However, these signals are potentially vulnerable to changes in pH and it is not yet known how predator recognition may be affected by ocean acidification. We exposed four species of diatoms and one toxic dinoflagellate to future pCO2 levels, projected by the turn of the century, in factorial combinations with predatory cues from copepods (copepodamides). We measured the change in growth, chain length, silica content, and toxin content. Effects of increased pCO2 were highly species specific. The induction of defensive traits was accompanied by a significant reduction in growth rate in three out of five species. The reduction averaged 39% and we interpret this as an allocation cost associated with defensive traits. Copepodamides induced significant chain length reduction in three of the four diatom species. Under elevated pCO2 Skeletonema marinoi reduced silica content by 30% and in Alexandrium minutum the toxin content was reduced by 30%. Using copepodamides to induce defensive traits in the absence of direct grazing provides a straightforward methodology to assess costs of defense in microplankton. We conclude that copepodamide signalling system is likely robust to ocean acidification. Moreover, the variable responses of different taxa to ocean acidification suggest that there will be winners and losers in a high pCO2 world, and that ocean acidification may have structuring effects on phytoplankton communities.

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Schizosphaerella size and abundance variations across the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event in the Sogno Core (Lombardy Basin, Southern Alps)


  • Schizospharella spp. size and abundance variations during the Jenkyns event.
  • Abundance drop caused by the failure of S. punctulata > 7 μm.
  • Size decrease due to the relative increase in abundance of small specimens.
  • Drop in abundance and size consequence of ocean acidification and global warming.
  • Presence of diagenetic crust diagnostic to distinguish S. punctulata from S. astraea


Abundance and size variations of nannofossil Schizosphaerella punctulata were quantified in the uppermost Pliensbachian–Lower Toarcian succession recovered with the Sogno Core (Lombardy Basin, Northern Italy). High-resolution nannofossil biostratigraphy and C-isotopic chemostratigraphy identified the Jenkyns Event within the Toarcian oceanic anoxic event (T-OAE) interval. Absolute abundances and morphometric changes of “small S. punctulata” (< 7 μm), S. punctulata (7–10 μm; 10–14 μm; > 14 μm) and “encrusted S. punctulata” (specimens with a fringing crust) show large fluctuations across the negative δ13C Jenkyns Event. The Schizosphaerella crisis is further characterized by a decrease in average valve size in the early–middle Jenkyns Event. The abundance fall was caused by the failure of S. punctulata specimens >7 μm and “encrusted S. punctulata” that along with the increased relative abundance of small specimens, produced the reduction of average dimensions also documented in the Lusitanian and Paris Basins, although with a diachronous inception. The average valve size from the Lombardy Basin is ~2 μm smaller than in these other basins. Hyperthermal conditions associated with excess CO2 and ocean acidification possibly forced the drastic reduction of S. punctulata abundance/size. In the pelagic succession of the Sogno Core there is a strong positive correlation between the S. punctulata (> 7 μm) absolute abundance/size and the CaCO3 content, with a negligible contribution by small specimens (< 7 μm). Encrusted specimens testify selective neomorphic processes: the diagenetic crust seems diagnostic to separate S. punctulata from S. astraea.

Continue reading ‘Schizosphaerella size and abundance variations across the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event in the Sogno Core (Lombardy Basin, Southern Alps)’

Whole community and functional gene changes of biofilms on marine plastic debris in response to ocean acidification

Plastics are accumulating in the world’s oceans, while ocean waters are becoming acidified by increased CO2. We compared metagenome of biofilms on tethered plastic bottles in subtidal waters off Japan naturally enriched in CO2, compared to normal ambient CO2 levels. Extending from an earlier amplicon study of bacteria, we used metagenomics to provide direct insights into changes in the full range of functional genes and the entire taxonomic tree of life in the context of the changing plastisphere. We found changes in the taxonomic community composition of all branches of life. This included a large increase in diatom relative abundance across the treatments but a decrease in diatom diversity. Network complexity among families decreased with acidification, showing overall simplification of biofilm integration. With acidification, there was decreased prevalence of genes associated with cell–cell interactions and antibiotic resistance, decreased detoxification genes, and increased stress tolerance genes. There were few nutrient cycling gene changes, suggesting that the role of plastisphere biofilms in nutrient processes within an acidified ocean may not change greatly. Our results suggest that as ocean CO2 increases, the plastisphere will undergo broad-ranging changes in both functional and taxonomic composition, especially the ecologically important diatom group, with possible wider implications for ocean ecology.

Continue reading ‘Whole community and functional gene changes of biofilms on marine plastic debris in response to ocean acidification’

Eelgrass beds can mitigate local acidification and reduce oyster malformation risk in a subarctic lagoon, Japan: a three-dimensional ecosystem model study


  • An ecosystem model representing carbonate systems in a lagoon was developed.
  • The effect of ocean acidification on oyster malformation was evaluated.
  • Simulation under the absence of eelgrass bed was also performed.
  • The model could reproduce the spatiotemporal variations of the observed values.
  • Eelgrass beds mitigate the adverse effects of acidification on oyster growth.


It is well known that ocean acidification (OA) inhibits growth of marine calcifying organisms. Therefore, the adverse effects of acidification on marine ecosystems and aquaculture, such as oyster farming, are of concern. Since eelgrass beds in neritic areas have a high potential for carbon assimilation, this study focuses on local scale mitigation of OA effects. Using a three-dimensional lower-trophic system ecosystem model, we modeled nitrogen and carbon cycles, and the dynamics of carbonate parameters in a subarctic shallow lagoon and bay, where nitrogen availability limits the photosynthesis of primary producers. Simulation of the present conditions allowed reproduction of spatiotemporal variations in water quality and, by assuming future environmental changes quantitatively, revealed that the progress of OA significantly elevated the probability of shell malformation in juvenile oysters. The results represent the spatiotemporal variations in carbonate parameters inside and outside eelgrass beds and enable the evaluation of the alleviation effect on local acidification by the presence of a dense eelgrass bed. Our study shows that in the absence of the eelgrass bed scenario, the effect of OA on oysters became more remarkable. The simulations revealed that maintaining eelgrass beds is essential to mitigate the effects of acidification on oysters.

Continue reading ‘Eelgrass beds can mitigate local acidification and reduce oyster malformation risk in a subarctic lagoon, Japan: a three-dimensional ecosystem model study’

Nocturnal acidification: a coordinating cue in the Euprymna scolopes–Vibrio fischeri Symbiosis

The Vibrio fischeriEuprymna scolopes symbiosis has become a powerful model for the study of specificity, initiation, and maintenance between beneficial bacteria and their eukaryotic partner. In this invertebrate model system, the bacterial symbionts are acquired every generation from the surrounding seawater by newly hatched squid. These symbionts colonize a specialized internal structure called the light organ, which they inhabit for the remainder of the host’s lifetime. The V. fischeri population grows and ebbs following a diel cycle, with high cell densities at night producing bioluminescence that helps the host avoid predation during its nocturnal activities. Rhythmic timing of the growth of the symbionts and their production of bioluminescence only at night is critical for maintaining the symbiosis. V. fischeri symbionts detect their population densities through a behavior termed quorum-sensing, where they secrete and detect concentrations of autoinducer molecules at high cell density when nocturnal production of bioluminescence begins. In this review, we discuss events that lead up to the nocturnal acidification of the light organ and the cues used for pre-adaptive behaviors that both host and symbiont have evolved. This host–bacterium cross talk is used to coordinate networks of regulatory signals (such as quorum-sensing and bioluminescence) that eventually provide a unique yet stable environment for V. fischeri to thrive and be maintained throughout its life history as a successful partner in this dynamic symbiosis.

Continue reading ‘Nocturnal acidification: a coordinating cue in the Euprymna scolopes–Vibrio fischeri Symbiosis’

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