Posts Tagged 'performance'

The ability of fragmented kelp forests to mitigate ocean acidification and the effects of seasonal upwelling on kelp-purple sea urchin interactions

Bull kelp (Nereocystis leutkeana) forests along the coast for northern California have decreased dramatically as a result of a ‘perfect storm’ of multiple environmental stressors. The disappearance of a predatory sea star and subsequent increase in purple sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) and the recurrence of marine heat waves have caused these once diverse ecosystems to be rapidly converted into relative species-depauperate urchin barrens. By examining the interactive effects of both a rapidly changing abiotic environment and the increase in urchin grazing pressure that is affecting this vital ecosystem, we can better understand its ultimate fate and make better-informed decisions to manage and protect it. As once large and persistent kelp forests are converted into fragmented landscapes of small kelp patches, kelp’s ability to take up dissolved inorganic carbon and reduce nearby acidity and increase both dissolved oxygen and bio-available calcium carbonate may be reduced, preventing it from serving as an environmental stress-free ‘oasis’ of reduced environmental stresses for local marine organisms and affecting ecosystem dynamics. In my first chapter, I examined whether small, fragmented kelp patches are able to retain their ability to alter local seawater chemistry to the same extent a large persistent kelp forests that have been studied previously. I found that in the canopies of small kelp patches, multiple parameters of carbonate chemistry fluctuated more than in the kelp benthos and in adjacent urchin barrens, consistent with metabolic activity by the kelp. Further, kelp fragments increased pH and aragonite saturation and decreased pCO2 during the day to a similar degree as large, intact kelp forests. These results suggest that small kelp patches could mitigate OA stress during the day and serve as spatial and temporal refugia for canopy-dwelling organisms. I also found that the benthic environment in kelp forests and adjacent urchin barrens is subject to unbuffered decreases in temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH. Thus, in chapter two, I assessed how current-day and future-predicted fluctuations in the duration and magnitude of these upwelling-associated stressors would impact the grazing, growth, and survivorship of purple urchins from kelp forest and urchin barren habitats. With upwelling predicted to increase in both intensity and duration with global climate change, understanding whether urchins from different habitats are differentially affected by upwelling-related stressors will give insight into how current and future stressors may be able to help ‘tip the scales’ and convert the increasing number of urchin barrens back into healthy productive kelp forests. I found condition-dependent susceptibility in urchins to increased magnitude and duration upwelling-related stressors. Grazing and gonadal development in kelp forest urchins was most negatively affected by distant future upwelling conditions, whereas in urchin barren urchins, grazing and survival were sensitive to exposure to upwelling in general, and also to increase in magnitudes of acidity, hypoxia, and temperature across both upwelling and non-upwelling events in the future. These results have important implications for population dynamics of urchins and their interactions with bull kelp, which could strongly affect ecosystem dynamics and transitions between kelp forests and urchin barrens. Taken together, the two chapters my thesis provide valuable insight into the potential resilience of bull kelp, a critical foundation species in northeastern Pacific coastal habitats, in the face of a rapidly changing multi-stressor environment.

Continue reading ‘The ability of fragmented kelp forests to mitigate ocean acidification and the effects of seasonal upwelling on kelp-purple sea urchin interactions’

The effects of constant and fluctuating elevated pCO2 levels on oxygen uptake rates of coral reef fishes


• Coral reefs exhibit natural, diel pCO2 fluctuations that are expected to increase.

• Few studies have examined effects of fluctuating pCO2 on adult coral reef fishes.

• We measured swimming, O2 uptake rates, aerobic scope, and various blood parameters.

• Performing under fluctuating pCO2 conditions may be less energetically-costly.

• Studies should use ecologically-relevant CO2 when predicting climate change impacts.


Ocean acidification, resulting from increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, can affect the physiological performance of some fishes. Most studies investigating ocean acidification have used stable pCO2 treatments based on open ocean predictions. However, nearshore systems can experience substantial spatial and temporal variations in pCO2. Notably, coral reefs are known to experience diel fluctuations in pCO2, which are expected to increase on average and in magnitude in the future. Though we know these variations exist, relatively few studies have included fluctuating treatments when examining the effects of ocean acidification conditions on coral reef species. To address this, we exposed two species of damselfishes, Amblyglyphidodon curacao and Acanthochromis polyacanthus, to ambient pCO2, a stable elevated pCO2 treatment, and two fluctuating pCO2 treatments (increasing and decreasing) over an 8 h period. Oxygen uptake rates were measured both while fish were swimming and resting at low-speed. These 8 h periods were followed by an exhaustive swimming test (Ucrit) and blood draw examining swimming metrics and haematological parameters contributing to oxygen transport. When A. polyacanthus were exposed to stable pCO2 conditions (ambient or elevated), they required more energy during the 8 h trial regardless of swimming type than fish exposed to either of the fluctuating pCO2 treatments (increasing or decreasing). These results were reflected in the oxygen uptake rates during the Ucrit tests, where fish exposed to fluctuating pCO2 treatments had a higher factorial aerobic scope than fish exposed to stable pCO2 treatments. By contrast, A. curacao showed no effect of pCO2 treatment on swimming or oxygen uptake metrics. Our results show that responses to stable versus fluctuating pCO2 differ between species – what is stressful for one species many not be stressful for another. Such asymmetries may have population- and community-level impacts under higher more variable pCO2 conditions in the future.

Continue reading ‘The effects of constant and fluctuating elevated pCO2 levels on oxygen uptake rates of coral reef fishes’

Ocean warming increases availability of crustacean prey via riskier behavior

Marine prey and predators will respond to future climate through physiological and behavioral adjustments. However, our understanding of how such direct effects may shift the outcome of predator–prey interactions is still limited. Here, we investigate the effects of ocean warming and acidification on foraging behavior and biomass of a common prey (shrimps, Palaemon spp.) tested in large mesocosms harboring natural resources and habitats. Acidification did not alter foraging behavior in prey. Under warming, however, prey showed riskier behavior by foraging more actively and for longer time periods, even in the presence of a live predator. No effects of longer-term exposure to climate stressors were detected on prey biomass. Our findings suggest that ocean warming may increase the availability of some prey to predators via a behavioral pathway (i.e., increased risk-taking by prey), likely by elevating metabolic demand of prey species.

Continue reading ‘Ocean warming increases availability of crustacean prey via riskier behavior’

Spatial risk assessment of global change impacts on Swedish seagrass ecosystems

Improved knowledge on the risk in ecologically important habitats on a regional scale from multiple stressors is critical for managing functioning and resilient ecosystems. This risk assessment aimed to identify seagrass ecosystems in southern Sweden that will be exposed to a high degree of change from multiple global change stressors in mid- and end-of-century climate change conditions. Risk scores were calculated from the expected overlap of three stressors: sea surface temperature increases, ocean acidification and wind driven turbid conditions. Three high-risk regions were identified as areas likely to be exposed to a particularly high level of pressure from the global stressors by the end of the century. In these areas it can be expected that there will be a large degree of stressor change from the current conditions. Given the ecological importance of seagrass meadows for maintaining high biodiversity and a range of other ecosystem services, these risk zones should be given high priority for incorporation into management strategies, which can attempt to reduce controllable stressors in order to mitigate the consequences of some of the impending pressures and manage for maintained ecosystem resilience.

Continue reading ‘Spatial risk assessment of global change impacts on Swedish seagrass ecosystems’

Impacts of ocean acidification on intertidal macroalgae and algivore preference

Ocean acidification, a facet of global climate change, has the potential to induce changes in marine macroalgae that modify their existing interactions with algivorous invertebrates. In this study, I examined the effects of elevated carbon dioxide (pCO2) on several species of intertidal macroalgae (Phaeophyta, Rhodophyta) and evaluated the present-day and predicted future preferences of algivores (Pugettia producta and Tegula funebralis) by assessing grazing rates on untreated algal tissue and on algae exposed to high-pCO2 seawater. Both red and brown algae grew faster in elevated pCO2 than in ambient seawater, and algae in intermediate pCO2 generated more new growth overall than those in highly elevated pCO2. The effect of pCO2 on the carbon and nitrogen contents of algae depended on species identity, and C:N ratios decreased slightly with increasing pCO2 for four of the five species studied. Total phenolic content in each alga was unaffected by pCO2 treatment, although similar (distinct) levels between untreated species became distinct (similar) when those same species were compared after highpCO2 treatment. Algivores demonstrated contrasting responses to changes in their food sources; P. producta, a specialist crab grazer, did not modify its preference for the brown alga Egregia menziesii when offered high-pCO2 treated individuals, but the generalist snail T. funebralis adjusted its feeding behavior to choose algae with low phenolic contents, which created different patterns of preference for untreated and pCO2-treated algae. C:N ratios of algae did not appear to be a strong driver of preference for either grazer in feeding experiments. These results indicate that algae may be well-equipped to benefit from moderate increases in seawater pCO2, but they exhibit species-specific rates of growth and phenolic production, which in turn affect their appeal to a generalist algivore. Intertidal algal communities will therefore face altered patterns of predation under future ocean acidification conditions as generalist algivores adjust to new variation in algal palatability.

Read more

The effect of environmental stressors on the development and behaviour of larval Oryzias latipes

Elevated water temperature and dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) are two environmental stressors that freshwater organisms face in the Anthropocene. Larval fishes are particularly susceptible to elevation in water parameters, as they are often confined to rearing habitats where temperature and CO2 are nearing species-specific maxima. In this study, 240 freshwater Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) eggs were exposed to either control conditions (27˚C, ~ 500 µatm pCO2), elevated water temperature (36˚C), elevated CO2 (~1500 µatm pCO2) or both elevated temperature and CO2 (36˚C, ~1500 µatm pCO2). Exposures were applied either during the early, middle or late developmental stages and the morphological and behavioural data was collected ten days post-hatch. I predicted that elevated temperature and CO2 would decrease hatching success, and produce abnormalities in the swim bladder, spine or heart. In addition, I predicted that fish exposed to the stressors would show a change in swimming behaviour. Of the behavioural parameters observed, a significant difference was found in the distance travelled among the larval fish exposed to the treatments. There was no significant change between treatments or time intervals for hatching success, length or morphology. As rising CO2 and warming are likely to have a consequential impact on freshwater species, further research dedicated to understanding the ramification of climate-induced stressors is imperative.

Continue reading ‘The effect of environmental stressors on the development and behaviour of larval Oryzias latipes’

Anthropogenic stressors influence reproduction and development in elasmobranch fishes

The consequences of human influence can arise in vertebrates as primary, secondary, or even tertiary stressors and may be especially detrimental for slow growing species with long generation times (i.e., K-selected species). Here, we review the impacts of both direct and indirect human interactions on the reproductive biology of elasmobranchs. Within direct human influence, capture-induced stress from fisheries bycatch and poor coastal management practices leading to habitat destruction and pollution are among the most impactful on elasmobranch reproduction. Capture-induced stress has been shown to negatively influence offspring and reproductive capacity via capture-induced parturition as well as by disrupting the reproductive physiology of adults. Habitat degradation impacts essential ecosystems that are necessary for the development of young elasmobranchs. Pollutants such as heavy metals, legacy pesticides, and flame retardants have been traced through elasmobranch reproduction; however, the long-term effects of these exogenous chemicals are yet to be determined. Furthermore, within indirect human impacts, climate change-mediated influences (e.g., ocean warming and acidification) can impact development, physiological processes, and behavioral patterns necessary for essential tasks such as foraging, growth, reproduction, and ultimately survival. Here, we also present a case study, where data regarding temperature and incubation time from 28 egg-laying elasmobranch species were examined to show relevance of such data in predicting how suitable (e.g., via maximum threshold temperatures) habitats will be for skate and shark development in the coming century. Concomitantly, this information highlights areas for future research that will help inform better management as well as climate change forecasting for this threatened group of aquatic vertebrates.

Continue reading ‘Anthropogenic stressors influence reproduction and development in elasmobranch fishes’

Toward a mechanistic understanding of marine invertebrate behavior at elevated CO2

Elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can alter ecologically important behaviors in a range of marine invertebrate taxa; however, a clear mechanistic understanding of these behavioral changes is lacking. The majority of mechanistic research on the behavioral effects of elevated CO2 has been done in fish, focusing on disrupted functioning of the GABAA receptor (a ligand-gated ion channel, LGIC). Yet, elevated CO2 could induce behavioral alterations through a range of mechanisms that disturb different components of the neurobiological pathway that produces behavior, including disrupted sensation, altered behavioral choices and disturbed LGIC-mediated neurotransmission. Here, we review the potential mechanisms by which elevated CO2 may affect marine invertebrate behaviors. Marine invertebrate acid–base physiology and pharmacology is discussed in relation to altered GABAA receptor functioning. Alternative mechanisms for behavioral change at elevated CO2 are considered and important topics for future research have been identified. A mechanistic understanding will be important to determine why there is variability in elevated CO2-induced behavioral alterations across marine invertebrate taxa, why some, but not other, behaviors are affected within a species and to identify which marine invertebrates will be most vulnerable to rising CO2 levels.

Continue reading ‘Toward a mechanistic understanding of marine invertebrate behavior at elevated CO2’

Decreased motility of flagellated microalgae long-term acclimated to CO2-induced acidified waters

Motility plays a critical role in algal survival and reproduction, with implications for aquatic ecosystem stability. However, the effect of elevated CO2 on marine, brackish and freshwater algal motility is unclear. Here we show, using laboratory microscale and field mesoscale experiments, that three typical phytoplankton species had decreased motility with increased CO2. Polar marine Microglena sp., euryhaline Dunaliella salina and freshwater Chlamydomonas reinhardtii were grown under different CO2 concentrations for 5 years. Long-term acclimated Microglena sp. showed substantially decreased photo-responses in all treatments, with a photophobic reaction affecting intracellular calcium concentration. Genes regulating flagellar movement were significantly downregulated (P < 0.05), alongside a significant increase in gene expression for flagellar shedding (P < 0.05). D. salina and C. reinhardtii showed similar results, suggesting that motility changes are common across flagellated species. As the flagella structure and bending mechanism are conserved from unicellular organisms to vertebrates, these results suggest that increasing surface water CO2 concentrations may affect flagellated cells from algae to fish.

Continue reading ‘Decreased motility of flagellated microalgae long-term acclimated to CO2-induced acidified waters’

Proteomic responses to ocean acidification in the brain of juvenile coral reef fish

Elevated CO2 levels predicted to occur by the end of the century can affect the physiology and behaviour of marine fishes. For one important survival mechanism, the response to chemical alarm cues from conspecifics, substantial among-individual variation in the extent of behavioural impairment when exposed to elevated CO2 has been observed in previous studies. Whole brain transcriptomic data has further emphasized the importance of parental phenotypic variation in the response of juvenile fish to elevated CO2. In this study, we investigate the genome-wide proteomic responses of this variation in the brain of 5-week old spiny damselfish, Acanthochromis polyacanthus. We compared the expression of proteins in the brains of juvenile A. polyacanthus from two different parental behavioural phenotypes (sensitive and tolerant) that had been experimentally exposed to short-term, long-term and inter-generational elevated CO2. Our results show differential expression of key proteins related to stress response and epigenetic markers with elevated CO2 exposure. Proteins related to neurological development were also differentially expressed particularly in the long-term developmental treatment, which might be critical for juvenile development. By contrast, exposure to elevated CO2 in the parental generation resulted in only three differentially expressed proteins in the offspring, revealing potential for inter-generational acclimation. Lastly, we found a distinct proteomic pattern in juveniles due to the behavioural sensitivity of parents to elevated CO2, even though the behaviour of the juvenile fish was impaired regardless of parental phenotype. Our data shows that developing juveniles are affected in their brain protein expression by elevated CO2, but the effect varies with the length of exposure as well as due to variation of parental phenotypes in the population.

Continue reading ‘Proteomic responses to ocean acidification in the brain of juvenile coral reef fish’

Subscribe to the RSS feed

Powered by FeedBurner

Follow AnneMarin on Twitter

Blog Stats

  • 1,356,916 hits


Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book