Posts Tagged 'phanerogams'

Global and local disturbances interact to modify seagrass palatability

Global change, such as warming and ocean acidification, and local anthropogenic disturbances, such as eutrophication, can have profound impacts on marine organisms. However, we are far from being able to predict the outcome of multiple interacting disturbances on seagrass communities. Herbivores are key in determining plant community structure and the transfer of energy up the food web. Global and local disturbances may alter the ecological role of herbivory by modifying leaf palatability (i.e. leaf traits) and consequently, the feeding patterns of herbivores. This study evaluates the main and interactive effects of factors related to global change (i.e. elevated temperature, lower pH levels and associated ocean acidification) and local disturbance (i.e. eutrophication through ammonium enrichment) on a broad spectrum of leaf traits using the temperate seagrass Cymodocea nodosa, including structural, nutritional, biomechanical and chemical traits. The effect of these traits on the consumption rates of the generalist herbivore Paracentrotus lividus (purple sea urchin) is evaluated. The three disturbances of warming, low pH level and eutrophication, alone and in combination, increased the consumption rate of seagrass by modifying all leaf traits. Leaf nutritional quality, measured as nitrogen content, was positively correlated to consumption rate. In contrast, a negative correlation was found between feeding decisions by sea urchins and structural, biomechanical and chemical leaf traits. In addition, a notable accomplishment of this work is the identification of phenolic compounds not previously reported for C. nodosa. Our results suggest that global and local disturbances may trigger a major shift in the herbivory of seagrass communities, with important implications for the resilience of seagrass ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Global and local disturbances interact to modify seagrass palatability’

Macroalgae may mitigate ocean acidification effects on mussel calcification by increasing pH and its fluctuations

Ocean acidification (OA) is generally assumed to negatively impact calcification rates of marine organisms. At a local scale however, biological activity of macrophytes may generate pH fluctuations with rates of change that are orders of magnitude larger than the long-term trend predicted for the open ocean. These fluctuations may in turn impact benthic calcifiers in the vicinity. Combining laboratory, mesocosm and field studies, such interactions between OA, the brown alga Fucus vesiculosus, the sea grass Zostera marina and the blue mussel Mytilus edulis were investigated at spatial scales from decimetres to 100s of meters in the western Baltic. Macrophytes increased the overall mean pH of the habitat by up to 0.3 units relative to macrophyte-free, but otherwise similar, habitats and imposed diurnal pH fluctuations with amplitudes ranging from 0.3 to more than 1 pH unit. These amplitudes and their impact on mussel calcification tended to increase with increasing macrophyte biomass to bulk water ratio. At the laboratory and mesocosm scales, biogenic pH fluctuations allowed mussels to maintain calcification even under acidified conditions by shifting most of their calcification activity into the daytime when biogenic fluctuations caused by macrophyte activity offered temporal refuge from OA stress. In natural habitats with a low biomass to water body ratio, the impact of biogenic pH fluctuations on mean calcification rates of M. edulis was less pronounced. Thus, in dense algae or seagrass habitats, macrophytes may mitigate OA impact on mussel calcification by raising mean pH and providing temporal refuge from acidification stress.

Continue reading ‘Macroalgae may mitigate ocean acidification effects on mussel calcification by increasing pH and its fluctuations’

Response of Posidonia oceanica seagrass and its epibiont communities to ocean acidification

The unprecedented rate of CO2 increase in our atmosphere and subsequent ocean acidification (OA) threatens coastal ecosystems. To forecast the functioning of coastal seagrass ecosystems in acidified oceans, more knowledge on the long-term adaptive capacities of seagrass species and their epibionts is needed. Therefore we studied morphological characteristics of Posidonia oceanica and the structure of its epibiont communities at a Mediterranean volcanic CO2 vent off Panarea Island (Italy) and performed a laboratory experiment to test the effect of OA on P. oceanica photosynthesis and its potential buffering capacity. At the study site east of Basiluzzo Islet, venting of CO2 gas was controlled by tides, resulting in an average pH difference of 0.1 between the vent and reference site. P. oceanicashoot and leaf density was unaffected by these levels of OA, although shorter leaves at the vent site suggest increased susceptibility to erosion, potentially by herbivores. The community of sessile epibionts differed in composition and was characterized by a higher species richness at the vent site, though net epiphytic calcium carbonate concentration was similar. These findings suggest a higher ecosystem complexity at the vent site, which may have facilitated the higher diversity of copepods in the otherwise unaffected motile epibiont community. In the laboratory experiment, P. oceanica photosynthesis increased with decreasing pHT (7.6, 6.6, 5.5), which induced an elevated pH at the leaf surfaces of up to 0.5 units compared to the ambient seawater pHT of 6.6. This suggests a temporary pH buffering in the diffusive boundary layer of leaves, which could be favorable for epibiont organisms. The results of this multispecies study contribute to understanding community-level responses and underlying processes in long-term acidified conditions. Increased replication and monitoring of physico-chemical parameters on an annual scale are, however, recommended to assure that the biological responses observed during a short period reflect long-term dynamics of these parameters.

Continue reading ‘Response of Posidonia oceanica seagrass and its epibiont communities to ocean acidification’

Unexpected resilience of a seagrass system exposed to global stressors

Despite a growing interest in identifying tipping points in response to environmental change, our understanding of the ecological mechanisms underlying non-linear ecosystem dynamics is limited. Ecosystems governed by strong species interactions can provide important insight into how non-linear relationships between organisms and their environment propagate through ecosystems, and the potential for environmentally mediated species interactions to drive or protect against sudden ecosystem shifts. Here, we experimentally determine the functional relationships (i.e., the shapes of the relationships between predictor and response variables) of a seagrass assemblage with well-defined species interactions to ocean acidification (enrichment of CO2) in isolation and in combination with nutrient loading. We demonstrate that the effect of ocean acidification on grazer biomass (Phyllaplysia taylori and Idotea resecata) was quadratic, with the peak of grazer biomass at mid-pH levels. Algal grazing was negatively affected by nutrients, potentially due to low grazer affinity for macroalgae (Ulva intestinalis), as recruitment of both macroalgae and diatoms were favored in elevated nutrient conditions. This led to an exponential increase in macroalgal and epiphyte biomass with ocean acidification, regardless of nutrient concentration. When left unchecked algae can cause declines in seagrass productivity and persistence through shading and competition. Despite quadratic and exponential functional relationships to stressors that could cause a non-linear decrease in seagrass biomass, productivity of our model seagrass – the eelgrass (Zostera marina)- remained highly resilient to increasing acidification. These results suggest that important species interactions governing ecosystem dynamics may shift with environmental change, and ecosystem state may be decoupled from ecological responses at lower levels of organization.

Continue reading ‘Unexpected resilience of a seagrass system exposed to global stressors’

Moderate increase in TCO2 enhances photosynthesis of seagrass Zostera japonica, but not Zostera marina: implications for acidification mitigation

Photosynthesis and respiration are vital biological processes that shape the diurnal variability of carbonate chemistry in nearshore waters, presumably ameliorating (daytime) or exacerbating (nighttime) short-term acidification events, which are expected to increase in severity with ocean acidification (OA). Biogenic habitats such as seagrass beds have the capacity to reduce CO2 concentration and potentially provide refugia from OA. Further, some seagrasses have been shown to increase their photosynthetic rate in response to enriched total CO2 (TCO2). Therefore, the ability of seagrass to mitigate OA may increase as concentrations of TCO2 increase. In this study, we exposed native Zostera marina and non-native Zostera japonica seagrasses from Padilla Bay, WA (USA) to various levels of irradiance and TCO2. Our results indicate that the average maximum net photosynthetic rate (Pmax) for Z. japonica as a function of irradiance and TCO2 was 3x greater than Z. marina when standardized to chlorophyll (360 ± 33 μmol TCO2 mg chl−1 h−1 and 113 ± 10 μmol TCO2 mg chl−1 h−1, respectively). Additionally, Z. japonica increased its Pmax ~50% when TCO2 increased from ~1,770 to 2,051 μmol TCO2 kg−1. In contrast, Z. marina did not display an increase in Pmax with higher TCO2, possibly due to the variance of photosynthetic rates at saturating irradiance within TCO2 treatments (coefficient of variation: 30–60%) relative to the range of TCO2 tested. Our results suggest that Z. japonica can affect the OA mitigation potential of seagrass beds, and its contribution may increase relative to Z. marina as oceanic TCO2 rises. Further, we extended our empirical results to incorporate various biomass to water volume ratios in order to conceptualize how these additional attributes affect changes in carbonate chemistry. Estimates show that the change in TCO2 via photosynthetic carbon uptake as modeled in this study can produce positive diurnal changes in pH and aragonite saturation state that are on the same order of magnitude as those estimated for whole seagrass systems. Based on our results, we predict that seagrasses Z. marina and Z. japonica both have the potential to produce short-term changes in carbonate chemistry, thus offsetting anthropogenic acidification when irradiance is saturating.

Continue reading ‘Moderate increase in TCO2 enhances photosynthesis of seagrass Zostera japonica, but not Zostera marina: implications for acidification mitigation’

Carbon and nitrogen allocation strategy in Posidonia oceanica is altered by seawater acidification

Rising atmospheric CO2 causes ocean acidification that represents one of the major ecological threats for marine biota. We tested the hypothesis that long-term exposure to increased CO2 level and acidification in a natural CO2 vent system alters carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) metabolism in Posidonia oceanica L. (Delile), affecting its resilience, or capability to restore the physiological homeostasis, and the nutritional quality of organic matter available for grazers. Seawater acidification decreased the C to N ratio in P. oceanica tissues and increased grazing rate, shoot density, leaf proteins and asparagine accumulation in rhizomes, while the maximum photochemical efficiency of photosystem II was unaffected. The 13C-dilution in both structural and non-structural C metabolites in the acidified site indicated quali-quantitative changes of C source and/or increased isotopic fractionation during C uptake and carboxylation associated with the higher CO2 level. The decreased C:N ratio in the acidified site suggests an increased N availability, leading to a greater storage of 15N-enriched compounds in rhizomes. The amount of the more dynamic C storage form, sucrose, decreased in rhizomes of the acidified site in response to the enhanced energy demand due to higher shoot recruitment and N compound synthesis, without affecting starch reserves. The ability to modulate the balance between stable and dynamic C reserves could represent a key ecophysiological mechanism for P. oceanica resilience under environmental perturbation. Finally, alteration in C and N dynamics promoted a positive contribution of this seagrass to the local food web.

Continue reading ‘Carbon and nitrogen allocation strategy in Posidonia oceanica is altered by seawater acidification’

Genome-wide transcriptional reprogramming in the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa under experimental ocean acidification

Here we report the first use of massive scale RNA-Sequencing to explore seagrass response to CO2-driven ocean acidification (OA). Large-scale gene expression changes in the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa occurred at CO2 levels projected by the end of the century. C. nodosatranscriptome was obtained using Illumina RNA-Seq technology and de novo assembly, and differential gene expression was explored in plants exposed to short-term high CO2 / low pH conditions. At high pCO2, there was a significant increased expression of transcripts associated to photosynthesis, including light reaction functions and CO2 fixation, and also to respiratory pathways, specifically for enzymes involved in glycolysis, in the tricarboxylic acid cycle and in the energy metabolism of the mitochondrial electron transport. The up-regulation of respiratory metabolism is probably supported by the increased availability of photosynthates and increased energy demand for biosynthesis and stress-related processes under elevated CO2 and low pH. The up-regulation of several chaperones resembling heat stress-induced changes in gene expression, highlighted the positive role these proteins play in tolerance to intracellular acid stress in seagrasses. OA further modifies C. nodosa secondary metabolism inducing the transcription of enzymes related to carbon-based-secondary compounds biosynthesis, in particular the synthesis of polyphenols and isoprenoid compounds that have a variety of biological functions including plant defense. By demonstrating which physiological processes are most sensitive to OA, this research provide a major advance in the understanding of seagrass metabolism in the context of altered seawater chemistry from global climate change.

Continue reading ‘Genome-wide transcriptional reprogramming in the seagrass Cymodocea nodosa under experimental ocean acidification’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book