Posts Tagged 'phanerogams'

Boosted fish abundance associated with Posidonia oceanica meadows in temperate shallow CO2 vents


  • Ocean acidification (OA) may induce shifts in the structure and function of coastal marine ecosystems
  • CO2 vents were used to assess the effects of OA on fish assemblages associated with Posidonia oceanica
  • Posidonia structure and associated fish assemblages were compared at vents and off-vents using underwater visual census
  • Posidonia density increases and fish show boosted abundance but not reduced diversity at vents
  • Mediterranean Posidonia fish assemblages may cope with OA under near-future acidification level


Ocean acidification (OA) may induce major shifts in the structure and function of coastal marine ecosystems. Studies in volcanic CO2 vents, where seawater is naturally acidified, have reported an overall simplification of fish assemblages structure, while some primary producers are likely to increase their biomass under elevated concentration of CO2. Here we used temperate shallow CO2 vents located around the coast of Ischia island (Italy) to assess the effects of OA on necto-benthic fish assemblages associated with the foundation seagrass species Posidonia oceanica in the Mediterranean Sea. We compared P. oceanica meadow structure, its epiphytic community and the associated fish assemblage structure and diversity at vents with low pH sites and reference sites with ambient pH using underwater visual census strip transects, in two seasons (fall 2018 and summer 2019). Data were analysed using both univariate and multivariate statistical techniques. Results showed greater P. oceanica habitat complexity (i.e. shoot density) and lower abundance of epiphytic calcareous species (e.g. coralline algae) at the vents than reference sites. Total abundance of adult and juvenile fish was higher at vents than reference sites, while no differences were found for species richness and composition. Overall, the herbivore Sarpa salpa stands out among the species contributing the most to dissimilarity between vents and reference sites, showing higher abundances under OA conditions. This pattern could be explained by the combined effect of a positive response to the higher structural meadows complexity and the greater seagrasses palatability / nutritional value occurring at the vents, which may help herbivores to withstand the higher energetic cost to live under high pCO2 / low pH conditions. Our results indicate that necto-benthic fish assemblages associated with the Mediterranean P. oceanica ecosystem may cope with OA under the CO2 emission scenarios forecasted for the end of this century.

Continue reading ‘Boosted fish abundance associated with Posidonia oceanica meadows in temperate shallow CO2 vents’

Projections of algae, eelgrass, and zooplankton ecological interactions in the inner Salish Sea – for future climate, and altered oceanic states


  • Harmonized simulation of DO, pH, and Y2095 climate change impacts in the Salish Sea
  • A 52-fold increase in exposure and near-bed pelagic species to hypoxic waters in Y2095
  • Ocean acidification projections for Y2095 indicate ≈ 20 −114% increase in water column (ΩA) <1)
  • Primary productivity propagation to zooplankton projected for Y2095 with ≈ 13%−25% increases.
  • Eelgrass sensitive to stressors and potential for loss of eelgrass biomass in the future.


Future projections based on the IPCC high emissions scenario RCP8.5 have previously shown that the Pacific Northwest coastal waters will be subjected to altered ocean states in the upwelled shelf waters, resulting in higher primary productivity and increased regions of hypoxia and acidification in the inner estuarine waters such as the Salish Sea. However, corresponding effects on the lower trophic levels and submerged aquatic vegetation have not yet been quantified. Supported by new synoptic field data, explicit coupled simulation of algae, zooplankton, and eelgrass biomass was accomplished for the first time in the Salish Sea. We re-applied the improved model to evaluate future ecological response and examined potential algal species shift, but with the effects of zooplankton production, metabolism, and predation-prey interactions included. We also evaluated the role of eelgrass with respect to potential for improvements to dissolved oxygen and pH levels and as a mitigation measure against hypoxia and ocean acidification. The results re-confirm the possibility that there could be a substantial area-days increase (≈52-fold) in exposure of benthic and near-bed pelagic species to hypoxic waters in 2095. The projections for ocean acidification similarly indicate ≈ 20 -114% increase in exposure to lower pH corrosive waters with aragonite saturation state ΩA <1. Importantly, projected increase in primary productivity was shown to propagate to higher trophic levels, with ≈ 13% and 25% increases in micro and mesozooplankton biomass levels. However, the preliminary results also point to sensitivity of the eelgrass model to environmental stressor and potential loss eelgrass biomass in the future.

Continue reading ‘Projections of algae, eelgrass, and zooplankton ecological interactions in the inner Salish Sea – for future climate, and altered oceanic states’

Leaf proteome modulation and cytological features of seagrass Cymodocea nodosa in response to long-term high CO2 exposure in volcanic vents

Seagrass Cymodocea nodosa was sampled off the Vulcano island, in the vicinity of a submarine volcanic vent. Leaf samples were collected from plants growing in a naturally acidified site, influenced by the long-term exposure to high CO2 emissions, and compared with others collected in a nearby meadow living at normal pCO2 conditions. The differential accumulated proteins in leaves growing in the two contrasting pCO2 environments was investigated. Acidified leaf tissues had less total protein content and the semi-quantitative proteomic comparison revealed a strong general depletion of proteins belonging to the carbon metabolism and protein metabolism. A very large accumulation of proteins related to the cell respiration and to light harvesting process was found in acidified leaves in comparison with those growing in the normal pCO2 site. The metabolic pathways linked to cytoskeleton turnover also seemed affected by the acidified condition, since a strong reduction in the concentration of cytoskeleton structural proteins was found in comparison with the normal pCO2 leaves. Results coming from the comparative proteomics were validated by the histological and cytological measurements, suggesting that the long lasting exposure and acclimation of C. nodosa to the vents involved phenotypic adjustments that can offer physiological and structural tools to survive the suboptimal conditions at the vents vicinity.

Continue reading ‘Leaf proteome modulation and cytological features of seagrass Cymodocea nodosa in response to long-term high CO2 exposure in volcanic vents’

Volcanic CO2 seep geochemistry and use in understanding ocean acidification

Ocean acidification is one of the most dramatic effects of the massive atmospheric release of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution, although its effects on marine ecosystems are not well understood. Submarine volcanic hydrothermal fields have geochemical conditions that provide opportunities to characterise the effects of elevated levels of seawater CO2 on marine life in the field. Here, we review the geochemical aspects of shallow marine CO2-rich seeps worldwide, focusing on both gas composition and water chemistry. We then describe the geochemical effects of volcanic CO2 seepage on the overlying seawater column. We also present new geochemical data and the first synthesis of marine biological community changes from one of the best-studied marine CO2 seep sites in the world (off Vulcano Island, Sicily). In areas of intense bubbling, extremely high levels of pCO2 (> 10,000 μatm) result in low seawater pH (< 6) and undersaturation of aragonite and calcite in an area devoid of calcified organisms such as shelled molluscs and hard corals. Around 100–400 m away from the Vulcano seeps the geochemistry of the seawater becomes analogous to future ocean acidification conditions with dissolved carbon dioxide levels falling from 900 to 420 μatm as seawater pH rises from 7.6 to 8.0. Calcified species such as coralline algae and sea urchins fare increasingly well as sessile communities shift from domination by a few resilient species (such as uncalcified algae and polychaetes) to a diverse and complex community (including abundant calcified algae and sea urchins) as the seawater returns to ambient levels of CO2. Laboratory advances in our understanding of species sensitivity to high CO2 and low pH seawater, reveal how marine organisms react to simulated ocean acidification conditions (e.g., using energetic trade-offs for calcification, reproduction, growth and survival). Research at volcanic marine seeps, such as those off Vulcano, highlight consistent ecosystem responses to rising levels of seawater CO2, with the simplification of food webs, losses in functional diversity and reduced provisioning of goods and services for humans.

Continue reading ‘Volcanic CO2 seep geochemistry and use in understanding ocean acidification’

Ocean acidification alters the composition of decapod crustacean communities associated to Posidonia oceanica beds

Ocean Acidification (OA) produces manifest changes in the species assemblages of stable marine ecosystems, although the general levels of biodiversity may be partially conserved. In the case of decapod crustaceans, that represent an interesting taxon because it reacts both to direct and indirect effects of OA, a lowering of pH induces clear changes in the structure of species assemblages. In this study we collected decapod crustaceans at two sites at low pH located at Castello d’Ischia, two control sites at normal pH located at Castello d’Ischia and one external control site. The results confirm that a lower biodiversity characterizes the acidified zones over the year and indicate that key species, normally very abundant in normal conditions all over the year, exhibit impoverished populations associated to the Posidonia oceanica beds off the island of Ischia.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification alters the composition of decapod crustacean communities associated to Posidonia oceanica beds’

A unique diel pattern in carbonate chemistry in the seagrass meadows of Dongsha island: implications for ocean acidification buffering

In contrast to most seagrass meadows where seawater carbonate chemistry generally shows strong diel variations with a higher pH during the daytime and a lower pH during nighttime due to the alternation in photosynthesis and respiration, the seagrass meadows of the inner lagoon on Dongsha Island had a unique diel pattern with an extremely high pH across a diel cycle. We suggest that this distinct diel pattern in pH was a result of a combination of total alkalinity (TA) production through the coupling of aerobic/anaerobic respiration and carbonate dissolution in the sediments and dissolved inorganic carbon consumption through the high productivity of seagrasses in overlying seawaters. The confinement of the semienclosed inner lagoon may hamper water exchange and seagrass detritus export to the adjacent open ocean, which may provide an ideal scenario for sedimentary TA production and accumulation, thereby forming a strong capacity for seagrass meadows to buffer ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘A unique diel pattern in carbonate chemistry in the seagrass meadows of Dongsha island: implications for ocean acidification buffering’

Scaling up: predicting the impacts of climate change on seagrass ecosystems

Since Susan Williams and I started our scientific careers in the mid-1970s, seagrass science has been transformed from a largely descriptive field to an increasingly quantitative and predictive endeavor that requires a mechanistic understanding of environmental influence on metabolic networks that control energy assimilation, growth, and reproduction. Although the potential impacts of environment on gene products are myriad, important phenotypic responses are often regulated by a few key points in metabolic networks where externally supplied resources or physiological substrates limit reaction kinetics. Environmental resources commonly limiting seagrass productivity, survival, and growth include light, temperature, and CO2 availability that control carbon assimilation and sucrose formation, and regulate stress responses to environmental change. Here I present a systems approach to quantify the responses of seagrasses to shifts in environmental factors that control fundamental physiological processes and whole plant performance in the context of a changing climate. This review shows that our ability to understand the past and predict the future trajectory of seagrass-based ecosystems can benefit from a mechanistic understanding of the responses of these remarkable plants to the simultaneous impacts of ocean acidification, climate warming, and eutrophication that are altering ecosystem function across the globe.

Continue reading ‘Scaling up: predicting the impacts of climate change on seagrass ecosystems’

Metabolic profiling reveals biochemical pathways responsible for eelgrass response to elevated CO2 and temperature

As CO2 levels in Earth’s atmosphere and oceans steadily rise, varying organismal responses may produce ecological losers and winners. Increased ocean CO2 can enhance seagrass productivity and thermal tolerance, providing some compensation for climate warming. However, the metabolic shifts driving the positive response to elevated CO2 by these important ecosystem engineers remain unknown. We analyzed whole-plant performance and metabolic profiles of two geographically distinct eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) populations in response to CO2 enrichment. In addition to enhancing overall plant size, growth and survival, CO2 enrichment increased the abundance of Calvin Cycle and nitrogen assimilation metabolites while suppressing the abundance of stress-related metabolites. Overall metabolome differences between populations suggest that some eelgrass phenotypes may be better suited than others to cope with an increasingly hot and sour sea. Our results suggest that seagrass populations will respond variably, but overall positively, to increasing CO2 concentrations, generating negative feedbacks to climate change.

Continue reading ‘Metabolic profiling reveals biochemical pathways responsible for eelgrass response to elevated CO2 and temperature’

The challenges of detecting and attributing ocean acidification impacts on marine ecosystems

A substantial body of research now exists demonstrating sensitivities of marine organisms to ocean acidification (OA) in laboratory settings. However, corresponding in situ observations of marine species or ecosystem changes that can be unequivocally attributed to anthropogenic OA are limited. Challenges remain in detecting and attributing OA effects in nature, in part because multiple environmental changes are co-occurring with OA, all of which have the potential to influence marine ecosystem responses. Furthermore, the change in ocean pH since the industrial revolution is small relative to the natural variability within many systems, making it difficult to detect, and in some cases, has yet to cross physiological thresholds. The small number of studies that clearly document OA impacts in nature cannot be interpreted as a lack of larger-scale attributable impacts at the present time or in the future but highlights the need for innovative research approaches and analyses. We summarize the general findings in four relatively well-studied marine groups (seagrasses, pteropods, oysters, and coral reefs) and integrate overarching themes to highlight the challenges involved in detecting and attributing the effects of OA in natural environments. We then discuss four potential strategies to better evaluate and attribute OA impacts on species and ecosystems. First, we highlight the need for work quantifying the anthropogenic input of CO2 in coastal and open-ocean waters to understand how this increase in CO2 interacts with other physical and chemical factors to drive organismal conditions. Second, understanding OA-induced changes in population-level demography, potentially increased sensitivities in certain life stages, and how these effects scale to ecosystem-level processes (e.g. community metabolism) will improve our ability to attribute impacts to OA among co-varying parameters. Third, there is a great need to understand the potential modulation of OA impacts through the interplay of ecology and evolution (eco–evo dynamics). Lastly, further research efforts designed to detect, quantify, and project the effects of OA on marine organisms and ecosystems utilizing a comparative approach with long-term data sets will also provide critical information for informing the management of marine ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘The challenges of detecting and attributing ocean acidification impacts on marine ecosystems’

Long-term effects of elevated CO2 on the population dynamics of the seagrass Cymodocea Nodosa: evidence from volcanic seeps

We used population reconstruction techniques to assess for the first time the population dynamics of a seagrass, Cymodocea nodosa, exposed to long-term elevated CO2 near three volcanic seeps and compare them with reference sites away from the seeps. Under high CO2, the density of shoots and of individuals (apical shoots), and the vertical and horizontal elongation and production rates, were higher. Nitrogen effects on rhizome elongation and production rates and on biomass, were stronger than CO2 as these were highest at the location where the availability of nitrogen was highest. At the seep where the availability of CO2 was highest and nitrogen lowest, density of shoots and individuals were highest, probably due to CO2 effects on shoot differentiation and induced reproductive output, respectively. In all three seeps there was higher short- and long-term recruitment and growth rates around zero, indicating that elevated CO2 increases the turnover of C. nodosa shoots.

Continue reading ‘Long-term effects of elevated CO2 on the population dynamics of the seagrass Cymodocea Nodosa: evidence from volcanic seeps’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book