Posts Tagged 'photosynthesis'

Common reef-building coral in the Northern Red Sea resistant to elevated temperature and acidification

Coral reefs are currently experiencing substantial ecological impoverishment as a result of anthropogenic stressors, and the majority of reefs are facing immediate risk. Increasing ocean surface temperatures induce frequent coral mass bleaching events—the breakdown of the nutritional photo-symbiosis with intracellular algae (genus: Symbiodinium). Here, we report that Stylophora pistillata from a highly diverse reef in the Gulf of Aqaba showed no signs of bleaching despite spending 1.5 months at 1–2°C above their long-term summer maximum (amounting to 11 degree heating weeks) and a seawater pH of 7.8. Instead, their symbiotic dinoflagellates exhibited improved photochemistry, higher pigmentation and a doubling in net oxygen production, leading to a 51% increase in primary productivity. Nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry imaging revealed subtle cellular-level shifts in carbon and nitrogen metabolism under elevated temperatures, but overall host and symbiont biomass proxies were not significantly affected. Now living well below their thermal threshold in the Gulf of Aqaba, these corals have been evolutionarily selected for heat tolerance during their migration through the warm Southern Red Sea after the last ice age. This may allow them to withstand future warming for a longer period of time, provided that successful environmental conservation measures are enacted across national boundaries in the region.

Continue reading ‘Common reef-building coral in the Northern Red Sea resistant to elevated temperature and acidification’

Physiological and biochemical analyses shed light on the response of Sargassum vulgare to ocean acidification at different time scales

Studies regarding macroalgal responses to ocean acidification (OA) are mostly limited to short-term experiments in controlled conditions, which hamper the possibility to scale up the observations to long-term effects in the natural environment. To gain a broader perspective, we utilized volcanic CO2 vents as a “natural laboratory” to study OA effects on Sargassum vulgare at different time scales. We measured photosynthetic rates, oxidative stress levels, antioxidant contents, antioxidant enzyme activities, and activities of oxidative metabolic enzymes in S. vulgare growing at a natural acidified site (pH 6.7) compared to samples from a site with current pH (pH 8.2), used as a control one. These variables were also tested in plants transplanted from the control to the acidified site and vice-versa. After short-term exposure, photosynthetic rates and energy metabolism were increased in S. vulgare together with oxidative damage. However, in natural populations under long-term conditions photosynthetic rates were similar, the activity of oxidative metabolic enzymes was maintained, and no sign of oxidative damages was observed. The differences in the response of the macroalga indicate that the natural population at the acidified site is adapted to live at the lowered pH. The results suggest that this macroalga can adopt biochemical and physiological strategies to grow in future acidified oceans.

Continue reading ‘Physiological and biochemical analyses shed light on the response of Sargassum vulgare to ocean acidification at different time scales’

Elevated CO2 and associated seawater chemistry do not benefit a model diatom grown with increased availability of light

Elevated CO2 is leading to a decrease in pH in marine environments (ocean acidification [OA]), altering marine carbonate chemistry. OA can influence the metabolism of many marine organisms; however, no consensus has been reached on its effects on algal photosynthetic carbon fixation and primary production. Here, we found that when the diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum was grown under different pCO2 levels, it showed different responses to elevated pCO2 levels under growth-limiting (20 µmol photons m-2 s-1, LL) compared with growth-saturating (200 µmol photons m-2 s-1, HL) light levels. With pCO2 increased up to 950 µatm, growth rates and primary productivity increased, but in the HL cells, these parameters decreased significantly at higher concentrations up to 5000 µatm, while no difference in growth was observed with pCO2 for the LL cells. Elevated CO2 concentrations reduced the size of the intracellular dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) pool by 81% and 60% under the LL and HL levels, respectively, with the corresponding photosynthetic affinity for DIC decreasing by 48% and 55%. Little photoinhibition was observed across all treatments. These results suggest that the decreased growth rates under higher CO2 levels in the HL cells were most likely due to acid stress. Low energy demand of growth and energy saving from the down-regulation of the CO2 concentrating mechanisms (CCM) minimized the effects of acid stress on the growth of the LL cells. These findings imply that OA treatment, except for down-regulating CCM, caused stress on the diatom, reflected in diminished C assimilation and growth rates.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 and associated seawater chemistry do not benefit a model diatom grown with increased availability of light’

Climate change and tropical sponges: The effect of elevated pCO₂ and temperature on the sponge holobiont

As atmospheric CO₂ concentrations rise, associated ocean warming (OW) and ocean acidification (OA) are predicted to cause declines in reef-building corals globally, shifting reefs from coral-dominated systems to those dominated by less sensitive species. Sponges are important structural and functional components of coral reef ecosystems, but despite increasing field-based evidence that sponges may be ‘winners’ in response to environmental degradation, our understanding of how they respond to the combined effects of OW and OA is limited. This PhD thesis explores the response of four abundant Great Barrier Reef species – the phototrophic Carteriospongia foliascens and Cymbastela coralliophila and the heterotrophic Stylissa flabelliformis and Rhopaloeides odorabile to OW and OA levels predicted for 2100, under two CO₂ Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). The overall aim of this research is to bridge gaps in our understanding of how these important coral reef organisms will respond to projected climate change, to begin to explore whether a sponge dominated state is a possible future trajectory for coral reefs.

To determine the tolerance of adult sponges to climate change, these four species were exposed to OW and OA in the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s (AIMS) National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) in a 3-month experimental study. The first data chapter explores the physiological responses of these sponges to OW and OA to gain a broad understanding of sponge holobiont survival and functioning under these conditions. In this chapter I also address the hypothesis that phototrophic and heterotrophic sponges will exhibit differential responses to climate change. In the second and third data chapters I explore the cellular lipid and fatty acid composition of sponges, and how these biochemical constituents vary with OW and OA. Lipids and fatty acids are not only vital energy stores, they form the major components of cell membranes, and the structure and composition of these biochemical constituents ultimately determines the integrity and physiological competency of a cell. Therefore through these analyses I aimed to determine how OW and OA affects the metabolic balance of sponges, and to understand mechanisms underpinning observed systemic sponge responses. Finally, to provide greater insight into the population level impacts of climate change on tropical sponges, in the last data chapter I explore the response of the phototrophic species Carteriospongia foliascens to OW/OA throughout its developmental stages.

I found that while sponges can generally tolerate climate change scenarios predicted under the RCP6.0 conditions for 2100 (30ºC/ pH 7.8), environmental projections for the end of this century under the RCP8.5 (31.5ºC/ pH 7.6) will have significant implications for their survival. Temperature effects were much stronger than OA effects for all species; however, phototrophic and heterotrophic species responded differently to OA. Elevated pCO₂ exacerbated temperature stress in heterotrophic sponges but somewhat ameliorated thermal stress in phototrophic species. Furthermore, sponges with siliceous spiculated skeletons resisted the RCP 8.5 conditions for longer than the aspiculate species. Biochemical analysis revealed that spiculated species also have greater cell membrane support features, which is likely to contribute to the observed stress tolerance. I also found that the additional energy available to phototrophic sponges under OA conditions may be used for investment into cell membrane support, providing protection against thermal stress. Finally, larval survival and settlement success of C. foliascens was unaffected by OW and OA treatments, and juvenile sponges exhibited greater tolerance than their adult counterparts, again with evidence that OA reduces OW stress for some of these life stages.

Based on the species studied here, this thesis confirms that sponges are better able to deal with OW and OA levels predicted for 2100 under RCP6.0, compared to many corals for which survival in a high CO₂ world requires OW to remain below 1.5°C. This suggests sponges may be future ‘winners’ on coral reefs under global climate change. However, if CO₂ atm concentrations reach levels predicted under RCP8.5, the prognosis for sponge survival by the end of this century changes as inter-species sponge tolerances to OW and OA differ. Under this projection it is likely we will also start to see a shift in sponge populations to those dominated by phototrophic sponges with siliceous spiculated skeletons. Overall, this thesis gives a holistic view of OW and OA impacts on tropical sponges and provides the basis from which to explore the potential for a sponge-coral regime shift in a high CO₂ world.

Continue reading ‘Climate change and tropical sponges: The effect of elevated pCO₂ and temperature on the sponge holobiont’

Impact of ocean acidification on Arctic phytoplankton blooms and dimethyl sulfide concentration under simulated ice-free and under-ice conditions (update)

In an experimental assessment of the potential impact of Arctic Ocean acidification on seasonal phytoplankton blooms and associated dimethyl sulfide (DMS) dynamics, we incubated water from Baffin Bay under conditions representing an acidified Arctic Ocean. Using two light regimes simulating under-ice or subsurface chlorophyll maxima (low light; low PAR and no UVB) and ice-free (high light; high PAR + UVA + UVB) conditions, water collected at 38 m was exposed over 9 days to 6 levels of decreasing pH from 8.1 to 7.2. A phytoplankton bloom dominated by the centric diatoms Chaetoceros spp. reaching up to 7.5 µg chlorophyll a L−1 took place in all experimental bags. Total dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSPT) and DMS concentrations reached 155 and 19 nmol L−1, respectively. The sharp increase in DMSPT and DMS concentrations coincided with the exhaustion of NO3− in most microcosms, suggesting that nutrient stress stimulated DMS(P) synthesis by the diatom community. Under both light regimes, chlorophyll a and DMS concentrations decreased linearly with increasing proton concentration at all pH levels tested. Concentrations of DMSPT also decreased but only under high light and over a smaller pH range (from 8.1 to 7.6). In contrast to nano-phytoplankton (2–20 µm), pico-phytoplankton ( ≤  2 µm) was stimulated by the decreasing pH. We furthermore observed no significant difference between the two light regimes tested in term of chlorophyll a, phytoplankton abundance and taxonomy, and DMSP and DMS net concentrations. These results show that ocean acidification could significantly decrease the algal biomass and inhibit DMS production during the seasonal phytoplankton bloom in the Arctic, with possible consequences for the regional climate.

Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean acidification on Arctic phytoplankton blooms and dimethyl sulfide concentration under simulated ice-free and under-ice conditions (update)’

Independence of nutrient limitation and carbon dioxide impacts on the Southern Ocean coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi

Future oceanic conditions induced by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions include warming, acidification and reduced nutrient supply due to increased stratification. Some parts of the Southern Ocean are expected to show rapid changes, especially for carbonate mineral saturation. Here we compare the physiological response of the model coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi (strain EHSO 5.14, originating from 50oS, 149oE) with pH/CO2 gradients (mimicking ocean acidification ranging from 1 to 4 × current pCO2 levels) under nutrient-limited (nitrogen and phosphorus) and -replete conditions. Both nutrient limitations decreased per cell photosynthesis (particulate organic carbon (POC) production) and calcification (particulate inorganic carbon (PIC) production) rates for all pCO2 levels, with more than 50% reductions under nitrogen limitation. These impacts, however, became indistinguishable from nutrient-replete conditions when normalized to cell volume. Calcification decreased three-fold and linearly with increasing pCO2 under all nutrient conditions, and was accompanied by a smaller ~30% nonlinear reduction in POC production, manifested mainly above 3 × current pCO2. Our results suggest that normalization to cell volume allows the major impacts of nutrient limitation (changed cell sizes and reduced PIC and POC production rates) to be treated independently of the major impacts of increasing pCO2 and, additionally, stresses the importance of including cell volume measurements to the toolbox of standard physiological analysis of coccolithophores in field and laboratory studies.

Continue reading ‘Independence of nutrient limitation and carbon dioxide impacts on the Southern Ocean coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi’

The future for microplankton in the Baltic Sea – Effects of SWS and climate change

The Baltic Sea is located between 53°N to 66°N and from 10°E to 30°E and is the second largest brackish water body in the world. It consists of several basins where the Baltic Proper is the major water mass. Around 85 million people live in the catchment area of the Baltic Sea, which subjects it to a range of environmental pressures, such as increased nutrient inputs from human activities (eutrophication), shipping, over-fishing, acid rain and trace metals released from anti-fouling paint. All these stressors, combined with low alkalinity, variable salinity and limited water exchange, makes the Baltic Sea a very sensitive area that may be less resilient to future stressors such as climate change or increased shipping activities. Microplankton communities consist of small heterotrophic bacteria, picoplankton, phytoplankton, cyanobacteria and smaller grazers, such as ciliates and zooplankton. In the Baltic Proper, there is a succession of blooms, within the microplankton community, from diatoms and dinoflagellates in the early spring to cyanobacteria during summer and ending with a second diatom and dinoflagellate bloom in the autumn. The cyanobacteria of the Baltic Proper bloom every summer and are dominated by Aphanizomenon sp. and Nodularia spumigena. Dolichospermum spp. is present but is less abundant. The effects of climate change were tested on a natural microplankton community, as well as on isolated cyanobacteria species from the Baltic Sea. To simulate effects of climate change, the temperature was increased from 12°C to 16°C, salinity decreased from 6-7 to 3-4 and atmospheric pCO2-levels was increased from 380 ppm to 960 ppm. The biovolume of Aphanizomenon sp. and N. spumigena increased when temperature was increased by 4°C. When salinity was decreased by three units, both the growth and photosynthetic activity of N. spumigena were reduced while Aphanizomenon sp. was unaffected, and the growth of Dolichospermum sp. was increased. Furthermore, present-day salinities were beneficial, in terms of increased biovolumes, of diatoms, dinoflagellates and ciliates, compared to reduced future salinity. Increased atmospheric pCO2 had no effect on any of the species in the microplankton community. These results show that the future microplankton community may be positive, in terms of increased biovolume, for the cyanobacteria species Aphanizomenon sp. and Dolichospermum spp. An increase of cyanobacteria blooms may open up to the possibility to grow and/or harvest these species as a source of biofuel or fatty acids (FA). Dolichospermum sp. yielded higher total FA content per biovolume, compared to the other two cyanobacteria species in phosphorus-depleted medium and Aphanizomenon sp. in nitrogen-depleted medium. Natural nutrient levels in the Baltic Proper are low both in nitrogen and phosphorus, which indicates a possible future market for biofuel and FA technologies. Additionally, the effects of seawater scrubbing (SWS) were tested on a natural summer-bloom microplankton community. Three different concentrations of scrubber water were added; 1%, 3% and 10%. To elucidate effects of decreased pH alone, water acidified with H2SO4 was added in equal concentrations. The six treatments were compared to a control without acidifying substances. SWS or the corresponding pH treatments, did not have a direct effect on microplankton species composition and biovolume. However, the increased amount of Cu and Zn in the scrubber water, combined with significant decrease in pH and alkalinity already at the 1% scrubber water treatment calls for precaution when implementing scrubber units on the shipping fleet of the Baltic Sea. The accumulated effects of long-term repeated addition constantly throughout the year, i.e. in a shipping lane, are yet to be elucidated.

Continue reading ‘The future for microplankton in the Baltic Sea – Effects of SWS and climate change’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book