Posts Tagged 'photosynthesis'

Resilience of the temperate coral Oculina arbuscula to ocean acidification extends to the physiological level

Both juvenile and adult life stages of the temperate scleractinian coral Oculina arbuscula are resilient to the effects of moderate ocean acidification (OA) in contrast to many tropical corals in which growth and calcification rates are suppressed. Here, potential mechanisms of resilience to OA related to photosynthetic physiology and inorganic carbon processing were studied in adult O. arbuscula colonies. After exposing colonies to ambient and elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) treatments for 7 weeks, photosynthetic performance was characterized using photosynthesis versus irradiance experiments, chlorophyll fluorescence kinetics, and algal pigment content. Inorganic carbon-processing capabilities were assessed by measurement of internal and external carbonic anhydrase activity of the coral host, internal carbonic anhydrase activity of symbiotic algae, and the reliance of photosynthesis on external carbonic anhydrase. Photosynthetic physiology was unaffected by OA ruling out the possibility that resilience was mediated by increased photosynthetic energy supply. Carbonic anhydrase activities were maintained at elevated CO2 suggesting no major rearrangements of the inorganic carbon-processing machinery, but this could be a sign of resilience since tropical corals often down-regulate carbonic anhydrases at high CO2. The general lack of effect of ocean acidification on these physiological traits suggests other characteristics, such as maintenance of calcifying fluid pH and ability to acquire energy from heterotrophy, may be more important for the resilience of O. arbuscula to OA.

Continue reading ‘Resilience of the temperate coral Oculina arbuscula to ocean acidification extends to the physiological level’

Irradiance, photosynthesis and elevated pCO2 effects on net calcification in tropical reef macroalgae


  • Most species from high-light environments are not able to calcifying under OA at night
  • Low-light species may be more susceptible to OA compared to high-light
  • Some species exhibit light-triggered calcification independent of photosystem II
  • Photosystem II independent calcification not sustained under OA


Calcifying tropical macroalgae produce sediment, build three-dimensional habitats, and provide substrate for invertebrate larvae on reefs. Thus, lower calcification rates under declining pH and increasing ocean pCO2, or ocean acidification, is a concern. In the present study, calcification rates were examined experimentally under predicted end-of-the-century seawater pCO2 (1116 μatm) and pH (7.67) compared to ambient controls (pCO2 409 μatm; pH 8.04). Nine reef macroalgae with diverse calcification locations, calcium carbonate structure, photophysiology, and site-specific irradiance were examined under light and dark conditions. Species included five from a high light patch reef on the Florida Keys Reef Tract (FKRT) and four species from low light reef walls on Little Cayman Island (LCI). Experiments on FKRT and LCI species were conducted at 500 and 50 μmol photons m−2 s−1 in situ irradiance, respectively. Calcification rates independent of photosystem-II (PSII) were also investigated for FKRT species. The most consistent negative effect of elevated pCO2 on calcification rates in the tropical macroalgae examined occurred in the dark. Most species (89%) had net calcification rates of zero or net dissolution in the dark at low pH. Species from the FKRT that sustained positive net calcification rates in the light at low pH also maintained ~30% of their net calcification rates without PSII at ambient pH. However, calcification rates in the light independent of PSII were not sustained at low pH. Regardless of these low pH effects, most FKRT species daily net calcification rates, integrating light/dark rates over a 24h period, were not significantly different between low and ambient pH. This was due to a 10-fold lower dark, compared to light, calcification rate, and a strong correspondence between calcification and photosynthetic rates. Interestingly, low-light species sustained calcification rates on par with high-light species without high rates of photosynthesis. Low-light species’ morphology and physiology that promote high calcification rates at ambient pH, may increase their vulnerability to low pH. Our data indicate that the negative effect of elevated pCO2 and low pH on tropical macroalgae at the organismal level is their impact on dark net calcification, probably enhanced dissolution. However, elevated pCO2 and low pH effects on macroalgae daily calcification rates are greatest in species with lower net calcification rates in the light. Thus, macroalgae able to maintain high calcification rates in the light (high and low irradiance) at low pH, and/or sustain strong biotic control with high [H+] in the bulk seawater, are expected to dominate under global change.

Continue reading ‘Irradiance, photosynthesis and elevated pCO2 effects on net calcification in tropical reef macroalgae’

Photophysiological responses of the marine macroalga Gracilariopsis lemaneiformis to ocean acidification and warming


  • Warming counteracted the negative effects of OA on growth and pigmentations.
  • OA synergy with warming showed down regulated CCMs.
  • OA synergy with warming decrease tissue C but increase tissue N per biomass.


To study the combined effects of ocean acidification (OA) and warming on the growth and photosynthetic performance of the economically important marine macroalga Gracilariopsis lemaneiformis, thalli were grown under ambient low CO2 (390 μatm, LC) and elevated high CO2 (1000 μatm, HC) conditions with culture temperatures of 20 °C and 24 °C. Based on the evaluation of growth and photosynthetic responses to light and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), HC decreased the growth rate and phycoerythrin (PE) and phycocyanin (PC) levels but increased contents of UV-absorbing compounds (UVACs) in G. lemaneiformis at 20 °C, and high temperature counteracted these effects. Photosynthetic responses such as chlorophyll fluorescence parameters (maximum relative electron transport rate, rETRmax; light use efficiency, α; saturation light intensity, Ik; maximum quantum yield, FV/FM; effective quantum yield, Y(II) and non-photochemical quenching, NPQ) were not different among the treatments. However, increased oxygen evolution (Pn) and dark respiration (Rd) rates were observed at 20 °C in the HC treatment. No significant effects of HC on apparent carboxylation efficiency (ACE), maximum oxygen evolution rate (Vmax) and DIC affinity for oxygen evolution (K1/2DIC) were found, and HC synergy with high temperature increased K1/2DIC. A lower C/N ratio with decreased tissue carbon but increased nitrogen was observed under HC and high-temperature treatment. Our results indicate that high temperature may counteract the negative effects of OA on the growth and pigment characteristics of G. lemaneiformis and improve food quality, as evidenced by enhanced N per biomass.

Continue reading ‘Photophysiological responses of the marine macroalga Gracilariopsis lemaneiformis to ocean acidification and warming’

Coral-macroalgal competition under ocean warming and acidification


  • Study investigates a common coral-macroalgal interaction under a low end emission scenario.
  • Light calcification is negatively influenced by an interaction of macroalgal contact and scenario.
  • Protein content, zooxanthellae density and Chlorophyll a were enhanced under scenario conditions.
  • Negative impacts of macroalgae on corals were observed, but not enhanced by scenario conditions.
  • More research on the impacts of climate change on the dynamics of coral-algal interactions is needed.


Competition between corals and macroalgae is frequently observed on reefs with the outcome of these interactions affecting the relative abundance of reef organisms and therefore reef health. Anthropogenic activities have resulted in increased atmospheric CO2 levels and a subsequent rise in ocean temperatures. In addition to increasing water temperature, elevated CO2 levels are leading to a decrease in oceanic pH (ocean acidification). These two changes have the potential to alter ecological processes within the oceans, including the outcome of competitive coral-macroalgal interactions. In our study, we explored the combined effect of temperature increase and ocean acidification on the competition between the coral Porites lobata and on the Great Barrier Reef abundant macroalga Chlorodesmis fastigiata. A temperature increase of +1 °C above present temperatures and CO2 increase of +85 ppm were used to simulate a low end emission scenario for the mid- to late 21st century, according to the Representative Concentration Pathway 2.6 (RCP2.6). Our results revealed that the net photosynthesis of P. lobata decreased when it was in contact with C. fastigiata under ambient conditions, and that dark respiration increased under RCP2.6 conditions. The Photosynthesis to Respiration (P:R) ratios of corals as they interacted with macroalgal competitors were not significantly different between scenarios. Dark calcification rates of corals under RCP2.6 conditions, however, were negative and significantly decreased compared to ambient conditions. Light calcification rates were negatively affected by the interaction of macroalgal contact in the RCP2.6 scenario, compared to algal mimics and to coral under ambient conditions. Chlorophyll a, and protein content increased in the RCP2.6 scenario, but were not influenced by contact with the macroalga. We conclude that the coral host was negatively affected by RCP2.6 conditions, whereas the productivity of its symbionts (zooxanthellae) was enhanced. While a negative effect of the macroalga (C. fastigiata) on the coral (P. lobata) was observed for the P:R ratio under control conditions, it was not enhanced under RCP2.6 conditions.

Continue reading ‘Coral-macroalgal competition under ocean warming and acidification’

Meta-analysis of multiple driver effects on marine phytoplankton highlights modulating role of pCO2

Responses of marine primary production to a changing climate are determined by a concert of multiple environmental changes, for example in temperature, light, pCO2, nutrients, and grazing. To make robust projections of future global marine primary production, it is crucial to understand multiple driver effects on phytoplankton. This meta-analysis quantifies individual and interactive effects of dual driver combinations on marine phytoplankton growth rates. Almost 50% of the single-species laboratory studies were excluded because central data and metadata (growth rates, carbonate system, experimental treatments) were insufficiently reported. The remaining data (42 studies) allowed for the analysis of interactions of pCO2 with temperature, light, and nutrients, respectively. Growth rates mostly respond non-additively, whereby the interaction with increased pCO2 profusely dampens growth-enhancing effects of high temperature and high light. Multiple and single driver effects on coccolithophores differ from other phytoplankton groups, especially in their high sensitivity to increasing pCO2. Polar species decrease their growth rate in response to high pCO2, while temperate and tropical species benefit under these conditions. Based on the observed interactions and projected changes, we anticipate primary productivity to: (a) first increase but eventually decrease in the Arctic Ocean once nutrient limitation outweighs the benefits of higher light availability; (b) decrease in the tropics and mid-latitudes due to intensifying nutrient limitation, possibly amplified by elevated pCO2; and (c) increase in the Southern Ocean in view of higher nutrient availability and synergistic interaction with increasing pCO2. Growth-enhancing effect of high light and warming to coccolithophores, mainly Emiliania huxleyi, might increase their relative abundance as long as not offset by acidification. Dinoflagellates are expected to increase their relative abundance due to their positive growth response to increasing pCO2 and light levels. Our analysis reveals gaps in the knowledge on multiple driver responses and provides recommendations for future work on phytoplankton.

Continue reading ‘Meta-analysis of multiple driver effects on marine phytoplankton highlights modulating role of pCO2’

Elevated CO2 concentration alleviates UVR-induced inhibition of photosynthetic light reactions and growth in an intertidal red macroalga


  • Both photosynthetic and growth rates of Pyropia yezoensis are inhibited by UVR.
  • Ultraviolet radiation showed significant inhibition on PSII but not for PSI.
  • There is an interaction between CO2 concentration and irradiance quality.
  • High CO2 concentration could alleviate the negative effects of UVR.


The commercially important red macroalga Pyropia (formerly Porphyra) yezoensis is, in its natural intertidal environment, subjected to high levels of both photosynthetically active and ultraviolet radiation (PAR and UVR, respectively). In the present work, we investigated the effects of a plausibly increased global CO2 concentration on quantum yields of photosystems II (PSII) and I (PSI), as well as photosynthetic and growth rates of P. yezoensis grown under natural solar irradiance regimes with or without the presence of UV-A and/or UV-B. Our results showed that the high-CO2 treatment (~1000 μbar, which also caused a drop of 0.3 pH units in the seawater) significantly increased both CO2 assimilation rates (by 35%) and growth (by 18%), as compared with ambient air of ~400 μbar CO2. The inhibition of growth by UV-A (by 26%) was reduced to 15% by high-CO2 concentration, while the inhibition by UV-B remained at ~6% under both CO2 concentrations. Homologous results were also found for the maximal relative photosynthetic electron transport rates (rETRmax), the maximum quantum yield of PSII (Fv/Fm), as well as the midday decrease in effective quantum yield of PSII (YII) and concomitant increased non-photochemical quenching (NPQ). A two-way ANOVA analysis showed an interaction between CO2 concentration and irradiance quality, reflecting that UVR-induced inhibition of both growth and YII were alleviated under the high-CO2 treatment. Contrary to PSII, the effective quantum yield of PSI (YI) showed higher values under high-CO2 condition, and was not significantly affected by the presence of UVR, indicating that it was well protected from this radiation. Both the elevated CO2 concentration and presence of UVR significantly induced UV-absorbing compounds. These results suggest that future increasing CO2 conditions will be beneficial for photosynthesis and growth of P. yezoensis even if UVR should remain at high levels.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 concentration alleviates UVR-induced inhibition of photosynthetic light reactions and growth in an intertidal red macroalga’

High light alongside elevated PCO2 alleviates thermal depression of photosynthesis in a hard coral (Pocillopora acuta)

The absorbtion of human-emitted CO2 by the oceans (elevated PCO2) is projected to alter the physiological performance of coral reef organisms by perturbing seawater chemistry (i.e. ocean acidification). Simultaneously, greenhouse gas emissions are driving ocean warming and changes in irradiance (through turbidity and cloud cover), which have the potential to influence the effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs. Here, we explored whether physiological impacts of elevated PCO2 on a coral–algal symbiosis (Pocillopora acuta–Symbiodiniaceae) are mediated by light and/or temperature levels. In a 39 day experiment, elevated PCO2 (962 versus 431 µatm PCO2) had an interactive effect with midday light availability (400 versus 800 µmol photons m−2 s−1) and temperature (25 versus 29°C) on areal gross and net photosynthesis, for which a decline at 29°C was ameliorated under simultaneous high-PCO2 and high-light conditions. Light-enhanced dark respiration increased under elevated PCO2 and/or elevated temperature. Symbiont to host cell ratio and chlorophyll a per symbiont increased at elevated temperature, whilst symbiont areal density decreased. The ability of moderately strong light in the presence of elevated PCO2 to alleviate the temperature-induced decrease in photosynthesis suggests that higher substrate availability facilitates a greater ability for photochemical quenching, partially offsetting the impacts of high temperature on the photosynthetic apparatus. Future environmental changes that result in moderate increases in light levels could therefore assist the P. acuta holobiont to cope with the ‘one–two punch’ of rising temperatures in the presence of an acidifying ocean.

Continue reading ‘High light alongside elevated PCO2 alleviates thermal depression of photosynthesis in a hard coral (Pocillopora acuta)’

Differential sensitivity of a symbiont‐bearing foraminifer to seawater carbonate chemistry in a decoupled DIC‐pH experiment

Larger benthic foraminifera (LBF) are unicellular eukaryotic calcifying organisms and an important component of tropical and subtropical modern and ancient oceanic ecosystems. They are major calcium carbonate producers and important contributors to primary production due to the photosynthetic activity of their symbiotic algae. Studies investigating the response of LBF to seawater carbonate chemistry changes are therefore essential for understanding the impact of climate changes and ocean acidification (OA) on shallow marine ecosystems. In this study, calcification, respiration, and photosynthesis of the widespread diatom‐bearing LBF Operculina ammonoides were measured in laboratory experiments that included manipulation of carbonate chemistry parameters. pH was altered while keeping dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) constant, and DIC was altered while keeping pH constant. The results show clear vulnerability of O. ammonoides to low pH and CO32− under constant DIC conditions, and no increased photosynthesis or calcification under high DIC concentrations. Our results call into question previous hypotheses, suggesting that mechanisms such as the degree of cellular control on calcification site pH/DIC and/or enhanced symbiont photosynthesis in response to OA may render the hyaline (perforate and calcitic‐radial) LBF to be less responsive to OA than porcelaneous LBF. In addition, manipulating DIC did not affect calcification when pH was close to present seawater levels in a model encompassing the total population size range. In contrast, larger individuals (>1,200 μm, >1 mg) were sensitive to changes in DIC, a phenomenon we attribute to their physiological requirement to concentrate large quantities of DIC for their calcification process.

Continue reading ‘Differential sensitivity of a symbiont‐bearing foraminifer to seawater carbonate chemistry in a decoupled DIC‐pH experiment’

Short-term effects of increased CO2, nitrate and temperature on photosynthetic activity in Ulva rigida (Chlorophyta) estimated by different pulse amplitude modulated fluorometers and oxygen evolution

Short-term effects of pCO2 (700 – 380 ppm; HC-LC) and nitrate content (50-5 βM; HN-LC) on photosynthesis, estimated by different pulse amplitude modulated (PAMs) fluorometers and by oxygen evolution, were investigated in Ulva rigida (Chlorophyta) under solar radiation (ex-situ) and in the laboratory under artificial light (in-situ). After 6-days of incubation at ambient temperature (AT), algae were subjected to a 4 oC-temperature increase (AT+4oC) for 3 d. Both in-situ and ex-situ, maximal electron transport rate (ETRmax) and in situ gross photosynthesis (GP) measured by O2 evolution presented the highest values under HCHN, and the lowest under HCLN, across all measuring systems. Maximal quantum yield (Fv/Fm), and ETRmax of PSII (ETR(II)max) and of PSI (ETR(I)max), decreased under HCLN under AT+4°C. Ex situ ETR was higher than in situ ETR. At noon, Fv/Fm decreased (indicating photoinhibition), whereas ETR(II)max and maximal non-photochemical quenching (NPQmax) increased. ETR(II)max decreased under AT+4oC in contrast to Fv/Fm, photosynthetic efficiency (αETR) and saturated irradiance (EK). Thus, U. rigida exhibited a decrease in photosynthetic production under acidification, LN levels and AT+4oC. These results emphasize the importance of studying the interactive effects between environmental parameters using in-situ vs. ex-situ conditions when aiming to evaluate the impact of global change on marine macroalgae.

Continue reading ‘Short-term effects of increased CO2, nitrate and temperature on photosynthetic activity in Ulva rigida (Chlorophyta) estimated by different pulse amplitude modulated fluorometers and oxygen evolution’

A new “business as usual” climate scenario and the stress response of the Caribbean coral Montastraea cavernosa

The climate change related decline of shallow (<30 m) coral reef ecosystems has been driven by the mortality of scleractinian corals caused primarily by the phenomenon known as “coral bleaching.” But despite pervasive phase shifts and macroalgal dominance on many coral reefs, some coral species have persisted. One of those species is Montastraea cavernosa which has been categorized as resilient to a range of biotic and abiotic stressors. In order to understand the mechanism(s) of resistance in this coral, we present the results of a thermal stress and ocean acidification (OA) experiment on M. cavernosa, both its brown and orange color morphs, representing conditions predicted by the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 6.0 scenario in the year 2100. We assessed the community response of the prokaryotic microbiome, the photophysiological response of the endosymbiotic Symbiodiniaceae and the molecular responses of critical pathways in the host by quantifying transcript abundances of genes encoding fluorescent proteins, heat shock proteins, antioxidant enzymes and regulators of apoptosis. After a 12 d acclimatization experiment, no visible bleaching was observed in any treatment, and the excitation pressure on photosystem II of the symbiotic Symbiodiniaceae showed no effects of the independent or interactive effects of thermal stress and OA, while only minor, but significant, changes in the prokaryotic microbiome were observed when exposed to RCP 6.0 predicted OA conditions. At the end of the experiment, the host heat shock protein 90 showed an increase in transcript abundance under the combined effects of thermal stress and OA compared to high temperatures alone, but these treatment groups were not significantly different from treatments under normal temperatures. While Bax, an activator of apoptosis, was significantly higher under thermal stress alone compared to control samples. Taken together, M. cavernosa, exhibits ecological stability over time and this may be based on its physiological persistence, resistance and resilience when experimentally exposed to the ecologically realistic RCP 6.0 climate model predictions.

Continue reading ‘A new “business as usual” climate scenario and the stress response of the Caribbean coral Montastraea cavernosa’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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