Posts Tagged 'physiology'

Adult exposure to ocean acidification and warming remains beneficial for oyster larvae following starvation

Climate change is expected to warm and acidify oceans and alter the phenology of phytoplankton, creating a mismatch between larvae and their food. Transgenerational plasticity (TGP) may allow marine species to acclimate to climate change; however, it is expected that this may come with elevated energetic demands. This study used the oysters, Saccostrea glomerata and Crassostrea gigas, to test the effects of adult parental exposure to elevated pCO2 and temperature on larvae during starvation and recovery. It was anticipated that beneficial effects of TGP will be limited when larvae oyster are starved. Transgenerational responses and lipid reserves of larvae were measured for 2 weeks. Larvae of C. gigas and S. glomerata from parents exposed to elevated pCO2 had greater survival when exposed to elevated CO2, but this differed between species and temperature. For S. glomerata, survival of larvae was greatest when the conditions experienced by larvae matched the condition of their parents. For C. gigas, survival of larvae was greater when parents and larvae were exposed to elevated pCO2. Larvae of both species used lipids when starved. The total lipid content was dependent on parental exposure and temperature. Against expectations, the beneficial TGP responses of larvae remained, despite starvation.

Continue reading ‘Adult exposure to ocean acidification and warming remains beneficial for oyster larvae following starvation’

The effects on low pH on sea urchin larval survivorship and development

In recent decades, increasing atmospheric CO2 levels have contributed to the acidification of the world’s oceans. Seawater absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere, which, through a series of chemical reactions, causes an increase in free hydrogen ions and a subsequent decrease in carbonate ions. This adversely affects marine organisms, including sea urchins, since carbonate is critical for building calcium carbonate structures such as shells, without which organisms can die. Declines in urchin populations can have ecological and economic effects, as urchins play critical roles in maintaining ecological balance in marine habitats and are important commercially harvested invertebrates. Larval marine organisms are particularly vulnerable, and increased deformities and mortality are expected in more acidic environments. Therefore, we exposed green sea urchin (Lytechinus variegatus) larvae to different pH levels and examined the effects on development and mortality. Fertilized eggs were reared in seawater with environmentally realistic pH values ranging from pH 7.8 to pH 8.2 (normal seawater), and a larval sample from each treatment was collected every 24 hours for 7 – 10 days. Mortality was documented by counting dead larvae, and development was assessed by comparing morphology among the control and treatment groups. In general, both mortality and morphological abnormalities showed inverse correlations with pH, with the highest mortality rate and most severe abnormalities occurring in larvae exposed to the lowest pH seawater. Larval development was also somewhat delayed in urchin larvae exposed to low pH seawater. These results suggest that acidic seawater, at pH values currently found in the world’s oceans, can adversely affect sea urchin larval development, which can, in turn, have negative ecological and economic consequences.

Continue reading ‘The effects on low pH on sea urchin larval survivorship and development’

Effects of extra feeding combined with ocean acidification and increased temperature on the carbon isotope values (δ13C) in the mussel shell


  • Ocean acidification, OA, increased metabolic carbon uptake in mussel shell calcite.
  • Additive effects of increased temperature and extra feeding on carbon uptake.
  • Mussels alter their biomineralisation pathways relating to food carbon uptake.
  • Metabolic carbon uptake is 7–11% higher in the shell aragonite compared to calcite.
  • Molluscs with different composites may alter biomineralisation under OA.


Ocean acidification (OA) and global warming present future challenges for shell producing organisms such as mussels through reduction in the carbonate available to produce shells in these and other valuable aquaculture species. Molluscs control their shell growth through biomineralisation, but the response of the mechanisms behind biomineralisation to OA conditions are relatively unknown. It is unclear how much carbon is taken into the shell from the environment compared to the uptake through the food source. Shell production is energetically costly to molluscs and metabolic processes and energetic partitioning may affect their ability to perform the underlying mechanisms of biomineralisation under OA. It is possible that additional food consumption might alleviate some impacts caused by acidification. We assessed the ability of extra feeding to alter the impacts of OA and increased temperatures on adult Mytilus edulis. Carbon isotopes (δ13C) were used to examine the change in biomineralisation pathway in mussels. OA did not alter the δ13C directly in separate analyses of the shell calcite and aragonite layers, mantle tissue and extrapallial fluid. However, ambient treatments with increased temperatures altered the mussel biomineralisation pathway in the shell calcite using CO32− instead of HCO3 as the main source of carbon. The proportion of metabolic carbon uptake into the mussel shell calcite layer increased under OA, with additive effects when exposed to increased temperatures and extra feeding. The proportion of metabolic carbon uptake is higher (7%–11%) in the shell aragonite layer compared to calcite, under ambient treatments. OA initially reduced the metabolic carbon uptake into the shell aragonite, but after a period of 4-months with extra feeding, the mussels were able to adjust their metabolic carbon uptake to a level experienced under ambient treatments. This indicates that an abundance of food resources may enable changes in mussel biomineralisation pathways to compensate for any decrease in seawater inorganic carbon associated with OA. The impact of OA on phytoplankton varies from species to species, changing the structure of the community which could provide sufficient food resources to maintain metabolic carbon uptake for mussel shell growth. This study of δ13C isotopic values has identified changes in biomineralisation pathway relating to the mussel metabolic carbon uptake from their food source, with varying results for the aragonite and calcite shell polymorphs. The implications of these findings suggest that some bivalve species with different shell composites may cope better under OA than others, demanding further study into species-specific biomineralisation pathways.

Continue reading ‘Effects of extra feeding combined with ocean acidification and increased temperature on the carbon isotope values (δ13C) in the mussel shell’

Natural CO2 seeps reveal adaptive potential to ocean acidification in fish

Volcanic CO2 seeps are natural laboratories that can provide insights into the adaptation of species to ocean acidification. Whilst many species are challenged by reduced pH levels, some species benefit from the altered environment and thrive. Here, we explore the molecular mechanisms of adaptation to ocean acidification in a population of a temperate fish species that experiences increased population sizes under elevated CO2. Fish from CO2 seeps exhibited an overall increased gene expression in gonad tissue compared to those from ambient CO2 sites. Up‐regulated genes at CO2 seeps are possible targets of adaptive selection as they can directly influence the physiological performance of fishes exposed to ocean acidification. Most of the up‐regulated genes at seeps were functionally involved in the maintenance of pH homeostasis and increased metabolism, and presented a deviation from neutral evolution expectations in their patterns of DNA polymorphisms, providing evidence for adaptive selection to ocean acidification. The targets of this adaptive selection are likely regulatory sequences responsible for the increased expression of these genes which would allow a fine‐tuned physiological regulation to maintain homeostasis and thrive at CO2 seeps. Our findings reveal that standing genetic variation in DNA sequences regulating the expression of genes in response to a reduced pH environment could provide for adaptive potential to near‐future ocean acidification in fishes. Moreover, with this study we provide a forthright methodology combining transcriptomics and genomics which can be applied to infer the adaptive potential to different environmental conditions in wild marine populations.

Continue reading ‘Natural CO2 seeps reveal adaptive potential to ocean acidification in fish’

Microalgal photosynthesis induces alkalization of aquatic environment as a result of H+ uptake independently from CO2 concentration – new perspectives for environmental applications


  • Microalgae photosynthesis induces strongly H+ uptake reversing ocean acidification.
  • Water alkalization through algal H+ uptake is independent from CO2 concentration.
  • New management approaches for reversing ocean acidification using algal H+ uptake.
  • Algal H+ uptake depends on essential nutrients, cell density and light intensity.
  • Acidification of aquatic environment induces microalgal photosynthesis and growth.


The photosynthetic process in microalgae and the extracellular proton environment interact with each other. The photosynthetic process in microalgae induces a pH increase in the aquatic environment as a result of cellular protons uptake rather than as an effect of CO2 consumption. The photosynthetic water photolysis and the reduction/oxidation cycle of the plastoquinone pool provide lumen with protons. Weak bases act as “permeant buffers” in lumen during the photosynthetic procedure, converting the ΔpH to Δψ. This is possibly the main reason for continuous light-driven proton uptake from the aquatic environment through cytosol and stroma, into the lumen. The proton uptake rate and, therefore, the microalgal growth is proportional to the light intensity, cell concentration, and extracellular proton concentration. The low pH in microalgae cultures, without limitation factors related to light and nutrients, strongly induces photosynthesis (and proton uptake) and, consequently, growth. In contrast, the mitochondrial respiratory process, in the absence of photosynthetic activity, does not substantially alter the culture pH. Only after intensification of the respiratory process, using exogenous glucose supply leads to significantly reduced pH values in the culture medium, almost exclusively through proton output. Enhanced dissolution of atmospheric CO2 in water causes the phenomenon of ocean acidification, which prevents the process of calcification, a significant process for numerous phytoplankton and zooplankton organisms, as well for corals. The proposed interaction between microalgal photosynthetic activity and proton concentration in the aquatic environment, independently from the CO2 concentration, paves the way for new innovative management strategies for reversing the ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Microalgal photosynthesis induces alkalization of aquatic environment as a result of H+ uptake independently from CO2 concentration – new perspectives for environmental applications’

Ocean acidification induces changes in virus–host relationships in Mediterranean benthic ecosystems

Acidified marine systems represent “natural laboratories”, which provide opportunities to investigate the impacts of ocean acidification on different living components, including microbes. Here, we compared the benthic microbial response in four naturally acidified sites within the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea characterized by different acidification sources (i.e., CO2 emissions at Ischia, mixed gases at Panarea and Basiluzzo and acidified freshwater from karst rocks at Presidiana) and pH values. We investigated prokaryotic abundance, activity and biodiversity, viral abundance and prokaryotic infections, along with the biochemical composition of the sediment organic matter. We found that, despite differences in local environmental dynamics, viral life strategies change in acidified conditions from mainly lytic to temperate lifestyles (e.g., chronic infection), also resulting in a lowered impact on prokaryotic communities, which shift towards (chemo)autotrophic assemblages, with lower organic matter consumption. Taken together, these results suggest that ocean acidification exerts a deep control on microbial benthic assemblages, with important feedbacks on ecosystem functioning.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification induces changes in virus–host relationships in Mediterranean benthic ecosystems’

Evaluation of the effect of local water chemistry on trace metal accumulation in Puget Sound shellfish shows that concentration varies with species, size, and location

Global climate change is causing ocean acidification (OA), warming, and decreased dissolved oxygen (DO) in coastal areas, which can cause physiological stress and compromise the health of marine organisms. While there is increased focus on how these stressors will affect marine species, there is little known regarding how changes in water chemistry will impact the bioaccumulation of trace metals. This study compared trace metal concentrations in tissue of Mediterranean mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis) and Olympia oysters (Ostrea lurida) in Puget Sound, Washington, a region that experiences naturally low pH, seasonal hypoxia, and is surrounded by urbanized and industrialized areas. Shellfish were held at three sites (Carr Inlet, Point Wells, and Dabob Bay) where oceanographic data was continuously collected using mooring buoys. Using inductively coupled plasma mass-spectrometry (ICP-MS) to measure trace metals in the tissue, we found differences in accumulation of trace metals based on species, location, and shellfish size. Our study found differences between sites in both the mean metal concentrations and variability around the mean of those concentrations in bivalves. However, high metal concentrations in bivalves were not associated with high concentrations of metals in seawater. Metal concentrations in shellfish were associated with size: smaller shellfish had higher concentrations of metals. Carr Inlet at 20 m depth had the smallest shellfish and the highest metal concentrations. While we could not eliminate possible confounding factors, we also found higher metal concentrations in shellfish associated with lower pH, lower temperature, and lower dissolved oxygen (conditions seen at Carr Inlet at 20 m and to a lesser extent at Point Wells at 5 m depth). There were also significant differences in accumulation of metals between oysters and mussels, most notably copper and zinc, which were found in higher concentrations in oysters. These findings increase our understanding of spatial differences in trace metal bioaccumulation in shellfish from Puget Sound. Our results can help inform the Puget Sound aquaculture industry how shellfish may be impacted at different sites as climate change progresses and coastal pollution increases.

Continue reading ‘Evaluation of the effect of local water chemistry on trace metal accumulation in Puget Sound shellfish shows that concentration varies with species, size, and location’

Ocean acidification but not elevated spring warming threatens a European Seas predator


  • Treatments in marine climate research often ignore important, natural variation
  • Fish embryos were exposed to stable versus warming temperatures (T) and high pCO2
  • Development, hatching and metabolism of a predatory fish (garfish) were examined
  • Increased spring warming benefitted garfish but stable high T and pCO2 were lethal
  • Allospecific prey of garpike have adapted suggesting future, trophodynamic change


Ocean acidification has the potential to negatively affect marine ecosystems by influencing the development and metabolism of key members of food webs. The garfish, Belone belone, is an ecologically important predator in European regional seas and it remains unknown how this species will be impacted by projected changes in climate. We artificially fertilized and reared garfish embryos until hatch at present (400 μatm) and future (1300 μatm) pCO2 levels within three temperature treatments, i.e. two daily warming regimes and one constant high temperature (17°C). For the two warming treatments, embryos were fertilized at 13°C and experienced 0.1 or 0.3°C/day warming. The 0.1°C/day treatment served as control: 13°C was the in situ temperature of parental fish in the Southwest Baltic Sea and 0.1°C/day is the average warming rate experienced by embryos of this population in nature. Survival was drastically reduced at both future pCO2 and at the constant high temperature while the highest survival in any treatment was observed at 0.3°C/day warming. The proportion of embryos with morphological deformities increased with elevated pCO2 but not temperature. Hatch characteristics and physiological measures such as heart rate and critical thermal ranges, however, were not affected by pCO2 but were influenced by temperature. Our results suggest that garfish in the Baltic Sea will benefit from projected increased rates of spring warming but not the concomitant increase in pCO2. Previous studies on the impacts of ocean acidification on resident fishes in the Baltic Sea indicate that this piscivorous fish is at higher risk compared to its prey which may have broader implications for the future trophodynamic structure and function of the coastal food web.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification but not elevated spring warming threatens a European Seas predator’

Risks to the stability of coral reefs in the South China Sea: an integrated biomarker approach to assess the physiological responses of Trochus niloticus to ocean acidification and warming


  • OA and OW have deleterious effects on the fitness of T. niloticus.
  • Co-exposure of OA and OW is the most stressful condition.
  • OA and OW may adversely affect population replenishment of T. niloticus.


Scientific researches have clearly indicated that ocean acidification and warming poses serious threats to coral reef ecosystems. In coral reef ecosystems, herbivorous gastropods have an important function in maintaining the stability of the ecosystem due to controlling the abundance and growth of macroalgal, which compete for nutrients and space with coral. However, limited knowledge is available on the physiological responses of the specific keystone species to the increased ocean acidity and thermal stress. In this study, we evaluated the effects of ocean acidification (OA) and warming (OW) on an herbivorous gastropod Trochus niloticus commonly found on intertidal and shallow subtidal coral reefs in the South China Sea, on the aspect of immune responses (total hemocyte counts, reactive oxygen species level and apoptosis rate), oxidative stress (lipid peroxidation level, antioxidant enzyme activities), neurotoxicity (acetylcholinesterase activity), and energy metabolism (respiration rate and cellular energy allocation), after a 28-days exposure experiment to acidic (pH 7.6) and/or thermal (30 °C) seawater. Our results demonstrated that both OA and OW could lead to physiological disturbances of the herbivorous top-shells, including impaired immune functions and oxidative balance, neurotoxicity, and disorder of energy metabolism. Furthermore, results of integrated biomarker response (IBR) confirmed that the overall fitness of T. niloticus were deleteriously impacted by OA and OW, and were more stressed under the co-exposure condition. These results indicated that increased acidity and temperature in the future ocean might impair the viability of T. niloticus in the long-run, which will indulge the proliferation of macroalgae and lead to degradation of the coral reef ecosystem.

Continue reading ‘Risks to the stability of coral reefs in the South China Sea: an integrated biomarker approach to assess the physiological responses of Trochus niloticus to ocean acidification and warming’

Impact of dust addition on the metabolism of Mediterranean plankton communities and carbon export under present and future conditions of pH and temperature

Although atmospheric dust fluxes from arid as well as human-impacted areas represent a significant source of nutrients to surface waters of the Mediterranean Sea, studies focusing on the evolution of the metabolic balance of the plankton community following a dust deposition event are scarce and none were conducted in the context of projected future levels of temperature and pH. Moreover, most of the experiments took place in coastal areas. In the framework of the PEACETIME project, three dust-addition perturbation experiments were conducted in 300-L tanks filled with surface seawater collected in the Tyrrhenian Sea (TYR), Ionian Sea (ION) and in the Algerian basin (FAST) onboard the R/V “Pourquoi Pas?” in late spring 2017. For each experiment, six tanks were used to follow the evolution of chemical and biological stocks, biological activity and particle export. The impacts of a dust deposition event simulated at their surface were followed under present environmental conditions and under a realistic climate change scenario for 2100 (ca. +3 °C and −0.3 pH units). The tested waters were all typical of stratified oligotrophic conditions encountered in the open Mediterranean Sea at this period of the year, with low rates of primary production and a metabolic balance towards net heterotrophy. The release of nutrients after dust seeding had very contrasting impacts on the metabolism of the communities, depending on the station investigated. At TYR, the release of new nutrients was followed by a negative impact on both particulate and dissolved 14C-based production rates, while heterotrophic bacterial production strongly increased, driving the community to an even more heterotrophic state. At ION and FAST, the efficiency of organic matter export due to mineral/organic aggregation processes was lower than at TYR likely related to a lower quantity/age of dissolved organic matter present at the time of the seeding. At these stations, both the autotrophic and heterotrophic community benefited from dust addition, with a stronger relative increase in autotrophic processes observed at FAST. Our study showed that the potential positive impact of dust deposition on primary production depends on the initial composition and metabolic state of the investigated community. This potential is constrained by the quantity of nutrients added in order to sustain both the fast response of heterotrophic prokaryotes and the delayed one of primary producers. Finally, under future environmental conditions, heterotrophic metabolism was overall more impacted than primary production, with the consequence that all integrated net community production rates decreased with no detectable impact on carbon export, therefore reducing the capacity of surface waters to sequester anthropogenic CO2.

Continue reading ‘Impact of dust addition on the metabolism of Mediterranean plankton communities and carbon export under present and future conditions of pH and temperature’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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