Posts Tagged 'physiology'

Combined effects of climate change and the herbicide diuron on the coral Acropora millepora

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is threatened by climate change and local pressures, including contaminants in nearshore habitats. This study investigated the combined effects of a GBR-relevant contaminant, the herbicide diuron, under current and two future climate scenarios on the coral Acropora millepora. All physiological responses tested (effective quantum yield (ΔF/Fm′), photosynthesis, calcification rate) were negatively affected with increasing concentrations of diuron. Interactive effects between diuron and climate were observed for all responses; however, climate had no significant effect on ΔF/Fm′ or calcification rates. Photosynthesis was negatively affected as the climate scenarios were adjusted from ambient (28.1 °C, pCO2 = 397 ppm) to RCP8.5 2050 (29.1 °C, pCO2 = 680 ppm) and 2100 (30.2 °C, pCO2 = 858 ppm) with EC50 values declining from 19.4 to 10.6 and 2.6 μg L−1 diuron in turn. These results highlight the likelihood that water quality guideline values may need to be adjusted as the climate changes.

Continue reading ‘Combined effects of climate change and the herbicide diuron on the coral Acropora millepora’

Two offshore coral species show greater acclimatization capacity to environmental variation than nearshore counterparts in southern Belize

Coral reefs are enduring decline due to the intensifying impacts of anthropogenic global change. This widespread decline has resulted in increased efforts to identify resilient coral populations and develop novel restoration strategies. Paramount in these efforts is the need to understand how environmental variation and thermal history affect coral physiology and resilience. Here, we assess the acclimatization capacity of Siderastrea siderea and Pseudodiploria strigosa corals via a 17-month reciprocal transplant experiment between nearshore and offshore reefs on the Belize Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. These nearshore reefs are more turbid, eutrophic, warm, and thermally variable than offshore reefs. All corals exhibited some evidence of acclimatization after transplantation. Corals transplanted from nearshore to offshore calcified slower than in their native habitat, especially S. siderea corals which exhibited 60% mortality and little to no net growth over the duration of the 17-month study. Corals transplanted from offshore to nearshore calcified faster than in their native habitat with 96% survival. Higher host tissue δ15N in nearshore corals indicated that increased heterotrophic opportunity or nitrogen sources between nearshore and offshore reefs likely promoted elevated calcification rates nearshore and may facilitate adaptation in nearshore populations to such conditions over time. These results demonstrate that offshore populations of S. siderea and P. strigosa possess the acclimatization capacity to survive in warmer and more turbid nearshore conditions, but that local adaptation to native nearshore conditions may hinder the plasticity of nearshore populations, thereby limiting their utility in coral restoration activities outside of their native habitat in the short term.

Continue reading ‘Two offshore coral species show greater acclimatization capacity to environmental variation than nearshore counterparts in southern Belize’

Experimental techniques to assess coral physiology in situ under global and local stressors: current approaches and novel insights

Coral reefs are declining worldwide due to global changes in the marine environment. The increasing frequency of massive bleaching events in the tropics is highlighting the need to better understand the stages of coral physiological responses to extreme conditions. Moreover, like many other coastal regions, coral reef ecosystems are facing additional localized anthropogenic stressors such as nutrient loading, increased turbidity, and coastal development. Different strategies have been developed to measure the health status of a damaged reef, ranging from the resolution of individual polyps to the entire coral community, but techniques for measuring coral physiology in situ are not yet widely implemented. For instance, while there are many studies of the coral holobiont response in single or limited-number multiple stressor experiments, they provide only partial insights into metabolic performance under more complex and temporally and spatially variable natural conditions. Here, we discuss the current status of coral reefs and their global and local stressors in the context of experimental techniques that measure core processes in coral metabolism (respiration, photosynthesis, and biocalcification) in situ, and their role in indicating the health status of colonies and communities. We highlight the need to improve the capability of in situ studies in order to better understand the resilience and stress response of corals under multiple global and local scale stressors.

Continue reading ‘Experimental techniques to assess coral physiology in situ under global and local stressors: current approaches and novel insights’

Impacts of seagrass on benthic microalgae and phytoplankton communities in an experimentally warmed coral reef mesocosm

The effects of seagrass on microalgal assemblages under experimentally elevated temperatures (28°C) and CO2 partial pressures (pCO2; 800 μatm) were examined using coral reef mesocosms. Concentrations of nitrate, ammonium, and benthic microalgal chlorophyll a (chl-a) were significantly higher in seagrass mesocosms, whereas phytoplankton chl-a concentrations were similar between seagrass and seagrass-free control mesocosms. In the seagrass group, fewer parasitic dinoflagellate OTUs (e.g., Syndiniales) were found in the benthic microalgal community though more symbiotic dinoflagellates (e.g., Cladocopium spp.) were quantified in the phytoplankton community. Our results suggest that, under ocean acidification conditions, the presence of seagrass nearby coral reefs may (1) enhance benthic primary productivity, (2) decrease parasitic dinoflagellate abundance, and (3) possibly increase the presence of symbiotic dinoflagellates.

Continue reading ‘Impacts of seagrass on benthic microalgae and phytoplankton communities in an experimentally warmed coral reef mesocosm’

The effects of elevated-CO2 and UVR on photosynthetic performance and nitrate reductase activity of Ulva flexuosa Wulfen 1803

After the industrial revolution, increasing anthropogenic CO2 emission causes a number of changes in seawater. These changes are known as ocean acidification and affect the seaweeds in various ways. Therefore, this study is aimed to determine the ecological succession of Ulva flexuosa Wulfen 1803 in future predicted CO2-induced low pH conditions alone and in combination with naturally relevant ultraviolet radiation (UVR). For this purpose, acidification experiments with and without UVR were conducted on U. flexuosa from the Mediterranean coast, and important physiological features of algae was investigated. In this study, the Fv/Fm ratios of U. flexuosa ranged from 0.718±0.01 to 0.754±0.009. While rETRmax values of samples exposed to elevated-CO2 were measured between 112.13 – 151.93 µmol em-2s-1, it was determined between 111.7 – 158.4 µmol em-2s-1 in samples exposed to ambient sea water. According to our results, increased CO2 concentration in seawater did not improve the photosynthetic efficiency of U. flexuosa. However, when the specimens were exposed to elevated-CO2, nitrate reductase activity of U. flexuosa was declined drastically. According to the results, it is suggested that the elevated CO2 may regulate the nitrogen preference of U. flexuosa. Besides, the data also show that U. flexuosa was not sensitive to UVR.

Continue reading ‘The effects of elevated-CO2 and UVR on photosynthetic performance and nitrate reductase activity of Ulva flexuosa Wulfen 1803’

Ion-transporting capacity and aerobic respiration of larval white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis) may be resilient to ocean acidification conditions


  • Larval white seabass were lab-exposed to elevated CO2 levels simulating future ocean acidification (OA).
  • Exposure to OA did not induce any changes in ion-transporting capacity, aerobic respiration rate, or total length of larval white seabass.
  • Retroactive analysis of the water in broodstock tanks revealed the parents had been chronically exposed to elevated CO2 levels, which may have affected the physiology of the larvae and conferred the observed resilience.


Ocean acidification (OA) has been proposed to increase the energetic demand for acid-base regulation at the expense of larval fish growth. Here, white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis) eggs and larvae were reared at control (542 ± 28 μatm) and elevated pCO2 (1,831 ± 105 μatm) until five days post-fertilization (dpf). Skin ionocytes were identified by immunodetection of the Na+/K+-ATPase (NKA) enzyme. Larvae exposed to elevated pCO2 possessed significantly higher skin ionocyte number and density compared to control larvae. However, when ionocyte size was accounted for, the relative ionocyte area (a proxy for total ionoregulatory capacity) was unchanged. Similarly, there were no differences in relative NKA abundance, resting O2 consumption rate, and total length between control and treatment larvae at 5 dpf, nor in the rate at which relative ionocyte area and total length changed between 2–5 dpf. Altogether, our results suggest that OA conditions projected for the next century do not significantly affect the ionoregulatory capacity or energy consumption of larval white seabass. Finally, a retroactive analysis of the water in the recirculating aquarium system that housed the broodstock revealed the parents had been exposed to average pCO2 of ~1,200 μatm for at least 3.5 years prior to this experiment. Future studies should investigate whether larval white seabass are naturally resilient to OA, or if this resilience is the result of parental chronic acclimation to OA, and/or from natural selection during spawning and fertilization in elevated pCO2.

Continue reading ‘Ion-transporting capacity and aerobic respiration of larval white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis) may be resilient to ocean acidification conditions’

Effects of triclosan exposure on the energy budget of Ruditapes philippinarum and R. decussatus under climate change scenarios


  • Environmental triclosan levels alter the reproductive output of R. philippinarum.
  • Environmental triclosan levels reduce body mass in R. philippinarum.
  • R. decussatus growth was resilient to environmental changes.
  • Worst case scenario (TCS and climate change) will affect Manila clam production.


We built a simulation model based on Dynamic Energy Budget theory (DEB) to assess the growth and reproductive potential of the native European clam Ruditapes decussatus and the introduced Manila clam Ruditapes philippinarum under current temperature and pH conditions in a Portuguese estuary and under those forecasted for the end of the 21st c. The climate change scenario RCP8.5 predicts temperature increase of 3 °C and a pH decrease of 0.4 units. The model was run under additional conditions of exposure to the emerging contaminant triclosan (TCS) and in the absence of this compound. The parameters of the DEB model were calibrated with the results of laboratory experiments complemented with data from the literature available for these two important commercial shellfish resources. For each species and experimental condition (eight combinations), we used data from the experiments to produce estimates for the key parameters controlling food intake flux, assimilation flux, somatic maintenance flux and energy at the initial simulation time. The results showed that the growth and reproductive potential of both species would be compromised under future climate conditions, but the effect of TCS exposure had a higher impact on the energy budget than forecasted temperature and pH variations. The egg production of R. philippinarum was projected to suffer a more marked reduction with exposure to TCS, regardless of the climatic factor, while the native R. decussatus appeared more resilient to environmental causes of stress. The results suggest a likely decrease in the rates of expansion of the introduced R. philippinarum in European waters, and negative effects on fisheries and aquaculture production of exposure to emerging contaminants (e.g., TCS) and climate change.

Continue reading ‘Effects of triclosan exposure on the energy budget of Ruditapes philippinarum and R. decussatus under climate change scenarios’

Oyster biomineralization under ocean acidification: from genes to shell

Biomineralization is one of the key processes that is notably affected in marine calcifiers such as oysters under ocean acidification (OA). Understanding molecular changes in the biomineralization process under OA and its heritability, therefore, is key to developing conservation strategies for protecting ecologically and economically important oyster species. To do this, in this study, we have explicitly chosen the tissue involved in biomineralization (mantle) of an estuarine commercial oyster species, Crassostrea hongkongensis. The primary aim of this study is to understand the influence of DNA methylation over gene expression of mantle tissue under decreased ~pH 7.4, a proxy of OA, and to extrapolate if these molecular changes can be observed in the product of biomineralization—the shell. We grew early juvenile C. hongkongensis, under decreased ~pH 7.4 and control ~pH 8.0 over 4.5 months and studied OA-induced DNA methylation and gene expression patterns along with shell properties such as microstructure, crystal orientation and hardness. The population of oysters used in this study was found to be moderately resilient to OA at the end of the experiment. The expression of key biomineralization-related genes such as carbonic anhydrase and alkaline phosphatase remained unaffected; thus, the mechanical properties of the shell (shell growth rate, hardness and crystal orientation) were also maintained without any significant difference between control and OA conditions with signs of severe dissolution. In addition, this study makes three major conclusions: (1) higher expression of Ca2+ binding/signalling-related genes in the mantle plays a key role in maintaining biomineralization under OA; (2) DNA methylation changes occur in response to OA; however, these methylation changes do not directly control gene expression; and (3) OA would be more of a ‘dissolution problem’ rather than a ‘biomineralization problem’ for resilient species that maintain calcification rate with normal shell growth and mechanical properties.

Rajan K. C., Meng Y., Yu Z., Roberts S. B. & Vengatesen T., in press. Oyster biomineralization under ocean acidification: from genes to shell. Global Change Biology. Article (subscription required).

Na+/H+ exchangers differentially contribute to midgut fluid sodium and proton concentration in the sea urchin larva

Regulation of ionic composition and pH is a requisite of all digestive systems in the animal kingdom. Larval stages of the marine superphylum Ambulacraria, including echinoderms and hemichordates, were demonstrated to have highly alkaline conditions in their midgut with the underlying epithelial transport mechanisms being largely unknown. Using ion-selective microelectrodes, the present study demonstrated that pluteus larvae of the purple sea urchin have highly alkaline pH (pH ∼9) and low [Na+] (∼120 mmol l−1) in their midgut fluids, compared with the ionic composition of the surrounding seawater. We pharmacologically investigated the role of Na+/H+ exchangers (NHE) in intracellular pH regulation and midgut proton and sodium maintenance using the NHE inhibitor 5-(n-ethyl-n-isopropyl)amiloride (EIPA). Basolateral EIPA application decreased midgut pH while luminal application via micro-injections increased midgut [Na+], without affecting pH. Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated a luminal localization of NHE-2 (SpSlc9a2) in the midgut epithelium. Specific knockdown of spslc9a2 using Vivo-Morpholinos led to an increase in midgut [Na+] without affecting pH. Acute acidification experiments in combination with quantitative PCR analysis and measurements of midgut pH and [Na+] identified two other NHE isoforms, Spslc9a7 and SpSlc9a8, which potentially contribute to the regulation of [Na+] and pH in midgut fluids. This work provides new insights into ion regulatory mechanisms in the midgut epithelium of sea urchin larvae. The involvement of NHEs in regulating pH and Na+ balance in midgut fluids shows conserved features of insect and vertebrate digestive systems and may contribute to the ability of sea urchin larvae to cope with changes in seawater pH.

Continue reading ‘Na+/H+ exchangers differentially contribute to midgut fluid sodium and proton concentration in the sea urchin larva’

Online-coupling of widely-ranged timescales to model coral reef development


  • A biophysical model framework for coral reef evolution is developed.
  • The model can be used to predict the coral response to the environment via process-based relations.
  • The model bridges the gap in timescales of processes from seconds to millennia.
  • Model predictions are within the accuracy of climate projections.
  • The model is an efficient tool for forecasting coral reef development to inform policy makers.


The increasing pressure on Earth’s ecosystems due to climate change is becoming more and more evident and the impacts of climate change are especially visible on coral reefs. Understanding how climate change interacts with the physical environment of reefs to impact coral growth and reef development is critically important to predicting the persistence of reefs into the future. In this study, a biophysical model was developed including four environmental factors in a feedback loop with the coral’s biology: (1) light; (2) hydrodynamics; (3) temperature; and (4) pH. The submodels are online coupled, i.e. regularly exchanging information and feedbacks while the model runs. This ensures computational efficiency despite the widely-ranged timescales. The composed biophysical model provides a significant step forward in understanding the processes that modulate the evolution of coral reefs, as it is the first construction of a model in which the hydrodynamics are included in the feedback loop.

Continue reading ‘Online-coupling of widely-ranged timescales to model coral reef development’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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