Posts Tagged 'prokaryotes'

Nutrient enrichment promotes eutrophication in the form of macroalgal blooms causing cascading effects in two anthropogenically disturbed coastal ecosystems

Humans are impacting almost every major ecological process that structures communities and ecosystems. Examples of how human activity can directly control key processes in ecosystems include destruction of habitat changing trophic structure, nutrient pollution altering competitive outcomes, overharvesting of consumers reducing top down control, and now climate change impacting virtually every global biogeochemical cycle. These human impacts may have an independent effect on the ecosystem, but they also have the potential to cause cascading effects and promote subsequent stressors. Also, these impacts are not limited to a particular system or geographic location making research on their overall effects vital for management practices. For example, tropical reefs have been transitioning from coral to mixed communities dominated by macroalgae, motivating research on how macroalgae respond to anthropogenic stressors and interact with each other during these stressful events. Further, while eutrophication of coastal estuaries due to increased anthropogenic supplies of nutrients has been of critical global concern for decades, the potential for eutrophication to drive new stressors is a growing concern. To address these knowledge gaps, I investigated how human stressors impact two different and major coastal ecosystems known to be vulnerable to anthropogenic disturbances.

In chapter 1, I demonstrate that anthropogenic stressors in the form of increased nutrients in the water and sediments have strong impacts on interspecific interactions of coral reef macroalgae. Abiotic stressors such as nutrients have been linked to phase-shifts from coral to algal domination on tropical reefs. However, few studies have considered how these stressors impact changes in the biotic and abiotic constituents of dominant species of calcifying macroalgae, and how this may be mediated by species-species interactions. I conducted 4 mesocosm experiments to examine whether different nutrient sources (water column vs. terrestrial sediment) as well as species interactions (alone vs. mixed species) affected total mass (biomass + calcium carbonate (CaCO3)) of two common calcifying macroalgae (Padina boryana and Galaxaura fasciculata). P. boryana gained total mass with increased water column nutrients but declined with increased nutrients supplied by the sediment. Conversely, G. fasciculata gained total mass with increased nutrients in the sediment but declined with increased water column nutrients. In both interactions, the “winner” (i.e., G. fasciculata in the sediment experiment) also had a greater % of thallus mass comprised of CaCO3, potentially due to the subsequent decomposition of the “loser” as this result was not found in the alone treatments. These findings ultimately suggest that nutrient stressors can cause cascading effects, such as promoting calcification and biomass growth or loss in these macroalgal communities, and the potential for domination or decline is based on the nutrient source and community composition.

In chapter 2, I demonstrate that decomposition of macroalgal blooms cause a sequence of biogeochemical processes that can drive acidification in shallow coastal estuaries, and that these processes are mediated by a dynamic microbial community. Eutrophication and ocean acidification are both widely acknowledged as major human-induced stressors in marine environments. While the link between eutrophication and acidification has been established for phytoplankton, it is unclear whether eutrophication in the form of macroalgal blooms can cause cascading effects like acidification in shallow eutrophic estuaries. I conducted seasonal field surveys and assessed microbial communities and functional genes to evaluate changes in biotic and abiotic characteristics between seasons that may be associated with acidification in Upper Newport Bay, CA, USA. Acidification, measured as a drop in pH of 0.7, occurred in summer at the site with the most macroalgal cover. Microbial community composition and functional gene expression provide evidence that decomposition processes contributed to acidification, and also suggest that other biogeochemical processes like nitrification and degradation of polyphosphate also contributed to acidification. To my knowledge, my findings represent the first field evidence that eutrophication of shallow coastal estuaries dominated by green macroalgal blooms can cascade to acidification.

In chapter 3, I demonstrate that macroalgal blooms in shallow estuaries are strong drivers of key microbially-mediated biogeochemical processes that can cause cascading effects, such as acidification and nutrient fluxing, regardless of simulated tidal flushing. Estuaries are productive and diverse ecosystems and are vulnerable to eutrophication from increased anthropogenic nutrients. While it is known that enhanced tidal flushing can reduce adverse effects of anthropogenic disturbances in larger, deeper estuarine ecosystems, this is unexplored for eutrophication in shallow coastal estuaries where macroalgae usually dominate. I simulated eutrophication as a macroalgal bloom in a mesocosm experiment, varied tidal flushing (flushed daily vs unflushed), and assessed the effects on water column and sediment biogeochemical processes and the sediment microbial community. While flushing did not ameliorate the negative effects of the macroalgal bloom, it caused transient differences in the rate of change in biogeochemical processes and promoted increased fluxes of nutrients from the sediment. In the beginning, the macroalgal bloom induced basification and increased total alkalinity, but during decomposition, acidification and the accumulation of nutrients in the sediment and water column occurred. The findings from this chapter ultimately suggest that macroalgal blooms have the potential to be the cause of, yet may also offer a partial solution to, global ecological changes to biogeochemical processes.

Overall, my results indicate that anthropogenic disturbances, particularly in the form of increased nutrients, can cause cascading effects like macroalgal blooms that in turn cause acidification, basification, increased interspecific interactions, nutrient depletion, and nutrient fluxing in multiple ecosystems. These data advance our current understanding of the ecological consequences of eutrophication in the form of macroalgal blooms in different ecosystems. It also provides mechanistic links to microbial communities and biogeochemical processes not previously identified for shallow coastal estuaries. As human population and subsequent nutrient pollution increases in watersheds globally, ecological phenomenon such as eutrophication will only be intensified, and macroalgal communities will continue to dominate. Consequently, this dominance, especially during decomposition as shown here, can drive a multitude of subsequent stressors that can impact the entire ecosystem.

Continue reading ‘Nutrient enrichment promotes eutrophication in the form of macroalgal blooms causing cascading effects in two anthropogenically disturbed coastal ecosystems’

Proteomic responses to ocean acidification of the marine diazotroph Trichodesmium under iron-replete and iron-limited conditions

Growth and dinitrogen (N2) fixation of the globally important diazotrophic cyanobacteria Trichodesmium are often limited by iron (Fe) availability in surface seawaters. To systematically examine the combined effects of Fe limitation and ocean acidification (OA), T. erythraeum strain IMS101 was acclimated to both Fe-replete and Fe-limited concentrations under ambient and acidified conditions. Proteomic analysis showed that OA affected a wider range of proteins under Fe-limited conditions compared to Fe-replete conditions. OA also led to an intensification of Fe deficiency in key cellular processes (e.g., photosystem I and chlorophyll a synthesis) in already Fe-limited T. erythraeum. This is a result of reallocating Fe from these processes to Fe-rich nitrogenase to compensate for the suppressed N2 fixation. To alleviate the Fe shortage, the diazotroph adopts a series of Fe-based economic strategies (e.g., upregulating Fe acquisition systems for organically complexed Fe and particulate Fe, replacing ferredoxin by flavodoxin, and using alternative electron flow pathways to produce ATP). This was more pronounced under Fe-limited-OA conditions than under Fe limitation only. Consequently, OA resulted in a further decrease of N2- and carbon-fixation rates in Fe-limited T. erythraeum. In contrast, Fe-replete T. erythraeum induced photosystem I (PSI) expression to potentially enhance the PSI cyclic flow for ATP production to meet the higher demand for energy to cope with the stress caused by OA. Our study provides mechanistic insight into the holistic response of the globally important N2-fixing marine cyanobacteria Trichodesmium to acidified and Fe-limited conditions of future oceans.

Continue reading ‘Proteomic responses to ocean acidification of the marine diazotroph Trichodesmium under iron-replete and iron-limited conditions’

Limited response of a spring bloom community inoculated with filamentous cyanobacteria to elevated temperature and pCO2

Temperature and CO2 levels are projected to increase in the future, with consequences for carbon and nutrient cycling in brackish environments, such as the Baltic Sea. Moreover, filamentous cyanobacteria are predicted to be favored over other phytoplankton groups under these conditions. Under a 12-day outdoor experiment, we examined the effect on a natural phytoplankton spring bloom community of elevated temperature (from 1°C to 4°C) and elevated pCO2 (from 390 to 970 μatm). No effects of elevated pCO2 or temperature were observed on phytoplankton biovolumes, but a significantly higher photosystem II activity was observed at elevated temperature after 9 days. In addition, three species of diazotrophic filamentous cyanobacteria were inoculated to test their competitive capacity under spring bloom conditions. The toxic cyanobacterium Nodularia spumigena exhibited an average specific growth rate of 0.10 d−1 by the end of the experiment, indicating potential prevalence even during wintertime in the Baltic Sea. Generally, none of the inoculated cyanobacteria species were able to outcompete the natural phytoplankton species at temperatures ≤4°C. No direct effects were found on heterotrophic bacteria. This study demonstrates the highly efficient resistance towards short-term (12 days) changes in abiotic factors by the natural Baltic Sea spring bloom community.

Continue reading ‘Limited response of a spring bloom community inoculated with filamentous cyanobacteria to elevated temperature and pCO2’

In situ response of Antarctic under-ice primary producers to experimentally altered pH

Elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations are contributing to ocean acidification (reduced seawater pH and carbonate concentrations), with potentially major ramifications for marine ecosystems and their functioning. Using a novel in situ experiment we examined impacts of reduced seawater pH on Antarctic sea ice-associated microalgal communities, key primary producers and contributors to food webs. pH levels projected for the following decades-to-end of century (7.86, 7.75, 7.61), and ambient levels (7.99), were maintained for 15 d in under-ice incubation chambers. Light, temperature and dissolved oxygen within the chambers were logged to track diurnal variation, with pH, O2, salinity and nutrients assessed daily. Uptake of CO2 occurred in all treatments, with pH levels significantly elevated in the two extreme treatments. At the lowest pH, despite the utilisation of CO2 by the productive microalgae, pH did not return to ambient levels and carbonate saturation states remained low; a potential concern for organisms utilising this under-ice habitat. However, microalgal community biomass and composition were not significantly affected and only modest productivity increases were noted, suggesting subtle or slightly positive effects on under-ice algae. This in situ information enables assessment of the influence of future ocean acidification on under-ice community characteristics in a key coastal Antarctic habitat.

Continue reading ‘In situ response of Antarctic under-ice primary producers to experimentally altered pH’

Reduced nitrogenase efficiency dominates response of the globally important nitrogen fixer Trichodesmium to ocean acidification

The response of the prominent marine dinitrogen (N2)-fixing cyanobacteria Trichodesmium to ocean acidification (OA) is critical to understanding future oceanic biogeochemical cycles. Recent studies have reported conflicting findings on the effect of OA on growth and N2fixation of Trichodesmium. Here, we quantitatively analyzed experimental data on how Trichodesmium reallocated intracellular iron and energy among key cellular processes in response to OA, and integrated the findings to construct an optimality-based cellular model. The model results indicate that Trichodesmium growth rate decreases under OA primarily due to reduced nitrogenase efficiency. The downregulation of the carbon dioxide (CO2)-concentrating mechanism under OA has little impact on Trichodesmium, and the energy demand of anti-stress responses to OA has a moderate negative effect. We predict that if anthropogenic CO2 emissions continue to rise, OA could reduce global N2 fixation potential of Trichodesmium by 27% in this century, with the largest decrease in iron-limiting regions.

Continue reading ‘Reduced nitrogenase efficiency dominates response of the globally important nitrogen fixer Trichodesmium to ocean acidification’

Ocean acidification regulates the activity, community structure and functional potential of heterotrophic bacterioplankton in an oligotrophic gyre

Ocean acidification (OA), a consequence of increased global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, is considered a major threat to marine ecosystems. Its effects on bacterioplankton activity, diversity and community composition have received considerable attention. However, the direct impact of OA on heterotrophic bacterioplankton is often masked by the significant response of phytoplankton due to the close coupling of heterotrophic bacterioplankton and autotrophs. Here, we investigated the responses of a heterotrophic bacterioplankton assemblage to high pCO2 (790 ppm) treatment in warm tropical western Pacific waters by conducting a microcosm experiment in dark for 12 days. Heterotrophic bacterioplankton abundance and production were enhanced by OA over the first 6 days of incubation, while the diversity and species richness were negatively affected. Bacterioplankton community composition in the high pCO2 treatment changed faster than that in the control. The molecular ecological network analysis showed that the elevated CO2changed the overall connections among the bacterial community and resulted in a simple network under high CO2 condition. Species‐specific responses to OA were observed and could be attributed to the different life strategies and to the ability of a given species to adapt to environmental conditions. In addition, high‐throughput functional gene array analysis revealed that genes related to carbon and nitrogen cycling were positively affected by acidification. Together, our findings suggest that OA has direct effects on heterotrophic bacterioplankton in a low‐latitude warm ocean and may therefore affect global biogeochemical cycles.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification regulates the activity, community structure and functional potential of heterotrophic bacterioplankton in an oligotrophic gyre’

Contrasting effects of acidification and warming on dimethylsulfide concentrations during a temperate estuarine fall bloom mesocosm experiment

The effects of ocean acidification and warming on the concentrations of dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) and dimethylsulfide (DMS) were investigated during a mesocosm experiment in the Lower St. Lawrence Estuary (LSLE) in the fall of 2014. Twelve mesocosms covering a range of pHT (pH on the total hydrogen ion concentration scale) from 8.0 to 7.2, corresponding to a range of CO2 partial pressures (pCO2) from 440 to 2900 µatm, at two temperatures (in situ and +5 ∘C; 10 and 15 ∘C) were monitored during 13 days. All mesocosms were characterized by the rapid development of a diatom bloom dominated by Skeletonema costatum, followed by its decline upon the exhaustion of nitrate and silicic acid. Neither the acidification nor the warming resulted in a significant impact on the abundance of bacteria over the experiment. However, warming the water by 5 ∘C resulted in a significant increase in the average bacterial production (BP) in all 15 ∘C mesocosms as compared to 10 ∘C, with no detectable effect of pCO2 on BP. Variations in total DMSP (DMSPt = particulate + dissolved DMSP) concentrations tracked the development of the bloom, although the rise in DMSPt persisted for a few days after the peaks in chlorophyll a. Average concentrations of DMSPt were not affected by acidification or warming. Initially low concentrations of DMS (<1 nmol L−1) increased to reach peak values ranging from 30 to 130 nmol L−1 towards the end of the experiment. Increasing the pCO2 reduced the averaged DMS concentrations by 66 % and 69 % at 10 and 15 ∘C, respectively, over the duration of the experiment. On the other hand, a 5 ∘C warming increased DMS concentrations by an average of 240 % as compared to in situ temperature, resulting in a positive offset of the adverse pCO2 impact. Significant positive correlations found between bacterial production and concentrations of DMS throughout our experiment point towards temperature-associated enhancement of bacterial DMSP metabolism as a likely driver of the mitigating effect of warming on the negative impact of acidification on the net production of DMS in the LSLE and potentially the global ocean.

Continue reading ‘Contrasting effects of acidification and warming on dimethylsulfide concentrations during a temperate estuarine fall bloom mesocosm experiment’


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