Posts Tagged 'protists'

Impact of carbonate saturation on large Caribbean benthic foraminifera assemblages

Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and its dissolution in seawater have reduced ocean pH and carbonate ion concentrations, with potential implications on calcifying organisms. To assess the response of large Caribbean benthic foraminifera to low carbonate saturation conditions, we analyzed benthic foraminifers’ abundance and relative distribution in surface sediments in proximity to low-carbonate-saturation submarine springs and at adjacent control sites. Our results show that the total abundance of large benthic foraminifera was significantly lower at the low-pH submarine springs than at control sites, although responses were species specific. The relative abundance of high-magnesium, porcelaneous foraminifera was higher than that of hyaline foraminifera at the low-pH springs due to the abundant Archaias angulatus, a chlorophyte-bearing foraminifer, which secretes a large and robust test that is more resilient to dissolution at low-calcite saturation. The different assemblages found at the submarine springs indicate that calcareous symbiont-barren foraminifera are more sensitive to the effects of ocean acidification than agglutinated and symbiont-bearing foraminifera, suggesting that future ocean acidification will likely impact natural benthic foraminifera populations.

Continue reading ‘Impact of carbonate saturation on large Caribbean benthic foraminifera assemblages’

Effect of seawater temperature, pH, and nutrients on the distribution and character of low abundance shallow water benthic foraminifera in the Galápagos

In order to help predict the effects of anthropogenic stressors on shallow water carbonate environments, it is important to focus research on regions containing natural oceanographic gradients, particularly with respect to interactions between oceanography and ecologically sensitive carbonate producers. The Galápagos Archipelago, an island chain in the eastern equatorial Pacific, spans a natural nutrient, pH, and temperature gradient due to the interaction of several major ocean currents. Further, the region is heavily impacted by the El Niño—Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Galápagos exhibited widespread coral bleaching and degradation following the strong ENSO events of 1982–1983 and 1997–1998. These findings are coupled with reports of unusually low abundances of time-averaged benthic foraminiferal assemblages throughout the region. Foraminifera, shelled single-celled protists, are sensitive to environmental change and rapidly respond to alterations to their surrounding environment, making them ideal indicator species for the study of reef water quality and health. Here, statistical models and analyses were used to compare modern shallow water benthic foraminiferal assemblages from 19 samples spanning the Galápagos Archipelago to predominant oceanographic parameters at each collection site. Fisher α diversity indices, Ternary diagrams, Canonical Correspondence Analysis, regression tree analysis and FORAM-Index (FI; a single metric index for evaluating water quality associated with reef development) implied a combined impact from ENSO and upwelling from Equatorial Undercurrent (EUC) waters to primarily impact foraminiferal abundances and drive assemblage patterns throughout the archipelago. For instance, repeated ENSO temperature anomalies might be responsible for low foraminiferal density, while chronically high nutrients and low aragonite saturation and low pH—induced by EUC upwelling and La Niña anomalies—likely inhibited post-ENSO recovery, and caused foraminiferal assemblages to exhibit a heterotrophic dominance in the southern archipelago. What resulted are low FI values in the southern collection sites, indicating environments not conducive to endosymbiont development and/or recovery.

Continue reading ‘Effect of seawater temperature, pH, and nutrients on the distribution and character of low abundance shallow water benthic foraminifera in the Galápagos’

The acute transcriptomic response of coral-algae interactions to pH fluctuation

Little is known about how the coral host and its endosymbiont interactions change when they are exposed to a sudden nonlinear environmental transformation, yet this is crucial to coral survival in extreme events. Here, we present a study that investigates the transcriptomic response of corals and their endosymbionts to an abrupt change in pH (pH 7.60 and 8.35). The transcriptome indicates that the endosymbiont demonstrates a synchronized downregulation in carbon acquisition and fixation processes and may result in photosynthetic dysfunction in endosymbiotic Symbiodinium, suggesting that the mutualistic continuum of coral–algae interactions is compromised in response to high-CO2 exposure. Transcriptomic data also shows that corals are still capable of calcifying in response to the low pH but could experience a series of negative effects on their energy dynamics, which including protein damage, DNA repair, ion transport, cellular apoptosis, calcification acclimation and maintenance of intracellular pH homeostasis and stress tolerance to pH swing. This suggests enhanced energy costs for coral metabolic adaptation. This study provides a deeper understanding of the biological basis related to the symbiotic corals in response to extreme future climate change and environmental variability.

Continue reading ‘The acute transcriptomic response of coral-algae interactions to pH fluctuation’

Strategies in times of crisis—insights into the benthic foraminiferal record of the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum

Climate change is predicted to alter temperature, carbonate chemistry and oxygen availability in the oceans, which will affect individuals, populations and ecosystems. We use the fossil record of benthic foraminifers to assess developmental impacts in response to environmental changes during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). Using an unprecedented number of µ-computed tomography scans, we determine the size of the proloculus (first chamber), the number of chambers and the final size of two benthic foraminiferal species which survived the extinction at sites 690 (Atlantic sector, Southern Ocean, palaeodepth 1900 m), 1210 (central equatorial Pacific, palaeodepth 2100 m) and 1135 (Indian Ocean sector, Southern Ocean, palaeodepth 600–1000 m). The population at the shallowest site, 1135, does not show a clear response to the PETM, whereas those at the other sites record reductions in diameter or proloculus size. Temperature was similar at all sites, thus it is not likely to be the reason for differences between sites. At site 1210, small size coincided with higher chamber numbers during the peak event, and may have been caused by a combination of low carbonate ion concentrations and low food supply. Dwarfing at site 690 occurred at lower chamber numbers, and may have been caused by decreasing carbonate saturation at sufficient food levels to reproduce. Proloculus size varied strongly between sites and through time, suggesting a large influence of environment on both microspheric and megalospheric forms without clear bimodality. The effect of the environmental changes during the PETM was more pronounced at deeper sites, possibly implicating carbonate saturation.

Continue reading ‘Strategies in times of crisis—insights into the benthic foraminiferal record of the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum’

Capturing the global signature of surface ocean acidification during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum

Geologically abrupt carbon perturbations such as the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, approx. 56 Ma) are the closest geological points of comparison to current anthropogenic carbon emissions. Associated with the rapid carbon release during this event are profound environmental changes in the oceans including warming, deoxygenation and acidification. To evaluate the global extent of surface ocean acidification during the PETM, we present a compilation of new and published surface ocean carbonate chemistry and pH reconstructions from various palaeoceanographic settings. We use boron to calcium ratios (B/Ca) and boron isotopes (δ11B) in surface- and thermocline-dwelling planktonic foraminifera to reconstruct ocean carbonate chemistry and pH. Our records exhibit a B/Ca reduction of 30–40% and a δ11B decline of 1.0–1.2‰ coeval with the carbon isotope excursion. The tight coupling between boron proxies and carbon isotope records is consistent with the interpretation that oceanic absorption of the carbon released at the onset of the PETM resulted in widespread surface ocean acidification. The remarkable similarity among records from different ocean regions suggests that the degree of ocean carbonate change was globally near uniform. We attribute the global extent of surface ocean acidification to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the main phase of the PETM.

Continue reading ‘Capturing the global signature of surface ocean acidification during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum’

The potential role of internal pH manipulation by active proton pumping in foraminifera during biomineralization  

Calcifying foraminifera are one of the major marine calcifiers in open oceans and they are affected by ocean acidification. However, their response to acidified seawater is not according to inorganic precipitation but a biological regulation takes place during biomineralization. Two widely accepted models exist to explain the biological control during calcification, both supporting internal pH regulation. To predict how these calcifying organisms will be affected by increased pCO2 levels and therefore, a lowered seawater pH, culture experiments – investigating calcification rates are necessary. Here we present results from a culture experiment investigating the response of two benthic symbiont-bearing calcifying foraminifera under a range of four pCO2 concentrations (400, 700, 1000 and 2200 ppm) projected for the future. The greatest change in total alkalinity caused by calcification was observed at a pCO2 concentration of 700 ppm, while it was significantly lower at 1000 and 2200 ppm, indicating less successful biomineralization under very high pCO2 concentrations. Calcification rates suggest species specific responses to ocean acidification with H. depressa performing worse under the 2200 ppm treatment than A. lessonii. The different responses of the foraminifera between varying pCO2 treatments and between the two different species suggest that at least some foraminifera will be able to cope with increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Continue reading ‘The potential role of internal pH manipulation by active proton pumping in foraminifera during biomineralization  ‘

Insight into deep-sea life – Cibicidoides pachyderma substrate and pH-dependent behaviour following disturbance


• First observations of Cibicidoides pachyderma var. C. mundulus under in situ pressure and temperature.
• Option for an epi- or endobenthic habitat is pH-dependent.
• Under normal pH exhibits strong rheotaxis.
• Growth in Cibicidoides pachyderma var. C. mundulus requires a protective sedimentary cyst.


Most palaeo-deep-water reconstructions are based on geochemical information stored in the calcareous shells of Cibicidoides species but hardly anything is known about their life cycle, population dynamics or ecology. The number of specimens of a single Cibicidoides species can locally be very limited and species may be lacking completely during certain intervals in the geological past. As a consequence, geochemical analyses are often carried out on lumped Cibicidoides spp. assuming that they share the same epizoic to epifaunal habitat and precipitated their shell in comparable offsets to surrounding bottom water mass properties. However, there is a growing body of evidence that particularly Cibicidoides pachyderma and its morphotypes C. mundulus and C. kullenbergi, may not be reliable bottom water recorders.

We have recently developed aquaria that allowed, for the first time, observations of Cibicidoides pachyderma var. C. mundulus under in situ pressure and temperature. Experiments were carried out with and without artificial sediments to simulate soft sediments and rocks, respectively. Seawater was set to pH 8 and pH 7.4 to simulate more or less particulate carbon export or more or less ventilation of bottom water. Our experiments demonstrate that C. mundulus may opt for an epifaunal or an infaunal habitat depending on elapsed time following physical disturbance, pH, current activity, the availability of sediments and growth. The specimen’s initial response following transfer from atmospheric pressure into the high-pressure aquaria was to immerse into the sediment or to cover more or less parts of the test with aggregated sediments or algae. However, within 24 h a strong rheotaxis became apparent and most specimens moved to sites of increased current activity under normal pH conditions (pH 8). Only few specimens remained in algae cysts or in the sediment in the pH-8 experiment. On the contrary, all specimens under pH 7.4 agglutinated a firm sediment cyst around their test and remained infaunal throughout the experimental period of three months.

Independent of pH, growth was only observed in specimens that lived within an agglutinated cyst or infaunal. A solid thick cyst covered the specimens of the pH 7.4 experiment throughout the experiment and possibly restricted water exchange between the in-cyst water and the surrounding artificial bottom water mass. We suggest that a more fragile and possibly more porous sedimentary envelope may, at least temporally, have covered the infaunal specimens under pH 8 but no evidence for this was found upon termination of the experiment.

Continue reading ‘Insight into deep-sea life – Cibicidoides pachyderma substrate and pH-dependent behaviour following disturbance’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book