Posts Tagged 'protists'

Response of large benthic foraminifera to climate and local changes: implications for future carbonate production

Large benthic foraminifera are major carbonate components in tropical carbonate platforms, important carbonate producers, stratigraphic tools and powerful bioindicators (proxies) of environmental change. The application of large benthic foraminifera in tropical coral reef environments has gained considerable momentum in recent years. These modern ecological assessments are often carried out by micropalaeontologists or ecologists with expertise in the identification of foraminifera. However, large benthic foraminifera have been under‐represented in favour of macro reef‐builders, for example, corals and calcareous algae. Large benthic foraminifera contribute about 5% to modern reef‐scale carbonate sediment production. Their substantial size and abundance are reflected by their symbiotic association with the living algae inside their tests. When the foraminiferal holobiont (the combination between the large benthic foraminifera host and the microalgal photosymbiont) dies, the remaining calcareous test renourishes sediment supply, which maintains and stabilizes shorelines and low‐lying islands. Geological records reveal episodes (i.e. late Palaeocene and early Eocene epochs) of prolific carbonate production in warmer oceans than today, and in the absence of corals. This begs for deeper consideration of how large benthic foraminifera will respond under future climatic scenarios of higher atmospheric carbon dioxide (pCO2) and to warmer oceans. In addition, studies highlighting the complex evolutionary associations between large benthic foraminifera hosts and their algal photosymbionts, as well as to associated habitats, suggest the potential for increased tolerance to a wide range of conditions. However, the full range of environments where large benthic foraminifera currently dwell is not well‐understood in terms of present and future carbonate production, and impact of stressors. The evidence for acclimatization, at least by a few species of well‐studied large benthic foraminifera, under intensifying climate change and within degrading reef ecosystems, is a prelude to future host‐symbiont resilience under different climatic regimes and habitats than today. This review also highlights knowledge gaps in current understanding of large benthic foraminifera as prolific calcium carbonate producers across shallow carbonate shelf and slope environments under changing ocean conditions.

Continue reading ‘Response of large benthic foraminifera to climate and local changes: implications for future carbonate production’

Reduced seawater pH alters marine biofilms with impacts for marine polychaete larval settlement


• Reduced seawater pH strongly influences biofilm community composition, at both eukaryotic and prokaryotic level

• For older biofilms, biofilm age plays no role in community composition

• Incubation under different pH treatments results in variations in apparent colour and structural complexity of marine biofilms

• Incubation of marine biofilms under different pH treatments alters the settlement response in marine invertebrates

• The changes in marine biofilm community composition induced by seawater pH are most likely responsible for the changes observed in invertebrate settlement selectivity


Ocean acidification (OA) can negatively affect early-life stages of marine organisms, with the key processes of larval settlement and metamorphosis potentially vulnerable to reduced seawater pH. Settlement success depends strongly on suitable substrates and environmental cues, with marine biofilms as key settlement inducers for a range of marine invertebrate larvae. This study experimentally investigated (1) how seawater pH determines growth and community composition of marine biofilms, and (2) whether marine biofilms developed under different pH conditions can alter settlement success in the New Zealand serpulid polychaete Galeolaria hystrix. Biofilms were developed under six pH(T) treatments (spanning from 7.0 to 8.1 [ambient]) in a flow-through system for up to 14 months. Biofilms of different ages (7, 10 and 14 months) were used to assay successful settlement of competent G. hystrix larvae reared under ambient conditions. Biofilm microbiomes were characterized through amplicon sequencing of the small subunit ribosomal rRNA gene (16S and 18S). Biofilm community composition was stable over time within each pH treatment and biofilm age did not affect larval settlement selectivity. Seawater pH treatment strongly influenced biofilm community composition, as well as subsequent settlement success when biofilms were presented to competent Galeolaria larvae. Exposure to biofilms incubated under OA-treatments caused a decrease in larval settlement of up to 40% compared to the ambient treatments. We observed a decrease in settlement on biofilms relative to ambient pH for slides incubated at pH 7.9 and 7.7. This trend was reversed at pH 7.4, resulting in high settlement, comparable to ambient biofilms. Settlement decreased on biofilms from pH 7.2, and no settlement was observed on biofilms from pH 7.0. For the first time, we show that long-term incubation of marine biofilms under a wide range of reduced seawater pH treatments can alter marine biofilms in such a way that settlement success in marine invertebrates can be compromised.

Continue reading ‘Reduced seawater pH alters marine biofilms with impacts for marine polychaete larval settlement’

Influence of acidification and warming of seawater on biofouling by bacteria grown over API 5L steel

The acidification and warming of seawater have several impacts on marine organisms, including over microorganisms. The influence of acidification and warming of seawater on biofilms grown on API 5L steel surfaces was evaluated by sequencing the 16S ribosomal gene. For this, three microcosms were designed, the first simulating the natural marine environment (MCC), the second with a decrease in pH from 8.1 to 7.9, and an increase in temperature by 2 °C (MMS), and the third with pH in around 7.7 and an increase in temperature of 4 °C (MES). The results showed that MCC was dominated by the Gammaproteobacteria class, mainly members of the Alteromonadales Order. The second most abundant group was Alphaproteobacteria, with a predominance of Rhodobacterales and Oceanospirillales. In the MMS system there was a balance between representatives of the Gammaproteobacteria and Alphaproteobacteria classes. In MES there was an inversion in the representations of the most prevalent classes previously described in MCC. In this condition, there was a predominance of members of the Alphaproteobacteria Class, in contrast to the decrease in the abundance of Gammaproteobacteria members. These results suggest that possible future climate changes may influence the dynamics of the biofouling process in surface metals.

Continue reading ‘Influence of acidification and warming of seawater on biofouling by bacteria grown over API 5L steel’

Extreme levels of ocean acidification restructure the plankton community and biogeochemistry of a temperate coastal ecosystem: a mesocosm study

The oceans’ uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) decreases seawater pH and alters the inorganic carbon speciation – summarized in the term ocean acidification (OA). Already today, coastal regions experience episodic pH events during which surface layer pH drops below values projected for the surface ocean at the end of the century. Future OA is expected to further enhance the intensity of these coastal extreme pH events. To evaluate the influence of such episodic OA events in coastal regions, we deployed eight pelagic mesocosms for 53 days in Raunefjord, Norway, and enclosed 56–61 m3 of local seawater containing a natural plankton community under nutrient limited post-bloom conditions. Four mesocosms were enriched with CO2 to simulate extreme pCO2 levels of 1978 – 2069 μatm while the other four served as untreated controls. Here, we present results from multivariate analyses on OA-induced changes in the phyto-, micro-, and mesozooplankton community structure. Pronounced differences in the plankton community emerged early in the experiment, and were amplified by enhanced top-down control throughout the study period. The plankton groups responding most profoundly to high CO2 conditions were cyanobacteria (negative), chlorophyceae (negative), auto- and heterotrophic microzooplankton (negative), and a variety of mesozooplanktonic taxa, including copepoda (mixed), appendicularia (positive), hydrozoa (positive), fish larvae (positive), and gastropoda (negative). The restructuring of the community coincided with significant changes in the concentration and elemental stoichiometry of particulate organic matter. Results imply that extreme CO2 events can lead to a substantial reorganization of the planktonic food web, affecting multiple trophic levels from phytoplankton to primary and secondary consumers.

Continue reading ‘Extreme levels of ocean acidification restructure the plankton community and biogeochemistry of a temperate coastal ecosystem: a mesocosm study’

Transgenerational effects on the coral Pocillopora damicornis microbiome under ocean acidification

Reef-building corals are inhabited by functionally diverse microorganisms which play important roles in coral health and persistence in the Anthropocene. However, our understanding of the complex associations within coral holobionts is largely limited, particularly transgenerational exposure to environmental stress, like ocean acidification. Here we investigated the microbiome development of an ecologically important coral Pocillopora damicornis following transgenerational exposure to moderate and high pCO2 (partial pressure of CO2) levels, using amplicon sequencing and analysis. Our results showed that the Symbiodiniaceae community structures in adult and juvenile had similar patterns, all of which were dominated by Durusdinium spp., previously known as clade D. Conversely, prokaryotic communities varied between adults and juveniles, possibly driven by the effect of host development. Surprisingly, there were no significant changes in both Symbiodiniaceae and prokaryotic communities with different pCO2 treatments, which was independent of the life history stage. This study shows that ocean acidification has no significant effect on P. damicornis microbiome, and warrants further research to test whether transgenerational acclimation exists in coral holobiont to projected future climate change.

Continue reading ‘Transgenerational effects on the coral Pocillopora damicornis microbiome under ocean acidification’

Bottom trawling threatens future climate refugia of Rhodoliths globally

Climate driven range shifts are driving the redistribution of marine species and threatening the functioning and stability of marine ecosystems. For species that are the structural basis of marine ecosystems, such effects can be magnified into drastic loss of ecosystem functioning and resilience. Rhodoliths are unattached calcareous red algae that provide key complex three-dimensional habitats for highly diverse biological communities. These globally distributed biodiversity hotspots are increasingly threatened by ongoing environmental changes, mainly ocean acidification and warming, with wide negative impacts anticipated in the years to come. These are superimposed upon major local stressors caused by direct destructive impacts, such as bottom trawling, which act synergistically in the deterioration of the rhodolith ecosystem health and function. Anticipating the potential impacts of future environmental changes on the rhodolith biome may inform timely mitigation strategies integrating local effects of bottom trawling over vulnerable areas at global scales. This study aimed to identify future climate refugia, as regions where persistence is predicted under contrasting climate scenarios, and to analyze their trawling threat levels. This was approached by developing species distribution models with ecologically relevant environmental predictors, combined with the development of a global bottom trawling intensity index to identify heavily fished regions overlaying rhodoliths. Our results revealed the importance of light, thermal stress and pH driving the global distribution of rhodoliths. Future projections showed poleward expansions and contractions of suitable habitats at lower latitudes, structuring cryptic depth refugia, particularly evident under the more severe warming scenario RCP 8.5. Our results suggest that if management and conservation measures are not taken, bottom trawling may directly threaten the persistence of key rhodolith refugia. Since rhodoliths have slow growth rates, high sensitivity and ecological importance, understanding how their current and future distribution might be susceptible to bottom trawling pressure, may contribute to determine the fate of both the species and their associated communities.

Continue reading ‘Bottom trawling threatens future climate refugia of Rhodoliths globally’

Community responses of intertidal foraminifera to pH variations: a culture experiment with propagules

Calcifying organisms such as benthic foraminifera are susceptible to changes in ocean pH and alkalinity. Responses to these changes include variations in mortality, calcification rates or assemblage composition, which have been observed in field and experimental studies. Here we applied a growth experiment with benthic foraminiferal propagules under different pH conditions to gather insights into the effect of pH on the composition of grown assemblages. A homogeneous propagule assemblage from a local mudflat in Corfu Island (Greece) was exposed to a range of pH conditions (6.5, 7.2, 7.8 and 8.5) for 5 weeks. In a second experiment, the assemblages were first exposed to low and subsequently to high conditions for a total of 8 weeks. After termination of the experiments, we recorded high survivability and growth throughout the treatments. Analysis of the assemblage composition of the first experiments revealed a shift from porcelaneous dominated taxa in the higher pH treatments to an assemblage with higher numbers of agglutinated taxa in the lower pH treatments. Soft-shelled monothalamous species were common throughout. The second experiment revealed assemblages that were significantly dominated by porcelaneous taxa with monothalamous taxa being almost absent. The results of this study are congruent with other observations on changing assemblage compositions with changing pH from both laboratory and field studies. The fast response of the assemblages through activation of potentially dormant propagules adds insights into the mechanisms behind seasonal composition changes in naturally variable environments such as river estuaries. They also shed new light on possible effects of continuous decreases in ocean pH on shallow-water foraminiferal assemblages in future.

Continue reading ‘Community responses of intertidal foraminifera to pH variations: a culture experiment with propagules’

Greater mitochondrial energy production provides resistance to ocean acidification in “winning” hermatypic corals

Coral communities around the world are projected to be negatively affected by ocean acidification. Not all coral species will respond in the same manner to rising CO2 levels. Evidence from naturally acidified areas such as CO2 seeps have shown that although a few species are resistant to elevated CO2, most lack sufficient resistance resulting in their decline. This has led to the simple grouping of coral species into “winners” and “losers,” but the physiological traits supporting this ecological assessment are yet to be fully understood. Here using CO2 seeps, in two biogeographically distinct regions, we investigated whether physiological traits related to energy production [mitochondrial electron transport systems (ETSAs) activities] and biomass (protein contents) differed between winning and losing species in order to identify possible physiological traits of resistance to ocean acidification and whether they can be acquired during short-term transplantations. We show that winning species had a lower biomass (protein contents per coral surface area) resulting in a higher potential for energy production (biomass specific ETSA: ETSA per protein contents) compared to losing species. We hypothesize that winning species inherently allocate more energy toward inorganic growth (calcification) compared to somatic (tissue) growth. In contrast, we found that losing species that show a higher biomass under reference pCO2 experienced a loss in biomass and variable response in area-specific ETSA that did not translate in an increase in biomass-specific ETSA following either short-term (4–5 months) or even life-long acclimation to elevated pCO2 conditions. Our results suggest that resistance to ocean acidification in corals may not be acquired within a single generation or through the selection of physiologically resistant individuals. This reinforces current evidence suggesting that ocean acidification will reshape coral communities around the world, selecting species that have an inherent resistance to elevated pCO2.

Continue reading ‘Greater mitochondrial energy production provides resistance to ocean acidification in “winning” hermatypic corals’

Effects of ocean acidification on coral endolithic bacterial communities in Isopora palifera and Porites lobata

Endolithic microbes in coral reefs may act as a nutrient source for their coral hosts. Increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations are causing ocean acidification (OA), which may affect marine organisms and ecosystems, especially calcifying organisms such as reef-building corals. However, knowledge of how OA affects marine microbes remains limited, and little research has been done on how coral endolithic communities respond to shifting environmental baselines. In this study, the endolithic communities of two common shallow water coral species, Isopora palifera and Porites lobata, were examined to investigate the microbial community dynamics under OA treatments. The colonies were placed in an environment with a partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) of 1,000 or 400 ppm (control) for 2 months. Several I. palifera colonies bleached and died at 1,000 ppm pCO2, but the P. lobata colonies remained unaffected. Inversely, the endolithic community in P. lobata skeletons showed significant changes after OA treatment, whereas no significant dynamics were observed among the I. palifera endoliths. Our findings suggest that the skeletal structures of different coral species may play a key role in corals host and endoliths under future high-OA scenarios.

Continue reading ‘Effects of ocean acidification on coral endolithic bacterial communities in Isopora palifera and Porites lobata’

Potential acclimatization and adaptive responses of adult and trans-generation coral larvae from a naturally acidified habitat

Coral reefs are one of the most susceptible ecosystems to ocean acidification (OA) caused by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). OA is suspected to impact the calcification rate of corals as well as multiple early life stages including larval and settlement stages. Meanwhile, there is now a strong interest in evaluating if organisms have the potential for acclimatization or adaptation to OA. Here, by taking advantage of a naturally acidified site in Nikko Bay, Palau where corals are presumably exposed to high CO2 conditions for their entire life history, we tested if adult and the next-generation larvae of the brooder coral Pocillopora acuta originating from the high-CO2 site are more tolerant to high CO2 conditions compared to the individuals from a control site. Larvae released from adults collected from the high-CO2 site within the bay and a control site outside the bay were reciprocally cultivated under experimental control or high-CO2 seawater conditions to evaluate their physiology. Additionally, reciprocal transplantation of adult P. acuta corals were conducted between the high-CO2 and control sites in the field. The larvae originating from the control site showed lower Chlorophyll-a content and lipid percentages when reared under high-CO2 compared to control seawater conditions, while larvae originating from the high-CO2 site did not. Additionally, all 10 individuals of adult P. acuta from control site died when transplanted within the bay, while all P. acuta corals within the bay survived at both control and high-CO2 site. Furthermore, P. acuta within the bay showed higher calcification and net photosynthesis rates when exposed to the condition they originated from. These results are one of the first results that indicate the possibility that the long-living corals could enable to show local adaptation to different environmental conditions including high seawater pCO(2).

Continue reading ‘Potential acclimatization and adaptive responses of adult and trans-generation coral larvae from a naturally acidified habitat’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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