Posts Tagged 'protists'

Resilience of the temperate coral Oculina arbuscula to ocean acidification extends to the physiological level

Both juvenile and adult life stages of the temperate scleractinian coral Oculina arbuscula are resilient to the effects of moderate ocean acidification (OA) in contrast to many tropical corals in which growth and calcification rates are suppressed. Here, potential mechanisms of resilience to OA related to photosynthetic physiology and inorganic carbon processing were studied in adult O. arbuscula colonies. After exposing colonies to ambient and elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) treatments for 7 weeks, photosynthetic performance was characterized using photosynthesis versus irradiance experiments, chlorophyll fluorescence kinetics, and algal pigment content. Inorganic carbon-processing capabilities were assessed by measurement of internal and external carbonic anhydrase activity of the coral host, internal carbonic anhydrase activity of symbiotic algae, and the reliance of photosynthesis on external carbonic anhydrase. Photosynthetic physiology was unaffected by OA ruling out the possibility that resilience was mediated by increased photosynthetic energy supply. Carbonic anhydrase activities were maintained at elevated CO2 suggesting no major rearrangements of the inorganic carbon-processing machinery, but this could be a sign of resilience since tropical corals often down-regulate carbonic anhydrases at high CO2. The general lack of effect of ocean acidification on these physiological traits suggests other characteristics, such as maintenance of calcifying fluid pH and ability to acquire energy from heterotrophy, may be more important for the resilience of O. arbuscula to OA.

Continue reading ‘Resilience of the temperate coral Oculina arbuscula to ocean acidification extends to the physiological level’

Intracellular pH regulation: characterization and functional investigation of H+ transporters in Stylophora pistillata

Background: Reef-building corals regularly experience changes in intra and extracellular H+ concentration ([H+]) due to physiological and environmental processes. Stringent control of [H+] is required for the maintenance of homeostatic acid-base balance in coral cells and is achieved through the regulation of intracellular pH (pHi). This task is especially challenging for reef-building corals that share an endosymbiotic relationship with photosynthetic dinoflagellates (family Symbiodinaceae), which exert a significant effect on the pHi of coral cells. Despite their importance, the pH regulatory proteins involved in the homeostatic acid-base balance have been scarcely investigated in corals. Here, we reported the full characterisation in terms of genomic structure, domain topology and phylogeny of three majors H+ transporter families implicated in pHi regulation; we investigated their tissue-specific expression and we assessed the effect of seawater acidification on their level of expression.

Results: We identified members of the Na+/Hexchanger (SLC9), vacuolar-type electrogenic H+-ATP hydrolases (V-ATPase) and voltage-gated proton channels (HvCN) families in the genome and transcriptome of S. pistillata. In addition, we identified a novel member of the HvCN gene family in the cnidarian subclass Hexacorallia, which has never been described in any species to date. We also reported key residues that participate to the H+ transporters substrate specificity, protein function and regulation. Lastly, we demonstrated that some of these have different tissue expression patterns and are mostly unaffected by exposure to seawater acidification.

Conclusions: In this study, we provide the first characterization of the Htransporters genes that contribute to homeostatic acid-base balance in coral cells. This work will enrich knowledge about basic aspects of coral biology, bearing important implications for our understanding of how corals regulate their intracellular environment.

Continue reading ‘Intracellular pH regulation: characterization and functional investigation of H+ transporters in Stylophora pistillata’

Coral-macroalgal competition under ocean warming and acidification


  • Study investigates a common coral-macroalgal interaction under a low end emission scenario.
  • Light calcification is negatively influenced by an interaction of macroalgal contact and scenario.
  • Protein content, zooxanthellae density and Chlorophyll a were enhanced under scenario conditions.
  • Negative impacts of macroalgae on corals were observed, but not enhanced by scenario conditions.
  • More research on the impacts of climate change on the dynamics of coral-algal interactions is needed.


Competition between corals and macroalgae is frequently observed on reefs with the outcome of these interactions affecting the relative abundance of reef organisms and therefore reef health. Anthropogenic activities have resulted in increased atmospheric CO2 levels and a subsequent rise in ocean temperatures. In addition to increasing water temperature, elevated CO2 levels are leading to a decrease in oceanic pH (ocean acidification). These two changes have the potential to alter ecological processes within the oceans, including the outcome of competitive coral-macroalgal interactions. In our study, we explored the combined effect of temperature increase and ocean acidification on the competition between the coral Porites lobata and on the Great Barrier Reef abundant macroalga Chlorodesmis fastigiata. A temperature increase of +1 °C above present temperatures and CO2 increase of +85 ppm were used to simulate a low end emission scenario for the mid- to late 21st century, according to the Representative Concentration Pathway 2.6 (RCP2.6). Our results revealed that the net photosynthesis of P. lobata decreased when it was in contact with C. fastigiata under ambient conditions, and that dark respiration increased under RCP2.6 conditions. The Photosynthesis to Respiration (P:R) ratios of corals as they interacted with macroalgal competitors were not significantly different between scenarios. Dark calcification rates of corals under RCP2.6 conditions, however, were negative and significantly decreased compared to ambient conditions. Light calcification rates were negatively affected by the interaction of macroalgal contact in the RCP2.6 scenario, compared to algal mimics and to coral under ambient conditions. Chlorophyll a, and protein content increased in the RCP2.6 scenario, but were not influenced by contact with the macroalga. We conclude that the coral host was negatively affected by RCP2.6 conditions, whereas the productivity of its symbionts (zooxanthellae) was enhanced. While a negative effect of the macroalga (C. fastigiata) on the coral (P. lobata) was observed for the P:R ratio under control conditions, it was not enhanced under RCP2.6 conditions.

Continue reading ‘Coral-macroalgal competition under ocean warming and acidification’

The seawater carbon inventory at the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum

The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) (55.6 Mya) was a geologically rapid carbon-release event that is considered the closest natural analog to anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Recent work has used boron-based proxies in planktic foraminifera to characterize the extent of surface-ocean acidification that occurred during the event. However, seawater acidity alone provides an incomplete constraint on the nature and source of carbon release. Here, we apply previously undescribed culture calibrations for the B/Ca proxy in planktic foraminifera and use them to calculate relative changes in seawater-dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) concentration, surmising that Pacific surface-ocean DIC increased by + 1,010+1,415−646+1,010−646+1,415 µmol/kg during the peak-PETM. Making reasonable assumptions for the pre-PETM oceanic DIC inventory, we provide a fully data-driven estimate of the PETM carbon source. Our reconstruction yields a mean source carbon δ13C of −10‰ and a mean increase in the oceanic C inventory of +14,900 petagrams of carbon (PgC), pointing to volcanic CO2 emissions as the main carbon source responsible for PETM warming.

Continue reading ‘The seawater carbon inventory at the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum’

High light alongside elevated PCO2 alleviates thermal depression of photosynthesis in a hard coral (Pocillopora acuta)

The absorbtion of human-emitted CO2 by the oceans (elevated PCO2) is projected to alter the physiological performance of coral reef organisms by perturbing seawater chemistry (i.e. ocean acidification). Simultaneously, greenhouse gas emissions are driving ocean warming and changes in irradiance (through turbidity and cloud cover), which have the potential to influence the effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs. Here, we explored whether physiological impacts of elevated PCO2 on a coral–algal symbiosis (Pocillopora acuta–Symbiodiniaceae) are mediated by light and/or temperature levels. In a 39 day experiment, elevated PCO2 (962 versus 431 µatm PCO2) had an interactive effect with midday light availability (400 versus 800 µmol photons m−2 s−1) and temperature (25 versus 29°C) on areal gross and net photosynthesis, for which a decline at 29°C was ameliorated under simultaneous high-PCO2 and high-light conditions. Light-enhanced dark respiration increased under elevated PCO2 and/or elevated temperature. Symbiont to host cell ratio and chlorophyll a per symbiont increased at elevated temperature, whilst symbiont areal density decreased. The ability of moderately strong light in the presence of elevated PCO2 to alleviate the temperature-induced decrease in photosynthesis suggests that higher substrate availability facilitates a greater ability for photochemical quenching, partially offsetting the impacts of high temperature on the photosynthetic apparatus. Future environmental changes that result in moderate increases in light levels could therefore assist the P. acuta holobiont to cope with the ‘one–two punch’ of rising temperatures in the presence of an acidifying ocean.

Continue reading ‘High light alongside elevated PCO2 alleviates thermal depression of photosynthesis in a hard coral (Pocillopora acuta)’

Impact of ocean warming and acidification on symbiosis establishment and gene expression profiles in recruits of reef coral Acropora intermedia

The onset of symbiosis and the early development of most broadcast spawning corals play pivotal roles in recruitment success, yet these critical early stages are threatened by multiple stressors. However, molecular mechanisms governing these critical processes under ocean warming and acidification are still poorly understood. The present study investigated the interactive impact of elevated temperature (∼28.0°C and ∼30.5°C) and partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) (∼600 and ∼1,200 μatm) on early development and the gene expression patterns in juvenile Acropora intermedia over 33 days. The results showed that coral survival was >89% and was unaffected by high temperature, pCO2, or the combined treatment. Notably, high temperature completely arrested successful symbiosis establishment and the budding process, whereas acidification had a negligible effect. Moreover, there was a positive exponential relationship between symbiosis establishment and budding rates (y = 0.0004e6.43xR = 0.72, P < 0.0001), which indicated the importance of symbiosis in fueling asexual budding. Compared with corals at the control temperature (28°C), those under elevated temperature preferentially harbored Durusdinium spp., despite unsuccessful symbiosis establishment. In addition, compared to the control, 351 and 153 differentially expressed genes were detected in the symbiont and coral host in response to experimental conditions, respectively. In coral host, some genes involved in nutrient transportation and tissue fluorescence were affected by high temperature. In the symbionts, a suite of genes related to cell growth, ribosomal proteins, photosynthesis, and energy production was downregulated under high temperatures, which may have severely hampered successful cell proliferation of the endosymbionts and explains the failure of symbiosis establishment. Therefore, our results suggest that the responses of symbionts to future ocean conditions could play a vital role in shaping successful symbiosis in juvenile coral.

Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean warming and acidification on symbiosis establishment and gene expression profiles in recruits of reef coral Acropora intermedia’

Simulated future conditions of ocean warming and acidification disrupt the microbiome of the calcifying foraminifera Marginopora vertebralis across life stages

Foraminifera host diverse microbial communities that can shift in response to changing environmental conditions. To characterize climate change impacts on the foraminifera microbiome across life stages, we exposed adult Marginopora vertebralis (Large Benthic Foraminifera) to pCO2 and temperature scenarios representing present day, 2050 and 2100 levels and raised juveniles under present day and 2050 conditions. While treatment condition had no significant effect on the seawater microbial communities, exposure to future scenarios significantly altered both adult and juvenile microbiomes. In adults, divergence between present day and 2050 or 2100 conditions was primarily driven by a reduced relative abundance of Oxyphotobacteria under elevated temperature and pCO2. In juveniles, the microbial shift predominantly resulted from changes in the proportion of Proteobacteria. Indicator species analysis identified numerous treatment‐specific indicator taxa, most of which were indicative of present day conditions. Oxyphotobacteria, previously reported as putative symbionts of foraminifera, were indicative of present day and 2050 conditions in adults, but of present day conditions only in juveniles. Overall, we show that the sensitivity of the M. vertebralis microbiome to climate change scenarios extends to both life stages and primarily correlates with declines in Oxyphotobacteria and shifts in Proteobacteria under elevated temperature and pCO2.

Continue reading ‘Simulated future conditions of ocean warming and acidification disrupt the microbiome of the calcifying foraminifera Marginopora vertebralis across life stages’

A new “business as usual” climate scenario and the stress response of the Caribbean coral Montastraea cavernosa

The climate change related decline of shallow (<30 m) coral reef ecosystems has been driven by the mortality of scleractinian corals caused primarily by the phenomenon known as “coral bleaching.” But despite pervasive phase shifts and macroalgal dominance on many coral reefs, some coral species have persisted. One of those species is Montastraea cavernosa which has been categorized as resilient to a range of biotic and abiotic stressors. In order to understand the mechanism(s) of resistance in this coral, we present the results of a thermal stress and ocean acidification (OA) experiment on M. cavernosa, both its brown and orange color morphs, representing conditions predicted by the Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 6.0 scenario in the year 2100. We assessed the community response of the prokaryotic microbiome, the photophysiological response of the endosymbiotic Symbiodiniaceae and the molecular responses of critical pathways in the host by quantifying transcript abundances of genes encoding fluorescent proteins, heat shock proteins, antioxidant enzymes and regulators of apoptosis. After a 12 d acclimatization experiment, no visible bleaching was observed in any treatment, and the excitation pressure on photosystem II of the symbiotic Symbiodiniaceae showed no effects of the independent or interactive effects of thermal stress and OA, while only minor, but significant, changes in the prokaryotic microbiome were observed when exposed to RCP 6.0 predicted OA conditions. At the end of the experiment, the host heat shock protein 90 showed an increase in transcript abundance under the combined effects of thermal stress and OA compared to high temperatures alone, but these treatment groups were not significantly different from treatments under normal temperatures. While Bax, an activator of apoptosis, was significantly higher under thermal stress alone compared to control samples. Taken together, M. cavernosa, exhibits ecological stability over time and this may be based on its physiological persistence, resistance and resilience when experimentally exposed to the ecologically realistic RCP 6.0 climate model predictions.

Continue reading ‘A new “business as usual” climate scenario and the stress response of the Caribbean coral Montastraea cavernosa’

Warming, but not acidification, restructures epibacterial communities of the Baltic macroalga Fucus vesiculosus with seasonal variability

Due to ocean acidification and global warming, surface seawater of the western Baltic Sea is expected to reach an average of ∼1100 μatm pCO2 and an increase of ∼5°C by the year 2100. In four consecutive experiments (spanning 10–11 weeks each) in all seasons within 1 year, the abiotic factors temperature (+5°C above in situ) and pCO2 (adjusted to ∼1100 μatm) were tested for their single and combined effects on epibacterial communities of the brown macroalga Fucus vesiculosus and on bacteria present in the surrounding seawater. The experiments were set up in three biological replicates using the Kiel Outdoor Benthocosm facility (Kiel, Germany). Phylogenetic analyses of the respective microbiota were performed by bacterial 16S (V1-V2) rDNA Illumina MiSeq amplicon sequencing after 0, 4, 8, and 10/11 weeks per season. The results demonstrate (I) that the bacterial community composition varied in time and (II) that relationships between operational taxonomic units (OTUs) within an OTU association network were mainly governed by the habitat. (III) Neither single pCO2 nor pCO2:Temperature interaction effects were statistically significant. However, significant impact of ocean warming was detected varying among seasons. (IV) An indicator OTU (iOTU) analysis identified several iOTUs that were strongly influenced by temperature in spring, summer, and winter. In the warming treatments of these three seasons, we observed decreasing numbers of bacteria that are commonly associated with a healthy marine microbial community and—particularly during spring and summer—an increase in potentially pathogenic and bacteria related to intensified microfouling. This might lead to severe consequences for the F. vesiculosus holobiont finally affecting the marine ecosystem.

Continue reading ‘Warming, but not acidification, restructures epibacterial communities of the Baltic macroalga Fucus vesiculosus with seasonal variability’

Geochemical reconstructions of Southern Ocean pH and temperature over the last glacial cycle

The Southern Ocean is widely thought to play an important role in atmospheric CO₂ change over glacial-interglacial cycles. It has been suggested that as the region that ventilates the majority of the world’s carbon-rich deep waters today, reduced exchange between deep waters and the atmosphere in the Southern Ocean acted to draw down CO₂ over glacial timescales. However, direct evidence of the Southern Ocean’s role in glacial CO₂ drawdown has been lacking thus far. Here I apply the boron-isotope pH-proxy to foraminifera from the Antarctic Zone sediment core PS1506 over the last glacial cycle. The low boron concentrations in these polar foraminifera makes these samples particularly sensitive to boron blank and so a close examination of the sources of blank, and an assessment of the precision of blank measurements, has been made. The ratios of trace elements to calcium in foraminiferal shells are widely applied as proxies for palaeoenvironmental parameters such as temperature. As Southern Ocean carbonate sediments are particularly prone to dissolution, which can affect trace element concentrations, an assessment of dissolution has been made. Firstly, dissolution experiments were conducted to constrain the impact of dissolution in a controlled setting, and secondly, shell mass and trace elements were evaluated for the downcore record. Imaging reveals similar etching textures in both experimentally dissolved samples and deglacial intervals, when shell mass is also low and several trace elements exhibit an excursion to lower values. Boron isotope data for PS1506 show that during the penultimate interglacial, surface water pH was low. At the onset of atmospheric CO₂ drawdown, pH increased, indicating low CO₂ surface waters. This is consistent with the signature predicted for a more stratified Southern Ocean, and is evidence that stratification in the Antarctic Zone acted to contribute to CO₂ drawdown early in the transition to a glacial state.

Continue reading ‘Geochemical reconstructions of Southern Ocean pH and temperature over the last glacial cycle’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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