Posts Tagged 'protists'

Symbiont composition and coral genotype determines massive coral species performance under end-of-century climate scenarios

The recent decline of coral health and substantial loss of coral cover along Florida’s Coral Reef (FCR) results from local stressors such as degraded water quality and disease outbreaks in addition to anthropogenically driven global stressors including ocean warming and acidification. Intervention strategies intended for the restoration of degraded reef habitats need a better understanding of the influence of ocean warming and acidification on coral health to target coral species and individual genotypes that may be more resistant or resilient to such stressors. Here, we examined a suite of physiological traits (coral host and algal symbiont) in response to experimentally elevated water temperatures and pCO2 levels, both separately and in concert, using threatened reef-building corals Pseudodiploria clivosa and Orbicella faveolata reared within a land-based coral nursery. After two months of exposure, responses differed by coral species, where P. clivosa showed declined physiology in response to combined ocean warming and acidification stress and ocean warming alone, whereas O. faveolata showed a positive response under ocean acidification. Responses to temperature could be associated with the algal symbionts harbored, as P. clivosa was dominated by the thermally sensitive Breviolum, and O. faveolata was dominated by the thermally tolerant Durusdinium. Additionally, corals were raised in well-sourced seawater that was naturally high in pCO2, which could have led to corals acclimating to acidified conditions. Of the three P. clivosa genets tested, we determined a top-performing genotype under the combined warming and acidification treatment. O. faveolata, however, displayed high genet variation by treatment and phenotypic trait, making genotype performance rankings challenging to discern. The evidence provided in this study demonstrates that high phenotypic variation in nursery-reared corals contributes to variable warming-acidification responses, suggesting that high-standing genetic variation in nursery-reared corals could support diverse coral restoration population outcomes along FCR.

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Transgenerational transfer of the microbiome is altered by ocean acidification in oyster larvae

Ocean acidification will affect marine molluscs, however, transgenerational plasticity (TGP) can ameliorate some effects. Marine molluscs acquire members of their microbiome via the egg, yet we know little about how the microbiome can be influenced by transgenerational exposure to ocean acidification. We exposed adult Sydney Rock oysters (Saccostrea glomerata) from four genotypes to elevated and ambient PCO2 for nine weeks. Larvae were then raised in the same ambient and elevated PCO2 conditions. The relative abundance of bacteria in eggs and larvae were characterised using 16S RNA amplicon sequencing. Parental exposure to elevated PCO2 significantly altered the bacterial community composition of both eggs and larvae, but this was dependent on genotype. Parental exposure to elevated PCO2 caused five core Rhodobacteraceae ASVs to increase in relative abundance, and three Rhodobacteraceae ASVs to decrease in relative abundance. These findings show transfer of maternal microbiomes to larvae is altered by exposure to ocean acidification and this may play a role in TGP.

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Responses of corals and coral reef ecosystems to ocean acidification under variable temperature and light

Coral reefs are under increasing pressure from ocean acidification. However, much of our understanding is based on single-species aquarium experiments made in isolation from realistic environmental parameters (e.g. light, water flow, food supply) and other co occurring stressors (e.g. increasing sea surface temperatures, reduced water clarity due to terrestrial runoff). In my PhD project I aimed to understand how ocean acidification affects the ecophysiology of reef corals and reef communities in natural settings, and how effects may differ with concurrent exposure to variable temperature and light. I used a combination of experimental and observational studies at unique field sites with naturally high levels of CO2 (CO2 seep sites), and multi-factor experiments in the aquarium facilities of The Australian Institute of Marine Science’s National Sea Simulator to address these questions.

In chapter 2, I investigated if corals can acclimate to ocean acidification by switching their photosymbionts to types that may be able to utilise the more abundant CO2 in photosynthesis. I used molecular techniques to investigate the dominant photosymbiont types in six species of coral from the field and found them to be highly conserved within species between CO2 seep and control sites. In chapter 3, I used a combination of field surveys and a multifactor laboratory experiment to investigate if elevated CO2 increased the severity of coral thermal bleaching. Field surveys during a bleaching event at the CO2 seeps, as well as the experimental study, both showed that corals were not significantly more susceptible to thermal stress under high CO2. In chapter 4, I used a multifactor laboratory experiment to investigate if reduced or variable daily light availability affected the responses of corals to high CO2. Here I found that reductions in light levels, regardless of the variability in daily light integrals, can reduce coral growth rates more than high CO2. In chapter 5, I followed the development of early successional coral reef benthic communities on settlement tiles along a gradient of CO2 exposure at the seep sites, and further measured rates of community metabolism. Here high CO2 strongly influenced the development of communities, shifting them away from a dominance of calcifying taxa under present day conditions to a range of non-calcifying algae as CO2 levels increased. These high CO2 communities progressively recorded lower rates of calcification and higher rates of hotosynthesis at high CO2.

Results from this thesis show that the considerable changes to the CO2 seep benthic communities are likely due to secondary ecological effects, rather than the physiological effects on corals alone. Moreover, the negative effects of cooccurring stressors on corals and coral reefs will also be substantial. Hence there is an immediate need to reduce atmospheric CO2 emissions and improve the management of local stressors to prevent further declines to the health and functioning of coral reef ecosystems.

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Calcium isotope ratios of malformed foraminifera reveal biocalcification stress preceded Oceanic Anoxic Event 2

Ocean acidification causes biocalcification stress. The calcium isotope composition of carbonate producers can archive such stress because calcium isotope fractionation is sensitive to precipitation rate. Here, we synthesize morphometric observations of planktic foraminifera with multi-archive calcium isotope records from Gubbio, Italy and the Western Interior Seaway spanning Cretaceous Ocean Anoxic Event 2 (~94 million years ago). Calcium isotope ratios increase ~60 thousand years prior to the event. The increase coincides with foraminiferal abnormalities and correlates with existing proxy records for carbon dioxide release during large igneous province volcanism. The results highlight Ocean Anoxic Event 2 as a geologic ocean acidification analog. Moreover, decreasing calcium isotope ratios during the event provide evidence for ocean alkalinization, which could have shifted air-sea carbon dioxide partitioning. These data offer an explanation for the Plenus Cold Event and further have implications for refining ocean alkalinity enhancement, a leading anthropogenic carbon dioxide removal strategy.

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Acidification impacts and acclimation potential of Caribbean benthic foraminifera assemblages in naturally discharging low-pH water (update)

Ocean acidification (OA) is expected to negatively affect many ecologically important organisms. Here we report the response of Caribbean benthic foraminiferal assemblages to naturally discharging low-pH waters with a composition similar to that expected for the end of the 21st century. At low pH ∼ 7.8 and low saturation state with respect to calcite (Ωcalcite< 4), the relative abundance of hyaline, agglutinated, and symbiont-bearing species increased, indicating higher resistance to potential carbonate chemistry changes. Diversity and other taxonomical metrics (i.e., richness, abundance, and evenness) declined steeply with decreasing pH despite exposure of this ecosystem to low-pH conditions for millennia, suggesting that tropical foraminiferal communities will be negatively impacted under acidification scenarios SSP3-7.0 (Shared Socioeconomic Pathways) and SSP5-8.5. The species Archaias angulatus, a major contributor to sediment production in the Caribbean, was able to calcify at more extreme conditions (7.1 pH) than those projected for the late 21st century, but the calcified tests had a lower average density than those exposed to higher-pH conditions (7.96), indicating that reef foraminiferal carbonate production might decrease this century. Smaller foraminifera were particularly sensitive to low pH, and our results demonstrate their potential use to monitor OA conditions.

Continue reading ‘Acidification impacts and acclimation potential of Caribbean benthic foraminifera assemblages in naturally discharging low-pH water (update)’

Corals adapted to extreme and fluctuating seawater pH increase calcification rates and have unique symbiont communities

Ocean acidification (OA) is a severe threat to coral reefs mainly by reducing their calcification rate. Identifying the resilience factors of corals to decreasing seawater pH is of paramount importance to predict the survivability of coral reefs in the future. This study compared corals adapted to variable pH (i.e., 7.23-8.06 pH units) from the semi-enclosed lagoon of Bouraké, New Caledonia, to corals adapted to more stable seawater pH (i.e., 7.90-8.18 pH units). In a 100-day aquarium experiment, we examined the physiological response and genetic diversity of Symbiodiniaceae from three coral species ( Acropora tenuis , Montipora digitata and Porites sp.) from both sites under three stable pH conditions (i.e., 8.11, 7.76, 7.54 pH units) and fluctuating pH conditions (i.e., between 7.56 and 8.07 pH units). Bouraké corals consistently exhibited higher growth rates than corals from the stable pH environment, with specific ITS2 intragenomic variant profiles. While OA generally decreased coral calcification by ca. 16%, Bouraké coralsshowed higher growth rates (21 to 93% increase, depending on species with all pH conditions pooled) than those from the stable pH environment. This superior performance coincided with divergent ITS2-like profiles with better consistency for both variable and low pH conditions. This response was not gained by corals from the more stable environment exposed to variable pH during the four-month experiment, suggesting that such a kind of plasticity is time dependent. Future long-term experiments should address the exposure duration required to confer fitness benefits for sustained calcification, hopefully fast enough to cope with the ongoing rapid OA.

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High sclerobiont calcification in marginal reefs of the eastern tropical Pacific

Graphical abstract.

A sclerobiont is any organism capable of fouling hard substrates. Sclerobionts have recently received attention due to their notable calcium carbonate contributions to reef structures and potential to offset drops in carbonate budgets in degraded reefs. However, due to their encrusting nature, it is difficult to quantify net calcium carbonate production at the level of individual taxonomic groups, and knowledge regarding the main environmental factors that regulate their spatial distributions is limited. In addition, the material types used to create experimental substrates, their orientations, and their overall deployment times can influence settlement and the composition of the resulting communities. Thus, comparative evaluations of these variables are necessary to improve future research efforts. In this study, we used calcification accretion units (CAUs) to quantify the calcium carbonate contributions of sclerobionts at the taxonomic group level and evaluated the effects of two frequently used materials [i.e., polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and terracotta (TCT) tiles] on the recruitment and calcification of the sclerobiont community in the tropical Mexican Pacific and the Midriff Island Region of the Gulf of California over 6 and 15 months [n = 40; 5 CAUs x site (2) x deployment time (2) x material type (2)]. The net sclerobiont calcification rate (mean ± SD) reached maximum values at six months and was higher in the Mexican Pacific (2.15 ± 0.99 kg m−2 y−1) than in the Gulf of California (1.70 ± 0.67 kg m−2 y−1). Moreover, the calcification rate was slightly higher on the PVC-CAUs compared to that of the TCT-CAUs, although these differences were not consistent at the group level. In addition, cryptic microhabitats showed low calcification rates when compared to those of exposed microhabitatsCrustosecoralline algae and barnacles dominated the exposed experimental surfaces, while bryozoans, mollusks, and serpulid polychaetes dominated cryptic surfaces. Regardless of the site, deployment time, or material type, barnacles made the greatest contributions to calcimass production (between 41 and 88%). Our results demonstrate that the orientation of the experimental substrate, and the material to a lesser extent, influence the sclerobiont community and the associated calcification rate. Upwelling-induced surface nutrient levels, low pH levels, and the aragonite saturation state (ΩAr) limit the early cementation of reef-building organisms in the tropical Mexican Pacific and promote high bioerosion rates in corals of the Gulf of California. Our findings demonstrate that sclerobionts significantly contribute to calcium carbonate production even under conditions of high environmental variability.

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Climate change and species facilitation affect the recruitment of macroalgal marine forests

Marine forests are shrinking globally due to several anthropogenic impacts including climate change. Forest-forming macroalgae, such as Cystoseira s.l. species, can be particularly sensitive to environmental conditions (e.g. temperature increase, pollution or sedimentation), especially during early life stages. However, not much is known about their response to the interactive effects of ocean warming (OW) and acidification (OA). These drivers can also affect the performance and survival of crustose coralline algae, which are associated understory species likely playing a role in the recruitment of later successional species such as forest-forming macroalgae. We tested the interactive effects of elevated temperature, low pH and species facilitation on the recruitment of Cystoseira compressa. We demonstrate that the interactive effects of OW and OA negatively affect the recruitment of C. compressa and its associated coralline algae Neogoniolithon brassica-florida. The density of recruits was lower under the combinations OW and OA, while the size was negatively affected by the temperature increase but positively affected by the low pH. The results from this study show that the interactive effects of climate change and the presence of crustose coralline algae can have a negative impact on the recruitment of Cystoseira s.l. species. While new restoration techniques recently opened the door to marine forest restoration, our results show that the interactions of multiple drivers and species interactions have to be considered to achieve long-term population sustainability.

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Cell wall organic matrix composition and biomineralization across reef-building coralline algae under global change

Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are one of the most important benthic substrate consolidators on coral reefs through their ability to deposit calcium carbonate on an organic matrix in their cell walls. Discrete polysaccharides have been recognized for their role in biomineralization, yet little is known about the carbohydrate composition of organic matrices across CCA taxa and whether they have the capacity to modulate their organic matrix constituents amidst environmental change, particularly the threats of ocean acidification (OA) and warming. We simulated elevated pCO2 and temperature (IPCC RCP 8.5) and subjected four mid-shelf Great Barrier Reef species of CCA to two months of experimentation. To assess the variability in surficial monosaccharide composition and biomineralization across species and treatments, we determined the monosaccharide composition of the polysaccharides present in the cell walls of surficial algal tissue and quantified calcification. Our results revealed dissimilarity among species’ monosaccharide constituents, which suggests that organic matrices are composed of different polysaccharides across CCA taxa. We also found that species differentially modulate composition in response to ocean acidification and warming. Our findings suggest that both variability in composition and ability to modulate monosaccharide abundance may play a crucial role in surficial biomineralization dynamics under the stress of OA and global warming.

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Benthic foraminifera and pore water carbonate chemistry on a tidal flat and salt marsh at Ria Formosa, Algarve, Portugal

Graphical abstract


  • Foraminifera and halophytes showed a relationship with pore water properties.
  • Soil salinity and evaporation are the governing environmental factors.
  • Agglutinated foraminifera were rather related to pore water pCO2 than to submergence time or elevation.
  • Calcareous foraminifera specialised to tolerate carbonate-corrosive conditions prevailed at lowest saturation levels.


Benthic foraminifera showed a vertical zonation in tidally influenced salt marshes, which has been used for sea level reconstructions. Growing evidence suggested that freshwater influx, salinity, or the pH of interstitial waters has also an impact on the foraminiferal distribution. A tidal flat and salt marsh transect was investigated in the north-western Ria Formosa coastal lagoon, Algarve, Portugal, to constrain the relationship of benthic foraminifera, halophytes, and pore water properties. The dominance of saltworts from the subfamily Salicornioideae and landward increasing soil salinities depicted evaporation as governing environmental factor. The carbonate chemistry from lagoonal and pore waters identified anoxic tidal flat sediments of as main source of total alkalinity. The alkalinity was lower in the salt marsh, where the pCO2 was extremely high. Salt marsh pore waters showed a high variability of carbonate system parameters, which mirrored small-scale spatial heterogeneities in the soil. The distribution of textulariid salt marsh foraminifera was confined to the vegetated zones, where their abundance increased with elevation. Calcareous species were frequent on the tidal flat and in the highest salt marsh. Many of them were specialised to high salinities or to extreme and variable environmental conditions. Two levels of faunal change in the salt marsh coincide with vegetation zonal boundaries, mean tide or mean high water levels. The two other faunal changes were related to changes in calcite saturation state or organic carbon concentrations. The proportion of textulariids showed a negative correlation with submergence time or elevation, and a significant correlation with pore water pCO2. The faunal distribution, pore water calcite saturation, and Ammonia dissolution patterns indicated that calcareous species specialised to tolerate carbonate-corrosive conditions prevailed even at lowest saturation levels.

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Intraspecific variation reshapes coral assemblages under elevated temperature and acidity

Insights into assemblages that can persist in extreme environments are still emerging. Ocean warming and acidification select against species with low physiological tolerance (trait-based ‘filtering’). However, intraspecific trait variation can promote species adaptation and persistence, with potentially large effects on assemblage structure. By sampling nine coral traits (four morphological, four tissue and one skeletal) along an offshore–inshore gradient in temperature and pH, we show that distantly related coral species undergo consistent intraspecific changes as they cross into warm, acidic environment. Intraspecific variation and species turnover each favoured colonies with greater tissue biomass, higher symbiont densities and reduced skeletal investments, indicating strong filtering on colony physiology within and across species. Physiological tissue traits were highly variable within species and were independent of morphology, enabling morphologically diverse species to cross into sites of elevated temperature and acidity. Widespread intraspecific change can therefore counter the loss of biodiversity and morphological structure across a steep environmental gradient.

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Proton gradients across the coral calcifying cell layer: effects of light, ocean acidification and carbonate chemistry

In corals, pH regulation of the extracellular calcifying medium (ECM) by the calcifying cell layer is a crucial step in the calcification process and is potentially important to influencing how corals respond to ocean acidification. Here, we analyzed the growing edge of the reef coral Stylophora pistillata to make the first characterization of the proton gradient across the coral calcifying epithelium. At seawater pH 8 we found that while the calcifying epithelium elevates pH in the ECM on its apical side above that of seawater, pH on its basal side in the mesoglea is markedly lower, highlighting that the calcifying cells are exposed to a microenvironment distinct from the external environment. Coral symbiont photosynthesis elevates pH in the mesoglea, but experimental ocean acidification and decreased seawater inorganic carbon concentration lead to large declines in mesoglea pH relative to the ECM, which is maintained relatively stable. Together, our results indicate that the coral calcifying epithelium is functionally polarized and that environmental variation impacts pHECM regulation through its effects on the basal side of the calcifying cells.

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Biotic and paleoceanographic changes across the Late Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Event 2 in the southern high latitudes (IODP sites U1513 and U1516, SE Indian Ocean)


Oceanic Anoxic Event 2, spanning the Cenomanian/Turonian boundary (93.9 Ma), was an episode of major perturbations in the global carbon cycle. To investigate the response of biota and the paleoceanographic conditions across this event, we present data from International Ocean Discovery Program sites U1513 and U1516 in the Mentelle Basin (offshore SW Australia; paleolatitude 59°–60°S in the mid-Cretaceous) that register the first complete records of OAE 2 at southern high latitudes. Calcareous nannofossils provide a reliable bio-chronostratigraphic framework. The distribution and abundance patterns of planktonic and benthic foraminifera, radiolaria, and calcispheres permit interpretation of the dynamics of the water mass stratification and provide support for the paleobathymetric reconstruction of the two sites, with Site U1513 located northwest of the Mentelle Basin depocenter and at a deeper depth than Site U1516. The lower OAE 2 interval is characterized by reduced water mass stratification with alternating episodes of enhanced surface water productivity and variations of the thickness of the mixed layer as indicated by the fluctuations in abundance of the intermediate dwelling planktonic foraminifera. The middle OAE 2 interval contains lithologies composed almost entirely of radiolaria reflecting extremely high marine productivity; the low CaCO3 content is consistent with marked shoaling of the Carbonate Compensation Depth and ocean acidification because of CaCO3 undersaturation. Conditions moderated after deposition of the silica-rich, CaCO3-poor rocks as reflected by the microfossil changes indicating a relatively stable water column although episodes of enhanced eutrophy did continue into the lower Turonian at Site U1516.

Key Points

  • Documentation of first complete record of the Late Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Event 2 (OAE 2) at southern high latitudes (60°S) in the Indian Ocean
  • Dynamics of the water mass stratification inferred from distribution patterns of foraminifera, radiolaria, calcispheres
  • OAE 2 is characterized by alternating episodes of enhanced surface water productivity and variations of the thickness of the mixed layer
Continue reading ‘Biotic and paleoceanographic changes across the Late Cretaceous Oceanic Anoxic Event 2 in the southern high latitudes (IODP sites U1513 and U1516, SE Indian Ocean)’

Environmental memory gained from exposure to extreme pCO2 variability promotes coral cellular acid–base homeostasis

Ocean acidification is a growing threat to coral growth and the accretion of coral reef ecosystems. Corals inhabiting environments that already endure extreme diel pCO2 fluctuations, however, may represent acidification-resilient populations capable of persisting on future reefs. Here, we examined the impact of pCO2 variability on the reef-building coral Pocillopora damicornis originating from reefs with contrasting environmental histories (variable reef flat versus stable reef slope) following reciprocal exposure to stable (218 ± 9) or variable (911 ± 31) diel pCO2 amplitude (μtam) in aquaria over eight weeks. Endosymbiont density, photosynthesis and net calcification rates differed between origins but not treatment, whereas primary calcification (extension) was affected by both origin and acclimatization to novel pCO2 conditions. At the cellular level, corals from the variable reef flat exhibited less intracellular pH (pHi) acidosis and faster pHi recovery rates in response to experimental acidification stress (pH 7.40) than corals originating from the stable reef slope, suggesting environmental memory gained from lifelong exposure to pCO2 variability led to an improved ability to regulate acid–base homeostasis. These results highlight the role of cellular processes in maintaining acidification resilience and suggest that prior exposure to pCO2 variability may promote more acidification-resilient coral populations in a changing climate.

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Gregarious larval settlement mediates the responses of new recruits of the reef coral Acropora austera to ocean warming and acidification

Gregarious larval settlement represents an important window for chimera formation in reef corals, yet it remains largely unknown how aggregated settlement and early chimerism could modify the performance and responses of coral recruits under elevated temperature and pCO2. In this study, single and aggregated recruits of the broadcast spawning coral Acropora austera were exposed to contrasts of two temperatures (28 versus 30.5°C) and pCO2 levels (~500 versus 1000 μatm) for two weeks, and algal symbiont infection success, survivorship and growth were assessed. Results showed that symbiont infection success was mainly affected by temperature and recruit type, with reduced symbiont infection at increased temperature and consistently higher infection success in chimeric recruits compared to single recruits. Furthermore, although chimeric recruits with larger areal size had significantly higher survivorship in all treatments, the polyp-specific growth rates were considerably lower in chimeric entities than individual recruits. More importantly, the recruit type significantly influenced the responses of recruit polyp-specific growth rates to elevated temperature, with chimeras exhibiting lowered skeletal lateral growth under elevated temperature. These results demonstrate the benefits and costs associated with gregarious larval settlement for juvenile corals under ocean warming and acidification, and highlight the ecological role of larval settlement behavior in mediating the responses of coral recruits to climate change stressors.

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The effects of ocean acidification on the establishment and maintenance of a model cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis

Coral reefs are increasingly under threat from the effects of anthropogenic climate change, including rising sea surface temperatures and more acidified waters. At the foundation of these diverse and valuable ecosystems is the symbiotic relationship between calcifying corals and their endosymbiotic dinoflagellate algae, Symbiodiniaceae – one that is particularly sensitive to environmental stressors. Ocean acidification (OA) results in the lowering of pH and changes to carbonate chemistry and the inorganic carbon species available to marine organisms. Cnidarians such as reef-building corals may be particularly at risk from OA, as changes in pH and carbon availability can alter central physiological processes, including calcification, photosynthesis, acid-base regulation, metabolism and cell-cycle regulation. Yet, while responses to OA have been well researched at the physiological level, results have often been contradictory, and a clear understanding of the nature and extent of impacts on the cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis remains equivocal. This thesis therefore aimed to provide further insights into the effects of OA on the establishment and maintenance of the cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis. My research utilised the well-established model system for this symbiosis: the sea anemone Exaiptasia diaphana (‘Aiptasia’) and its native symbiont Breviolum minutum.

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Global change differentially modulates Caribbean coral physiology

Global change driven by anthropogenic carbon emissions is altering ecosystems at unprecedented rates, especially coral reefs, whose symbiosis with algal symbionts is particularly vulnerable to increasing ocean temperatures and altered carbonate chemistry. Here, we assess the physiological responses of three Caribbean coral (animal host + algal symbiont) species from an inshore and offshore reef environment after exposure to simulated ocean warming (28, 31°C), acidification (300–3290 μatm), and the combination of stressors for 93 days. We used multidimensional analyses to assess how a variety of coral physiological parameters respond to ocean acidification and warming. Our results demonstrate reductions in coral health in Siderastrea siderea and Porites astreoides in response to projected ocean acidification, while future warming elicited severe declines in Pseudodiploria strigosa. Offshore Ssiderea fragments exhibited higher physiological plasticity than inshore counterparts, suggesting that this offshore population was more susceptible to changing conditions. There were no plasticity differences in Pstrigosa and Pastreoides between natal reef environments, however, temperature evoked stronger responses in both species. Interestingly, while each species exhibited unique physiological responses to ocean acidification and warming, when data from all three species are modelled together, convergent stress responses to these conditions are observed, highlighting the overall sensitivities of tropical corals to these stressors. Our results demonstrate that while ocean warming is a severe acute stressor that will have dire consequences for coral reefs globally, chronic exposure to acidification may also impact coral physiology to a greater extent in some species than previously assumed. Further, our study identifies Ssiderea and Pastreoides as potential ‘winners’ on future Caribbean coral reefs due to their resilience under projected global change stressors, while Pstrigosa will likely be a ‘loser’ due to their sensitivity to thermal stress events. Together, these species-specific responses to global change we observe will likely manifest in altered Caribbean reef assemblages in the future.

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Impacts of warming and acidification on coral calcification linked to photosymbiont loss and deregulation of calcifying fluid pH

Corals are globally important calcifiers that exhibit complex responses to anthropogenic warming and acidification. Although coral calcification is supported by high seawater pH, photosynthesis by the algal symbionts of zooxanthellate corals can be promoted by elevated pCO2. To investigate the mechanisms underlying corals’ complex responses to global change, three species of tropical zooxanthellate corals (Stylophora pistillataPocillopora damicornis, and Seriatopora hystrix) and one species of asymbiotic cold-water coral (Desmophyllum pertusum, syn. Lophelia pertusa) were cultured under a range of ocean acidification and warming scenarios. Under control temperatures, all tropical species exhibited increased calcification rates in response to increasing pCO2. However, the tropical species’ response to increasing pCO2 flattened when they lost symbionts (i.e., bleached) under the high-temperature treatments—suggesting that the loss of symbionts neutralized the benefit of increased pCO2 on calcification rate. Notably, the cold-water species that lacks symbionts exhibited a negative calcification response to increasing pCO2, although this negative response was partially ameliorated under elevated temperature. All four species elevated their calcifying fluid pH relative to seawater pH under all pCO2 treatments, and the magnitude of this offset (Δ[H+]) increased with increasing pCO2. Furthermore, calcifying fluid pH decreased along with symbiont abundance under thermal stress for the one species in which calcifying fluid pH was measured under both temperature treatments. This observation suggests a mechanistic link between photosymbiont loss (‘bleaching’) and impairment of zooxanthellate corals’ ability to elevate calcifying fluid pH in support of calcification under heat stress. This study supports the assertion that thermally induced loss of photosymbionts impairs tropical zooxanthellate corals’ ability to cope with CO2-induced ocean acidification.

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Calcification of planktonic foraminifer Neogloboquadrina pachyderma (sinistral) controlled by seawater temperature rather than ocean acidification in the Antarctic Zone of modern Southern Ocean

Neogloboquadrina pachyderma (sinistral), the dominant planktonic foraminiferal species in the mid-to-high latitude oceans, represents a major component of local calcium carbonate (CaCO3) production. However, the predominant factors, governing the calcification of this species and its potential response to the future marine environmental changes, are poorly understood. The present study utilized an improved cleaning method for the size-normalized weight (SNW) measurement to estimate the SNW of N. pachyderma (sin.) in surface sediments from the Amundsen Sea, the Ross Sea, and the Prydz Bay in the Antarctic Zone of the Southern Ocean. It was found that SNW of N. pachyderma (sin.) is not controlled by deep-water carbonate dissolution post-mortem, and can be therefore, used to reflect the degree of calcification. The comparison between N. pachyderma (sin.) SNW and environmental parameters (temperature, salinity, nutrient concentration, and carbonate system) in the calcification depth revealed that N. pachyderma (sin.) SNWs in the size ranges of 200–250, 250–300, and 300–355 µm are significantly and positively correlated with seawater temperature. Moreover, SNW would increase by ∼30% per degree increase in temperature, thereby suggesting that the calcification of N. pachyderma (sin.) in the modern Antarctic Zone of the Southern Ocean is mainly controlled by temperature, rather than by other environmental parameters such as ocean acidification. Importantly, a potential increase in calcification of N. pachyderma (sin.) in the Antarctic Zone to produce CaCO3 will release CO2 into the atmosphere. In turn, the future ocean warming will weaken the ocean carbon sink, thereby generating positive feedback for global warming.

Continue reading ‘Calcification of planktonic foraminifer Neogloboquadrina pachyderma (sinistral) controlled by seawater temperature rather than ocean acidification in the Antarctic Zone of modern Southern Ocean’

Calcification response of planktic foraminifera to environmental change in the western Mediterranean Sea during the industrial era

The aim of this work is to investigate the variability of planktic foraminifera calcification in the northwestern Mediterranean Sea on seasonal, interannual and pre-industrial Holocene time scales. This study is based on data from a 12-year-long sediment trap record retrieved in the in the Gulf of Lions and seabed sediment samples from the Gulf of Lions and the promontory of Menorca. Three different planktic foraminifera species were selected based on their different ecology and abundance: Globigerina bulloides, Neogloboquadrina incompta, and Globorotalia truncatulinoides. A total of 273 samples were weighted in both sediment trap and seabed samples. As the traditionally used sieve fractions method is considered unreliable because of the effect of morphometric parameters on the foraminifera weight, we measured area and diameter to constrain the effect of these parameters. The results of our study show substantial different seasonal calcification patterns across species: G. bulloides showed a slight calcification increase during the high productivity period, while both N. incompta and G. truncatulinoides display a higher calcification during the low productivity period. The comparison of these patterns with environmental parameters revealed that Optimum Growth Conditions temperature and carbonate system parameters are the most likely to influence seasonal calcification in the Gulf of Lions. Interannual analysis suggest that both G. bulloides and N. incompta slightly reduced their calcification between 1994 and 2005, while G. truncatulinoides exhibited a constant and pronounced increase in its calcification that translated in an increase of 20 % of its shell weight for the 400–500 µm narrow size class. While our data suggest that carbonate system parameters are the most likely environmental parameter driving foraminifera calcification changes over the years.

Finally, comparison between sediment trap data and seabed sediments allowed us to assess the changes of planktic foraminifera calcification during the late Holocene, including the preindustrial era. Several lines of evidence strongly indicate that selective dissolution did not bias the results in any of our data sets. Our results showed a clear calcification reduction between pre-industrial Holocene and recent data with G. truncatulinoides experiencing the largest calcification decrease (32–40 %) followed by N. incompta (20–27 %) and G. bulloides (18–24 %). Overall, our results provide evidence of clear reduction in planktic foraminifera calcification in the Mediterranean most likely associated with ongoing ocean acidification and consistent with previous observations in other settings of the world’s oceans.

Continue reading ‘Calcification response of planktic foraminifera to environmental change in the western Mediterranean Sea during the industrial era’

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