Posts Tagged 'Red Sea'

Anomalies in the carbonate system of Red Sea coastal habitats

We use observations of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total alkalinity (TA) to assess the impact of ecosystem metabolic processes on coastal waters of the eastern Red Sea. A simple, single-end-member mixing model is used to account for the influence of mixing with offshore waters and evaporation/precipitation, and to model ecosystem-driven perturbations on the carbonate system chemistry of coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests. We find that (1) along-shelf changes in TA and DIC exhibit strong linear trends that are consistent with basin-scale net calcium carbonate precipitation; (2) ecosystem-driven changes in TA and DIC are larger than offshore variations in > 85 % of sampled seagrass meadows and mangrove forests, changes which are influenced by a combination of longer water residence times and community metabolic rates; and (3) the sampled mangrove forests show strong and consistent contributions from both organic respiration and other sedimentary processes (carbonate dissolution and secondary redox processes), while seagrass meadows display more variability in the relative contributions of photosynthesis and other sedimentary processes (carbonate precipitation and oxidative processes).

Continue reading ‘Anomalies in the carbonate system of Red Sea coastal habitats’

Behavioural responses of fish groups exposed to a predatory threat under elevated CO2

Highlights

• Only a few studies assessed how ocean acidification affects the behaviour of fish in groups.

• Shelter use and group cohesion were assessed with or without a predatory treat at high CO2 levels.

• Fish group behaviour was not affected by elevated CO2 levels in the absence of the predator.

• Fish groups from elevated CO2 were bolder than control ones under a predatory treat.

• When a predator was present, group cohesion increased regardless of CO2 conditions.

Abstract

Most of the studies dealing with the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on fish behaviour tested individuals in isolation, even when the examined species live in shoals in the wild. Here we evaluated the effects of elevated CO2 concentrations (i.e. ∼900 μatm) on the shelter use and group cohesion of the gregarious damselfish Chromis viridis using groups of sub-adults exposed to a predatory threat. Results showed that, under predatory threat, fish reared at elevated CO2 concentrations displayed a risky behaviour (i.e. decreased shelter use), whereas their group cohesion was unaffected. Our findings add on increasing evidence to account for social dynamics in OA experiments, as living in groups may compensate for CO2-induced risky behaviour.

Continue reading ‘Behavioural responses of fish groups exposed to a predatory threat under elevated CO2’

Developmental carryover effects of ocean warming and acidification in corals from a potential climate refugium, the Gulf of Aqaba

Coral reefs are degrading from the effects of anthropogenic activities, including climate change. Under these stressors, their ability to survive depends upon existing phenotypic plasticity, but also transgenerational adaptation. Parental effects are ubiquitous in nature, yet empirical studies of these effects in corals are scarce, particularly in the context of climate change. This study exposed mature colonies of the common reef-building coral Stylophora pistillata from the Gulf of Aqaba to seawater conditions likely to occur just beyond the end of this century during the peak planulae brooding season (Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5: pH −0.4 and +5°C beyond present day). Parent and planulae physiology were assessed at multiple time points during the experimental incubation. After 5 weeks of incubation, the physiology of the parent colonies exhibited limited treatment-induced changes. All significant time-dependent changes in physiology occurred in both ambient and treatment conditions. Planulae were also resistant to future ocean conditions, with protein content, symbiont density, photochemistry, survival and settlement success not significantly different compared with under ambient conditions. High variability in offspring physiology was independent of parental or offspring treatments and indicate the use of a bet-hedging strategy in this population. This study thus demonstrates weak climate-change-associated carryover effects. Furthermore, planulae display temperature and pH resistance similar to those of adult colonies and therefore do not represent a larger future population size bottleneck. The findings add support to the emerging hypothesis that the Gulf of Aqaba may serve as a coral climate change refugium aided by these corals’ inherent broad physiological resistance.

Continue reading ‘Developmental carryover effects of ocean warming and acidification in corals from a potential climate refugium, the Gulf of Aqaba’

Coral reefs of the Red Sea — challenges and potential solutions

The Red Sea is a unique body of water, hosting some of the most productive and diverse coral reefs. Human populations along coasts of the Red Sea were initially sparse due to the hot and arid climate surrounding it, but this is changing with improved desalination techniques, accessible energy, and increased economic interest in coastal areas. In addition to increasing pressure on reefs from coastal development, global drivers, primarily ocean acidification and seawater warming, are threatening coral reefs of the region. While reefs in southern sections of the Red Sea live near or above their maximum temperature tolerance and have experienced bleaching events in the recent past, coral reefs in northern sections are considered a coral reef refugia from global warming and acidification, at least for the coming decades. Such differential sensitivities along the latitudinal gradient of the Red Sea require differential solutions and management. In an effort to identify the appropriate solutions to conserve and maintain resilience of these reefs along a latitudinal gradient, we used a SWOT analysis (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) to frame the present situation and to propose policy solutions as useful planning procedures. We highlight the need for immediate action to secure the northern sections of the Red Sea as a coral reef climate change refuge by management and removal of local stressors. There is a need to strengthen the scientific knowledge base for proper management and to encourage regional collaboration on environmental issues. Based on scientific data, solutions such as marine protected areas, fishing regulation, and reef restoration approaches were ranked for five distinct latitudinal sections in the Red Sea and levels of interventions are recommended.

Continue reading ‘Coral reefs of the Red Sea — challenges and potential solutions’

Carbonates dissolution and precipitation in hemipelagic sediments overlaid by supersaturated bottom-waters – Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea

Whether CaCO3 dissolves within the top centimeters of marine sediments overlaid by deep, supersaturated bottom waters remains an area of debate in geochemistry. This uncertainty stems from the fact that different methods used to assess CaCO3 dissolution rates often provide what appear to be profoundly different results. Here we combine microelectrode and porewater chemistry profiles, core incubation experiments, mineral characterizations and observations of the state of preservation of coccolithophorid exoskeletons for a holistic view of carbonate reactions within the top 30 centimeters of hemipelagic sediments from the Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea. Calculations based on pH and O2 microelectrode data suggest that rapid metabolic dissolution of carbonate minerals occurs in these sediments within the top two millimeters. Porewater chemistry supports these calculations. The porewater-based observations are further supported by sedimentological characteristics such as aragonite content, and dissolution pitting and fragmentation of coccoliths in sediment layers deposited over the last 200 y. Dissolution appears to be occurring today within surface sediments despite the bulk porewater solution being supersaturated with respect to aragonite and Mg-calcite. In spite of intense dissolution within the sediments, there is no evidence for significant alkalinity and/or calcium fluxes (transport) into bottom waters. It appears that the supersaturated bottom water promotes the removal of all excess alkalinity and calcium produced within the sediment, by CaCO3 precipitation at or above the sediment/ bottom water interface. The precipitation mechanism may be by either benthic organisms (biogenic precipitation) or inorganically (direct precipitation on settling CaCO3 grains). We suggest that authigenic precipitation of (Ca,Mn)CO3 as it becomes supersaturated below 3 cm in the sediments can reconcile the evidence for carbonate dissolution in what appears to be supersaturated conditions. This means that MnCO3 replaces CaCO3 within the nanofossils below ∼3 cm, and that part of the manganese rich CaCO3 is bioturbated upwards into undersaturated conditions, facilitating dissolution of these fossils. Diminished calcite and aragonite concentrations in sediments deposited in recent decades are proposed to be a result of increased manganese cycling rates and greater rates of coupled dissolution within the interfacial sediments, possibly combined with diminished calcareous plankton productivity, in response to increased surface water primary productivity.

Continue reading ‘Carbonates dissolution and precipitation in hemipelagic sediments overlaid by supersaturated bottom-waters – Gulf of Aqaba, Red Sea’

Physicochemical dynamics, microbial community patterns, and reef growth in coral reefs of the central Red Sea

Coral reefs in the Red Sea belong to the most diverse and productive reef ecosystems worldwide, although they are exposed to strong seasonal variability, high temperature, and high salinity. These factors are considered stressful for coral reef biota and challenge reef growth in other oceans, but coral reefs in the Red Sea thrive despite these challenges. In the central Red Sea high temperatures, high salinities, and low dissolved oxygen on the one hand reflect conditions that are predicted for ‘future oceans’ under global warming. On the other hand, alkalinity and other carbonate chemistry parameters are considered favourable for coral growth. In coral reefs of the central Red Sea, temperature and salinity follow a seasonal cycle, while chlorophyll and inorganic nutrients mostly vary spatially, and dissolved oxygen and pH fluctuate on the scale of hours to days. Within these strong environmental gradients micro- and macroscopic reef communities are dynamic and demonstrate plasticity and acclimatisation potential. Epilithic biofilm communities of bacteria and algae, crucial for the recruitment of reef-builders, undergo seasonal community shifts that are mainly driven by changes in temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen. These variables are predicted to change with the progression of global environmental change and suggest an immediate effect of climate change on the microbial community composition of biofilms. Corals are so-called holobionts and associate with a variety of microbial organisms that fulfill important functions in coral health and productivity. For instance, coral-associated bacterial communities are more specific and less diverse than those of marine biofilms, and in many coral species in the central Red Sea they are dominated by bacteria from the genus Endozoicomonas. Generally, coral microbiomes align with ecological differences between reef sites. They are similar at sites where these corals are abundant and successful. Coral microbiomes reveal a measurable footprint of anthropogenic influence at polluted sites. Coral-associated communities of endosymbiotic dinoflagellates in central Red Sea corals are dominated by Symbiodinium from clade C. Some corals harbour the same specific symbiont with a high physiological plasticity throughout their distribution range, while others maintain a more flexible association with varying symbionts of high physiological specificity over depths, seasons, or reef locations. The coral-Symbiodinium endosymbiosis drives calcification of the coral skeleton, which is a key process that provides maintenance and formation of the reef framework. Calcification rates and reef growth are not higher than in other coral reef regions, despite the beneficial carbonate chemistry in the central Red Sea. This may be related to the comparatively high temperatures, as indicated by reduced summer calcification and long-term slowing of growth rates that correlate with ocean warming trends. Indeed, thermal limits of abundant coral species in the central Red Sea may have been exceeded, as evidenced by repeated mass bleaching events during previous years. Recent comprehensive baseline data from central Red Sea reefs allow for insight into coral reef functioning and for quantification of the impacts of environmental change in the region.

Continue reading ‘Physicochemical dynamics, microbial community patterns, and reef growth in coral reefs of the central Red Sea’

Calcite and aragonite saturation levels of the Red Sea coastal waters of Yemen during early winter and expected pH decrease (acidification) effects

Seawater samples from different depths of eight stations along the Red Sea coast of Yemen were collected during early winter for the determinations of the temperature, salinity, pH value and total alkalinity profiles. The seawater surface temperature at 100 m) it ranged from 21.7 to 22.1 °C. The salinities were found to range from 36.32 to 37.36‰ at surface seawaters and from 40.27 to 40.35‰ at >100 m depths. The pH ranged from 7.983 to 8.198 at surface seawater and from 7.960 to 8.052 at deeper layers. The total alkalinities were found to range from 2.3268 to 3.6159 meq kg−1 at surface layers and from 2.4082 to 2.9659 meq kg−1 in seawater layers deeper than 100 m. The results showed that the surface seawater layers were several-fold supersaturated with respect to both calcite and aragonite, where the percent degree of saturation values ranged from 511 to 852% with respect to calcite and from 340 to 567% with respect to aragonite. At >100 m depth the percent degree of saturation ranged from 327% to 396% and from 221% to 268% with respect to calcite and aragonite, respectively. The results suggest that low magnesian calcite and aragonite are likely the major carbonate solid phases formed under current saturation levels. Recent studies show that the present oceanic pH values may drop by 0.1 and 0.4 units in 50 and 200 years, respectively. Thus, a projected change of −0.1 pH unit decreases the saturation levels to 426–710% for calcite and 283–473% for aragonite in surface waters and to 286–327% for calcite and 196–221% for aragonite at >100 m depth. A drop of −0.4 pH unit decreases the calcite saturation levels of surface and deep waters to 243–406% and 155–189%, respectively, whereas the saturation levels for aragonite reduce by 184–210% for surface waters and 105–120% for deep waters. These drops will affect the morphology and mineralogy of calcium carbon deposits as well as the distribution of calcifying organisms in the region. Further studies are warranted to investigate the occurrence, distribution and mineralogy of corals and the effects of physical and chemical parameters upon their growth in the region.

Continue reading ‘Calcite and aragonite saturation levels of the Red Sea coastal waters of Yemen during early winter and expected pH decrease (acidification) effects’


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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book