Posts Tagged 'Red Sea'

Coral reef carbonate budgets and ecological drivers in the naturally high temperature and high total alkalinity environment of the Red Sea

The coral structural framework is crucial for maintaining reef ecosystem function and services. Rising seawater temperatures impair the calcification capacity of reef-building organisms on a global scale, but in the Red Sea total alkalinity is naturally high and beneficial to reef growth. It is currently unknown how beneficial and detrimental factors affect the balance between calcification and erosion, and thereby overall reef growth, in the Red Sea. To provide estimates of present-day carbonate budgets and reef growth dynamics in the central Red Sea, we measured in situ net-accretion and net-erosion rates (Gnet) by deployment of limestone blocks to estimate census-based carbonate budgets (Gbudget) in four reef sites along a cross-shelf gradient (25 km). In addition, we assessed abiotic (i.e., temperature, inorganic nutrients, and carbonate system variables) and biotic (i.e., calcifier and bioeroder abundances) variables. Our data show that aragonite saturation states (Ω = 3.65–4.20) were in the upper range compared to the chemistry of other tropical reef sites. Further, Gnet and Gbudget encompassed positive (offshore) and negative (midshore-lagoon and exposed nearshore site) carbonate budgets. Notably, Gbudget maxima were lower compared to reef growth from undisturbed Indian Ocean reefs, but erosive forces for Red Sea reefs were not as strong as observed elsewhere. In line with this, a comparison with recent historical data from the northern Red Sea suggests that overall reef growth in the Red Sea has remained similar since 1995. When assessing reef sites across the shelf gradient, AT correlated well and positive with reef growth (ρ = 0.9), while temperature (ρ = −0.7), pH variation (ρ = −0.8), and pCO2 (ρ = −0.8) were weaker negative correlates. Noteworthy for this oligotrophic sea was the positive effect of PO43− (ρ = 0.7) on reef growth. In the best-fitting distance-based linear model, AT explained about 64 % of Gbudget. Interestingly, parrotfish abundances added up to 78 % of the explained variation, further corroborating recent studies that highlight the importance of parrotfish to reef ecosystem functioning. Our study provides a baseline for reef growth in the central Red Sea that will be particularly useful in assessing future trajectories of reef growth capacities under current and future ocean warming and acidification scenarios.

Continue reading ‘Coral reef carbonate budgets and ecological drivers in the naturally high temperature and high total alkalinity environment of the Red Sea’

Ocean acidification in the Middle East and North African region

After examining the current state of knowledge about ocean acidification in Middle East and North African (MENA) countries, we model the socio-economic impacts of disasters, ocean acidification and ecological risk. We use Extreme Value Theory and Peak Over Threshold concept to define the critical threshold point for ocean pH value as an Ornstein-Uhlenbeck process, initially with Gaussian noise. We define the benchmark pH based on time series observations which exhibit moderate to large variations and use Monte Carlo simulations and also model non-Gaussian cases to examine the probability of disasters.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification in the Middle East and North African region’

Stylophora pistillata in the Red Sea demonstrate higher GFP fluorescence under ocean acidification conditions

Ocean acidification is thought to exert a major impact on calcifying organisms, including corals. While previous studies have reported changes in the physiological response of corals to environmental change, none have described changes in expression of the ubiquitous host pigments—fluorescent proteins (FPs)—to ocean acidification. The function of FPs in corals is controversial, with the most common consideration being that these primarily regulate the light environment in the coral tissue and protect the host from harmful UV radiation. Here, we provide for the first time experimental evidence that increased fluorescence of colonies of the coral Stylophora pistillata is independent of stress and can be regulated by a non-stressful decrease in pH. Stylophora pistillata is the most abundant and among the most resilient coral species in the northern Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba (GoE/A). Fragmented “sub-colonies” (n = 72) incubated for 33 days under three pH treatments (ambient, 7.9, and 7.6), under ambient light, and running seawater showed no stress or adverse physiological performance, but did display significantly higher fluorescence, with lower pH. Neither the average number of planulae shed from the experimental sub-colonies nor planulae green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression changed significantly among pH treatments. Sub-colonies incubated under the lower-than-ambient pH conditions showed an increase in both total protein and GFP expression. Since extensive protein synthesis requires a high level of transcription, we suggest that GFP constitutes a UV protection mechanism against potential RNA as well as against DNA damage caused by UV exposure. Manipulating the regulation of FPs in adult corals and planulae, under controlled and combined effects of pH, light, and temperature, is crucial if we are to obtain a better understanding of the role played by this group of proteins in cnidarians.

Continue reading ‘Stylophora pistillata in the Red Sea demonstrate higher GFP fluorescence under ocean acidification conditions’

Taking the metabolic pulse of the world’s coral reefs

Worldwide, coral reef ecosystems are experiencing increasing pressure from a variety of anthropogenic perturbations including ocean warming and acidification, increased sedimentation, eutrophication, and overfishing, which could shift reefs to a condition of net calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dissolution and erosion. Herein, we determine the net calcification potential and the relative balance of net organic carbon metabolism (net community production; NCP) and net inorganic carbon metabolism (net community calcification; NCC) within 23 coral reef locations across the globe. In light of these results, we consider the suitability of using these two metrics developed from total alkalinity (TA) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) measurements collected on different spatiotemporal scales to monitor coral reef biogeochemistry under anthropogenic change. All reefs in this study were net calcifying for the majority of observations as inferred from alkalinity depletion relative to offshore, although occasional observations of net dissolution occurred at most locations. However, reefs with lower net calcification potential (i.e., lower TA depletion) could shift towards net dissolution sooner than reefs with a higher potential. The percent influence of organic carbon fluxes on total changes in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) (i.e., NCP compared to the sum of NCP and NCC) ranged from 32% to 88% and reflected inherent biogeochemical differences between reefs. Reefs with the largest relative percentage of NCP experienced the largest variability in seawater pH for a given change in DIC, which is directly related to the reefs ability to elevate or suppress local pH relative to the open ocean. This work highlights the value of measuring coral reef carbonate chemistry when evaluating their susceptibility to ongoing global environmental change and offers a baseline from which to guide future conservation efforts aimed at preserving these valuable ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Taking the metabolic pulse of the world’s coral reefs’

Reproductive and trans-generational effect of ocean acidification and warming on the coral Stylophora pistillata in the Gulf of Aqaba

Global warming is threatening 75 % of the world’s coral reefs. The reproduction of corals is a driver for the development of the whole reef ecosystem. Then, it is essential to better understand the transgenerational mechanisms in the response of parents and offspring to elevated temperature and lowered pH. Colonies of Stylophora pistillata from the Gulf of Aqaba during their reproduction period were exposed to a 4°C increase in temperature and a pH of 7.6 for 36 days, then a 6°C increase for six days. Planulae were counted on seven consecutive nights, two times during the experiment period. Physiological characteristics of adult and planulae were assessed on four and five sampling points respectively, as well as the behaviour of the planulae through their incubation. Results show no effect of OWA on the reproduction, parents, and planulae physiology. They suggest that the natural resistance of corals in the Gulf of Aqaba is transmitted from parent to offspring. Data on planulae quantity, survival, settlement, and metabolism provides additional and useful information to understand the biology of this coral, specially in its early-life stage. This study’s outcome is adding evidences of the future development of corals reefs in this region, unlike several other tropical reefs in the world.

Continue reading ‘Reproductive and trans-generational effect of ocean acidification and warming on the coral Stylophora pistillata in the Gulf of Aqaba’

Common reef-building coral in the Northern Red Sea resistant to elevated temperature and acidification

Coral reefs are currently experiencing substantial ecological impoverishment as a result of anthropogenic stressors, and the majority of reefs are facing immediate risk. Increasing ocean surface temperatures induce frequent coral mass bleaching events—the breakdown of the nutritional photo-symbiosis with intracellular algae (genus: Symbiodinium). Here, we report that Stylophora pistillata from a highly diverse reef in the Gulf of Aqaba showed no signs of bleaching despite spending 1.5 months at 1–2°C above their long-term summer maximum (amounting to 11 degree heating weeks) and a seawater pH of 7.8. Instead, their symbiotic dinoflagellates exhibited improved photochemistry, higher pigmentation and a doubling in net oxygen production, leading to a 51% increase in primary productivity. Nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry imaging revealed subtle cellular-level shifts in carbon and nitrogen metabolism under elevated temperatures, but overall host and symbiont biomass proxies were not significantly affected. Now living well below their thermal threshold in the Gulf of Aqaba, these corals have been evolutionarily selected for heat tolerance during their migration through the warm Southern Red Sea after the last ice age. This may allow them to withstand future warming for a longer period of time, provided that successful environmental conservation measures are enacted across national boundaries in the region.

Continue reading ‘Common reef-building coral in the Northern Red Sea resistant to elevated temperature and acidification’

Mediterranean versus Red sea corals facing climate change, a transcriptome analysis

The anthropogenic increase in atmospheric CO2 that drives global warming and ocean acidification raises serious concerns regarding the future of corals, the main carbonate biomineralizers. Here we used transcriptome analysis to study the effect of long-term gradual temperature increase (annual rate), combined with lowered pH values, on a sub-tropical Red Sea coral, Stylophora pistillata, and on a temperate Mediterranean symbiotic coral Balanophyllia europaea. The gene expression profiles revealed a strong effect of both temperature increase and pH decrease implying for synergism response. The temperate coral, exposed to a twice as high range of seasonal temperature fluctuations than the Red Sea species, faced stress more effectively. The compensatory strategy for coping apparently involves deviating cellular resources into a massive up-regulation of genes in general, and specifically of genes involved in the generation of metabolic energy. Our results imply that sub-lethal, prolonged exposure to stress can stimulate evolutionary increase in stress resilience.

Continue reading ‘Mediterranean versus Red sea corals facing climate change, a transcriptome analysis’


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