Posts Tagged 'Red Sea'



Basin-scale estimates of pelagic and coral reef calcification in the Red Sea and Western Indian Ocean

Basin-scale calcification rates are highly important in assessments of the global oceanic carbon cycle. Traditionally, such estimates were based on rates of sedimentation measured with sediment traps or in deep sea cores. Here we estimated CaCO3 precipitation rates in the surface water of the Red Sea from total alkalinity depletion along their axial flow using the water flux in the straits of Bab el Mandeb. The relative contribution of coral reefs and open sea plankton were calculated by fitting a Rayleigh distillation model to the increase in the strontium to calcium ratio. We estimate the net amount of CaCO3 precipitated in the Red Sea to be 7.3 ± 0.4·1010 kg·y−1 of which 80 ± 5% is by pelagic calcareous plankton and 20 ± 5% is by the flourishing coastal coral reefs. This estimate for pelagic calcification rate is up to 40% higher than published sedimentary CaCO3 accumulation rates for the region. The calcification rate of the Gulf of Aden was estimated by the Rayleigh model to be ∼1/2 of the Red Sea, and in the northwestern Indian Ocean, it was smaller than our detection limit. The results of this study suggest that variations of major ions on a basin scale may potentially help in assessing long-term effects of ocean acidification on carbonate deposition by marine organisms.

Continue reading ‘Basin-scale estimates of pelagic and coral reef calcification in the Red Sea and Western Indian Ocean’

Tough as a rock-boring urchin: adult Echinometra sp. EE from the Red Sea show high resistance to ocean acidification over long-term exposures

Ocean acidification, a process caused by the continuous rise of atmospheric CO2 levels, is expected to have a profound impact on marine invertebrates. Findings of the numerous studies conducted in this field indicate high variability in species responses to future ocean conditions. This study aimed at understanding the effects of long-term exposure to elevated pCO2 conditions on the performance of adult Echinometra sp. EE from the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea). During an 11-month incubation under high pCO2 (1,433 μatm, pHNBS 7.7) and control (435 μatm, pHNBS 8.1) conditions, we examined the urchins’ somatic and gonadal growth, gametogenesis and skeletal microstructure. Somatic and gonadal growths were exhibited with no significant differences between the treatments. In addition, all urchins in the experiment completed a full reproductive cycle, typical of natural populations, with no detectable impact of increased pCO2 on the timing, duration or progression of the cycle. Furthermore, scanning electron microscopy imaging of urchin tests and spines revealed no signs of the usual observed effects of acidosis, such as skeletal dissolution, widened stereom pores or non-smoothed structures. Our results, which yielded no significant impact of the high pCO2 treatment on any of the examined processes in the urchins studied, suggest high resistance of adult Echinometra sp. EE to near future ocean acidification conditions. With respect to other findings in this area, the outcome of this study provides an example of the complicated and diverse responses of echinoids to the predicted environmental changes.

Continue reading ‘Tough as a rock-boring urchin: adult Echinometra sp. EE from the Red Sea show high resistance to ocean acidification over long-term exposures’

High CO2 detrimentally affects tissue regeneration of Red Sea corals

Ocean acidification (OA) from rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is threatening the future of coral reef ecosystems. Mounting experimental evidence suggests that OA negatively impacts fundamental life functions of scleractinian corals, including growth and sexual reproduction. Although regeneration is regarded as a chief life function in scleractinian corals and essential to maintain the colony’s integrity, the effect of OA on regeneration processes has not yet been investigated. To evaluate the effects of OA on regeneration, the common Indo-Pacific corals Porites sp., Favia favus, Acropora eurystoma, and Stylophora pistillata were inflicted with lesions (314–350 mm2, depending on species) and incubated in different pCO2: (1) ambient seawater (400 µatm, pH 8.1), (2) intermediate (1,800 µatm, pH 7.6), and (3) high (4,000 µatm, pH 7.3) for extended periods of time (60–120 d). While all coral species after 60 d had significantly higher tissue regeneration in ambient conditions as compared to the intermediate and high treatments, reduction in regeneration rate was more pronounced in the slow-growing massive Porites sp. and F. favus than the relatively fast-growing, branching S. pistillata and A. eurystoma. This coincided with reduced tissue biomass of Porites sp., F. favus, and A. eurystoma in higher pCO2, but not in S. pistillata. Porites sp., F. favus, and S. pistillata also experienced a decrease in Symbiodinium density in higher pCO2, while in A. eurystoma there was no change. We hypothesize that a lowered regenerative capacity under elevated pCO2 may be related to resource trade-offs, energy cost of acid/base regulation, and/or decrease in total energy budget. This is the first study to demonstrate that elevated pCO2 could have a compounding influence on coral regeneration following injury, potentially affecting the capacity of reef corals to recover following physical disturbance.

Continue reading ‘High CO2 detrimentally affects tissue regeneration of Red Sea corals’

Octocoral tissue provides protection from declining oceanic pH

Increase in anthropogenic pCO2 alters seawater chemistry and could lead to reduced calcification or skeleton dissolution of calcifiers and thereby weaken coral-reef structure. Studies have suggested that the complex and diverse responses in stony coral growth and calcification, as a result of elevated pCO2, can be explained by the extent to which their soft tissues cover the underlying skeleton. This study compared the effects of decreased pH on the microstructural features of both in hospite (within the colony) and isolated sclerites (in the absence of tissue protection) of the zooxanthellate reef-dwelling octocoral Ovabunda macrospiculata. Colonies and isolated sclerites were maintained under normal (8.2) and reduced (7.6 and 7.3) pH conditions for up to 42 days. Both in hospite and isolated sclerites were then examined under SEM and ESEM microscopy in order to detect any microstructural changes. No differences were found in the microstructure of the in hospite sclerites between the control and the pH treatments. In stark contrast, the isolated sclerites revealed dissolution damage related to the acidity of the water. These findings suggest a protective role of the octocoral tissue against adverse pH conditions, thus maintaining them unharmed at high pCO2. In light of the competition for space with the less resilient reef calcifiers, octocorals may thus have a significant advantage under greater than normal acidic conditions.

Continue reading ‘Octocoral tissue provides protection from declining oceanic pH’

Variations in coral reef net community calcification and aragonite saturation state on local and global scales

Predicting the response of net community calcification (NCC) to ocean acidification (OA) and declining aragonite saturation state (Ωa) requires a thorough understanding of controls on NCC. The diurnal control of light and net community production (NCP) onNCC confounds the underlying control of Ωa on NCC and must be averaged out in order to predict the general response of NCC to OA. I did this by generating a general NCC-Ωa correlation based on data from 15 field and mesocosm studies around the globe. The general relationship agrees well with results from mesocosm experiments. This general relationship implies that NCC will transition from net calcification to net dissolution at aΩa of 1.0 ± 0.6 and predicts that NCC will decline by 50% from 1880 to 2100, for a reef of any percent calcifier cover and short reef water residence time. NCC will also decline if percent calcifier cover declines, as evidenced by estimates of NCC in two Caribbean reefs having declined by an estimated 50-90% since 1880. The general NCC-Ωa relationship determined here, along with changes in percent calcifier cover, will be useful in predicting changes in NCC in response to OA and for refining models of reef water Ωa.

Continue reading ‘Variations in coral reef net community calcification and aragonite saturation state on local and global scales’

Direct and indirect effects of high pCO2 on algal grazing by coral reef herbivores from the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea)

Grazing on marine macroalgae is a key structuring process for coral reef communities. However, ocean acidification from rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations is predicted to adversely affect many marine animals, while seaweed communities may benefit and prosper. We tested how exposure to different pCO2 (400, 1,800 and 4,000 μatm) may affect grazing on the green alga Ulva lactuca by herbivorous fish and sea urchins from the coral reefs in the northern Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea), either directly, by changing herbivore behaviour, or indirectly via changes in algal palatability. We also determined the effects of pCO2 on algal tissue concentrations of protein and the grazing-deterrent secondary metabolite dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP). Grazing preferences and overall consumption were tested in a series of multiple-choice feeding experiments in the laboratory and in situ following exposure for 14 d (algae) and 28 d (herbivores). 4,000 μatm had a significant effect on the biochemical composition and palatability of U. lactuca. No effects were observed at 1,800 relative to 400 μatm (control). Exposure of U. lactuca to 4,000 μatm resulted in a significant decrease in protein and increase in DMSP concentration. This coincided with a reduced preference for these algae by the sea urchin Tripneustes gratilla and different herbivorous fish species in situ (Acanthuridae, Siganidae and Pomacanthidae). No feeding preferences were observed for the rabbitfish Siganus rivulatus under laboratory conditions. Exposure to elevated pCO2 had no direct effect on the overall algal consumption by T. gratilla and S. rivulatus. Our results show that CO2 has the potential to alter algal palatability to different herbivores which could have important implications for algal abundance and coral community structure. The fact that pCO2 effects were observed only at a pCO2 of 4,000 μatm, however, indicates that algal-grazer interactions may be resistant to predicted pCO2 concentrations in the near future.

Continue reading ‘Direct and indirect effects of high pCO2 on algal grazing by coral reef herbivores from the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea)’

Spatiotemporal variability of dimethylsulphoniopropionate on a fringing coral reef: the role of reefal carbonate chemistry and environmental variability

Oceanic pH is projected to decrease by up to 0.5 units by 2100 (a process known as ocean acidification, OA), reducing the calcium carbonate saturation state of the oceans. The coastal ocean is expected to experience periods of even lower carbonate saturation state because of the inherent natural variability of coastal habitats. Thus, in order to accurately project the impact of OA on the coastal ocean, we must first understand its natural variability. The production of dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) by marine algae and the release of DMSP’s breakdown product dimethylsulphide (DMS) are often related to environmental stress. This study investigated the spatiotemporal response of tropical macroalgae (Padina sp., Amphiroa sp. and Turbinaria sp.) and the overlying water column to natural changes in reefal carbonate chemistry. We compared macroalgal intracellular DMSP and water column DMSP+DMS concentrations between the environmentally stable reef crest and environmentally variable reef flat of the fringing Suleman Reef, Egypt, over 45-hour sampling periods. Similar diel patterns were observed throughout: maximum intracellular DMSP and water column DMS/P concentrations were observed at night, coinciding with the time of lowest carbonate saturation state. Spatially, water column DMS/P concentrations were highest over areas dominated by seagrass and macroalgae (dissolved DMS/P) and phytoplankton (particulate DMS/P) rather than corals. This research suggests that macroalgae may use DMSP to maintain metabolic function during periods of low carbonate saturation state. In the reef system, seagrass and macroalgae may be more important benthic producers of dissolved DMS/P than corals. An increase in DMS/P concentrations during periods of low carbonate saturation state may become ecologically important in the future under an OA regime, impacting larval settlement and increasing atmospheric emissions of DMS.

Continue reading ‘Spatiotemporal variability of dimethylsulphoniopropionate on a fringing coral reef: the role of reefal carbonate chemistry and environmental variability’

Does elevated pCO2 affect reef octocorals?

Increasing anthropogenic pCO2 alters seawater chemistry, with potentially severe consequences for coral reef growth and health. Octocorals are the second most important faunistic component in many reefs, often occupying 50% or more of the available substrate. Three species of octocorals from two families were studied in Eilat (Gulf of Aqaba), comprising the zooxanthellate Ovabunda macrospiculata and Heteroxenia fuscescens (family Xeniidae), and Sarcophyton sp. (family Alcyoniidae). They were maintained under normal (8.2) and reduced (7.6 and 7.3) pH conditions for up to 5 months. Their biolological features, including protein concentration, polyp weight, density of zooxanthellae, and their chlorophyll concentration per cell, as well as polyp pulsation rate, were examined under conditions more acidic than normal, in order to test the hypothesis that rising pCO2 would affect octocorals. The results indicate no statistically significant difference between the octocorals exposed to reduced pH values compared to the control. It is therefore suggested that the octocorals’ tissue may act as a protective barrier against adverse pH conditions, thus maintaining them unharmed at high levels of pCO2.

Continue reading ‘Does elevated pCO2 affect reef octocorals?’

Measuring gross and net calcification of a reef coral under ocean acidification conditions: methodological considerations

Ongoing ocean acidification (OA) is rapidly altering carbonate chemistry in the oceans. The projected changes will likely have deleterious consequences for coral reefs by negatively affecting their growth. Nonetheless, diverse responses of reef-building corals calcification to OA hinder our ability to decipher reef susceptibility to elevated pCO2. Some of the inconsistencies between studies originate in measuring net calcification (NC), which does not always consider the proportions of the “real” (gross) calcification (GC) and gross dissolution in the observed response. Here we show that microcolonies of Stylophora pistillata (entirely covered by tissue), incubated under normal (8.2) and reduced (7.6) pH conditions for 16 months, survived and added new skeletal CaCO3, despite low (1.25) Ωarg conditions. Moreover, corals maintained their NC and GC rates under reduced (7.6) pH conditions and displayed positive NC rates at the low-end (7.3) pH treatment while bare coral skeleton underwent marked dissolution. Our findings suggest that S. pistillata may fall into the “low sensitivity” group with respect to OA and that their overlying tissue may be a key determinant in setting their tolerance to reduced pH by limiting dissolution and allowing them to calcify. This study is the first to measure GC and NC rates for a tropical scleractinian corals under OA conditions. We provide a detailed, realistic assessment of the problematic nature of previously accepted methods for measuring calcification (total alkalinity and 45Ca).

Continue reading ‘Measuring gross and net calcification of a reef coral under ocean acidification conditions: methodological considerations’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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