Posts Tagged 'review'

Experimental techniques to assess coral physiology in situ under global and local stressors: current approaches and novel insights

Coral reefs are declining worldwide due to global changes in the marine environment. The increasing frequency of massive bleaching events in the tropics is highlighting the need to better understand the stages of coral physiological responses to extreme conditions. Moreover, like many other coastal regions, coral reef ecosystems are facing additional localized anthropogenic stressors such as nutrient loading, increased turbidity, and coastal development. Different strategies have been developed to measure the health status of a damaged reef, ranging from the resolution of individual polyps to the entire coral community, but techniques for measuring coral physiology in situ are not yet widely implemented. For instance, while there are many studies of the coral holobiont response in single or limited-number multiple stressor experiments, they provide only partial insights into metabolic performance under more complex and temporally and spatially variable natural conditions. Here, we discuss the current status of coral reefs and their global and local stressors in the context of experimental techniques that measure core processes in coral metabolism (respiration, photosynthesis, and biocalcification) in situ, and their role in indicating the health status of colonies and communities. We highlight the need to improve the capability of in situ studies in order to better understand the resilience and stress response of corals under multiple global and local scale stressors.

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Projecting ocean acidification impacts for the Gulf of Maine to 2050: new tools and expectations

Ocean acidification (OA) is increasing predictably in the global ocean as rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide lead to higher oceanic concentrations of inorganic carbon. The Gulf of Maine (GOM) is a seasonally varying region of confluence for many processes that further affect the carbonate system including freshwater influences and high productivity, particularly near the coast where local processes impart a strong influence. Two main regions within the GOM currently experience carbonate conditions that are suboptimal for many organisms—the nearshore and subsurface deep shelf. OA trends over the past 15 years have been masked in the GOM by recent warming and changes to the regional circulation that locally supply more Gulf Stream waters. The region is home to many commercially important shellfish that are vulnerable to OA conditions, as well as to the human populations whose dependence on shellfish species in the fishery has continued to increase over the past decade. Through a review of the sensitivity of the regional marine ecosystem inhabitants, we identified a critical threshold of 1.5 for the aragonite saturation state (Ωa). A combination of regional high-resolution simulations that include coastal processes were used to project OA conditions for the GOM into 2050. By 2050, the Ωa declines everywhere in the GOM with most pronounced impacts near the coast, in subsurface waters, and associated with freshening. Under the RCP 8.5 projected climate scenario, the entire GOM will experience conditions below the critical Ωa threshold of 1.5 for most of the year by 2050. Despite these declines, the projected warming in the GOM imparts a partial compensatory effect to Ωa by elevating saturation states considerably above what would result from acidification alone and preserving some important fisheries locations, including much of Georges Bank, above the critical threshold.

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Reviews and syntheses: spatial and temporal patterns in metabolic fluxes inform potential for seagrass to locally mitigate ocean acidification

As global change continues to progress, there is a growing interest in assessing any local levers that could be used to manage the social and ecological impacts of rising CO2 concentrations. While habitat conservation and restoration have been widely recognized for their role in carbon storage and sequestration at a global scale, the potential for managers to use vegetated habitats to mitigate CO2 concentrations at local scales in marine ecosystems facing the accelerating threat of ocean acidification (OA) has only recently garnered attention. Early studies have shown that submerged aquatic vegetation, such as seagrass beds, can locally draw down CO2 and raise seawater pH in the water column through photosynthesis, but empirical studies of local OA mitigation are still quite limited. Here, we leverage the extensive body of literature on seagrass community metabolism to highlight key considerations for local OA management through seagrass conservation or restoration. In particular, we synthesize the results from 62 studies reporting in situ rates of seagrass gross primary productivity, respiration, and/or net community productivity to highlight spatial and temporal variability in carbon fluxes. We illustrate that daytime net community production is positive overall, and similar across seasons and geographies. Full-day net community production rates, which illustrate the potential cumulative effect of seagrass beds on seawater biogeochemistry integrated over day and night, were also positive overall, but were higher in summer months in both tropical and temperate ecosystems. Although our analyses suggest seagrass meadows are generally autotrophic, the modeled effects on seawater pH are relatively small in magnitude. In addition, we illustrate that periods when full-day net community production is highest could be associated with lower nighttime pH and increased diurnal variability in seawater pCO2/pH. Finally, we highlight important areas for future research to inform the next steps for assessing the utility of this approach for management.

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The effect of climate change on the predatory success of sharks

This literature overview focuses on how shark species, are faring with the anthropogenically induced climatic changes. The ocean is drastically affected by this, which has major implications on the aquatic life. Some effects include increasing temperature, carbon dioxide and acidity levels. This has led to shifts in the predatory success in sharks, which will only increase in severity as climate change intensifies, because changes in climate induce other changes in most aspects of the shark’s life. These can be grouped into three categories: shifts in body functions, behaviors and habitat. Some changes in body function include difficulty integrating sensory cues through reduced neuron receptor function, decreased brain/muscle aerobic potential and changes in growth/development. Behavioral changes include shifted swimming patterns, interacting with different species assemblages and prey behaviors. Lastly, habitat changes affect the shark’s ability to capture prey through increases in salinity, degradation of critical habitat and reduction in dissolved oxygen.

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Chapter 21 – Coral reefs: globally predicted climate change impact mitigation, mediated by the marine flora and their ecosystem connectivity, with a case study from Neil Island (the Andamans)

Mangrove–coral habitat is characterized by heterogeneity in the physical environment that allows it to be out of equilibrium with open ocean conditions, resulting in differentiation of local physical, chemical, and biological attributes. This chapter highlights how some mangrove habitats can act as alternate refuges for corals during climate threats, particularly increasing seawater temperature, high levels of solar radiation, and ocean acidification. Coastal ecosystems are interconnected and so any change in one coastal ecosystem will have an impact on other ecosystems. Similarly, recovery and resilience of coastal ecosystems like coral reefs depend on the degree of connectivity and support from the neighboring coastal ecosystems such as seagrass beds. Therefore, healthy seagrass beds are especially vital for the resilience of coral reefs, as they support the coral communities to adapt to climate change impacts. Corals compete with seaweeds for space on the reef. When corals are healthy, the coral–seaweed competition reaches a balance. But, if the corals are not able to do well because of smothering like eutrophication or climate change induced impacts, then seaweeds can take over. Our study results suggest that coral reefs may become increasingly susceptible to seaweed proliferation under ocean acidification. Though the functional links of mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs have been studied, their conservation and management aspects due to connectivity and their importance for humans is yet to be understood. Importance of interconnectivity in biodiversity richness is illustrated by presenting the bioresource availability in the existing heterogeneous coral reef, seagrass, and mangrove habitats of the Neil Island, the Andamans and studies on the interactions among them are essential for conservation and management of such precious ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Chapter 21 – Coral reefs: globally predicted climate change impact mitigation, mediated by the marine flora and their ecosystem connectivity, with a case study from Neil Island (the Andamans)’

Synthesis of thresholds of ocean acidification impacts on echinoderms

Assessing the vulnerability of marine invertebrates to ocean acidification (OA) requires an understanding of critical thresholds at which developmental, physiological, and behavioral traits are affected. To identify relevant thresholds for echinoderms, we undertook a three-step data synthesis, focused on California Current Ecosystem (CCE) species. First, literature characterizing echinoderm responses to OA was compiled, creating a dataset comprised of >12,000 datapoints from 41 studies. Analysis of this data set demonstrated responses related to physiology, behavior, growth and development, and increased mortality in the larval and adult stages to low pH exposure. Second, statistical analyses were conducted on selected pathways to identify OA thresholds specific to duration, taxa, and depth-related life stage. Exposure to reduced pH led to impaired responses across a range of physiology, behavior, growth and development, and mortality endpoints for both larval and adult stages. Third, through discussions and synthesis, the expert panel identified a set of eight duration-dependent, life stage, and habitat-dependent pH thresholds and assigned each a confidence score based on quantity and agreement of evidence. The thresholds for these effects ranged within pH from 7.20 to 7.74 and duration from 7 to 30 days, all of which were characterized with either medium or low confidence. These thresholds yielded a risk range from early warning to lethal impacts, providing the foundation for consistent interpretation of OA monitoring data or numerical ocean model simulations to support climate change marine vulnerability assessments and evaluation of ocean management strategies. As a demonstration, two echinoderm thresholds were applied to simulations of a CCE numerical model to visualize the effects of current state of pH conditions on potential habitat.

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Chapter 5 – Effect of climate change on marine ecosystems

The impacts of anthropogenic climate change are already discernible throughout the ocean, from the equator to the poles, and from the surface to abyssal depths. Further climate change impacts are inevitable; however, their damage to marine organisms and ecosystems, and the services they provide, can be greatly reduced if greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly reduced. This review covers six main climate-related drivers (warming, acidification, deoxygenation, sea level rise and storm events, sea ice loss, stratification, and nutrient supply) and their impacts on 13 marine ecosystems, broadly defined. Seven of these are near-shore (coral reefs, kelp ecosystems, seagrass meadows, rocky and sandy intertidal, saltmarshes, estuaries, and mangroves) and six are in shelf seas and the open ocean (shelf sea benthos, upper ocean plankton, fish and fisheries, cold water corals, ice-influenced ecosystems, and the deep seafloor). Three cross-cutting issues are emphasized: that climate change impacts are not single factors, but interact together and with other human pressures in a multistressor context; that there are fast and slow climate processes in the ocean, with overall temporal uncertainties relating to future societal behavior; and that there can be high spatial heterogeneity in marine ecosystem impacts and vulnerabilities.

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Responses of Southern ocean seafloor habitats and communities to global and local drivers of change

Knowledge of life on the Southern Ocean seafloor has substantially grown since the beginning of this century with increasing ship-based surveys and regular monitoring sites, new technologies and greatly enhanced data sharing. However, seafloor habitats and their communities exhibit high spatial variability and heterogeneity that challenges the way in which we assess the state of the Southern Ocean benthos on larger scales. The Antarctic shelf is rich in diversity compared with deeper water areas, important for storing carbon (“blue carbon”) and provides habitat for commercial fish species. In this paper, we focus on the seafloor habitats of the Antarctic shelf, which are vulnerable to drivers of change including increasing ocean temperatures, iceberg scour, sea ice melt, ocean acidification, fishing pressures, pollution and non-indigenous species. Some of the most vulnerable areas include the West Antarctic Peninsula, which is experiencing rapid regional warming and increased iceberg-scouring, subantarctic islands and tourist destinations where human activities and environmental conditions increase the potential for the establishment of non-indigenous species and active fishing areas around South Georgia, Heard and MacDonald Islands. Vulnerable species include those in areas of regional warming with low thermal tolerance, calcifying species susceptible to increasing ocean acidity as well as slow-growing habitat-forming species that can be damaged by fishing gears e.g., sponges, bryozoan, and coral species. Management regimes can protect seafloor habitats and key species from fishing activities; some areas will need more protection than others, accounting for specific traits that make species vulnerable, slow growing and long-lived species, restricted locations with optimum physiological conditions and available food, and restricted distributions of rare species. Ecosystem-based management practices and long-term, highly protected areas may be the most effective tools in the preservation of vulnerable seafloor habitats. Here, we focus on outlining seafloor responses to drivers of change observed to date and projections for the future. We discuss the need for action to preserve seafloor habitats under climate change, fishing pressures and other anthropogenic impacts.

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Global declines in coral reef calcium carbonate production under ocean acidification and warming


The growth of coral reefs is threatened by the dual stressors of ocean warming and acidification. Despite a wealth of studies assessing the impacts of climate change on individual taxa, projections of their impacts on coral reef net carbonate production are limited. By projecting impacts across 233 different locations, we demonstrate that the majority of coral reefs will be unable to maintain positive net carbonate production globally by the year 2100 under representative concentration pathways RCP4.5 and 8.5, while even under RCP2.6, coral reefs will suffer reduced accretion rates. Our results provide quantitative projections of how different climate change stressors will influence whole ecosystem carbonate production across coral reefs in all major ocean basins.


Ocean warming and acidification threaten the future growth of coral reefs. This is because the calcifying coral reef taxa that construct the calcium carbonate frameworks and cement the reef together are highly sensitive to ocean warming and acidification. However, the global-scale effects of ocean warming and acidification on rates of coral reef net carbonate production remain poorly constrained despite a wealth of studies assessing their effects on the calcification of individual organisms. Here, we present global estimates of projected future changes in coral reef net carbonate production under ocean warming and acidification. We apply a meta-analysis of responses of coral reef taxa calcification and bioerosion rates to predicted changes in coral cover driven by climate change to estimate the net carbonate production rates of 183 reefs worldwide by 2050 and 2100. We forecast mean global reef net carbonate production under representative concentration pathways (RCP) 2.6, 4.5, and 8.5 will decline by 76, 149, and 156%, respectively, by 2100. While 63% of reefs are projected to continue to accrete by 2100 under RCP2.6, 94% will be eroding by 2050 under RCP8.5, and no reefs will continue to accrete at rates matching projected sea level rise under RCP4.5 or 8.5 by 2100. Projected reduced coral cover due to bleaching events predominately drives these declines rather than the direct physiological impacts of ocean warming and acidification on calcification or bioerosion. Presently degraded reefs were also more sensitive in our analysis. These findings highlight the low likelihood that the world’s coral reefs will maintain their functional roles without near-term stabilization of atmospheric CO2 emissions.

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Exploring coastal acidification and oyster restoration activities on the United States Atlantic coast

Executive Summary

The global ocean mediates the effect of climate change and anthropogenic carbon emissions by absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide (Ellis et al., 2017). The ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide results in a change in ocean chemistry and decline in seawater pH known as ocean acidification (Kapsenberg and Cyronak, 2018). Changes in ocean chemistry and pH may also be driven by primary production activity, upwelling, and river runoff into marine environments (Richards et al., 2014). Ocean acidification has the potential to adversely affect numerous marine organisms (Kapsenberg and Cyronak, 2018), however, it can be especially problematic for calcifying shellfish species (Swezey et al., 2020) like the Eastern Oyster and larval or juvenile stage organisms (Mangi et al., 2018). Temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen levels, and acidification impact the health and longevity of oysters and oyster reefs. Oyster reefs offer numerous ecosystem services. These reefs provide habitat for benthic invertebrates, seabirds and fish that rely on reefs for feeding, nursery, and breeding grounds (Burrows et al., 2005). The Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) is a native oyster species of the U.S. Atlantic Coast. Although oysters reefs support coastal livelihoods and offer numerous ecosystem services, many reefs have been degraded by anthropogenic activities (Burrows et al., 2005). Pollution, over-harvest, and an increase in loading of suspended sediments are key threats to oyster reef health (Burrows et al., 2005). Oyster reef restoration projects focus on returning reefs to their natural state. Given the role of oysters as ecosystem engineers, and the many benefits that may be derived from healthy oyster reefs, restoration projects are a priority for communities throughout the U.S. Atlantic Coast.

Cooley et al. 2016 recommends several effective community actions that may be taken to help address ocean acidification today. This project focuses on two non-legislative actions discussed by Cooley et al. 2016. These are public education related to coastal acidification and resilience management through oyster reef restoration projects. The purpose of this project is to support coastal resource-reliant communities on the U.S. Atlantic Coast in preparing for the potential future impacts of ocean acidification on C. virginica. The project examines trends in the oyster reef restoration projects presently underway at the state and local level along the U.S. Atlantic Coast, and it considers how coastal acidification may affect the longevity of the region’s oyster reefs. Finally, the project considers the future research and management considerations needed to adequately protect oyster reefs under changing climatic conditions.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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