Posts Tagged 'salinity'

Decoupling salinity and carbonate chemistry: low calcium ion concentration rather than salinity limits calcification in Baltic Sea mussels

The Baltic Sea has a salinity gradient decreasing from fully marine (> 25) in the West to below 7 in the Central Baltic Proper. Reef forming mytilid mussels exhibit decreasing growth when salinity < 11, however the mechanisms underlying reduced calcification rates in dilute seawater are not fully understood. In fact, both [HCO3] and [Ca2+] also decrease with salinity, challenging calcifying organisms through CaCO3 undersaturation (Ω ≤ 1) and unfavourable ratios of calcification substrate (Ca2+ and HCO3) to inhibitor (H+). In this study we assessed the impact of isolated individual factors (salinity, [Ca2+], [HCO3] and pH) on calcification and growth of mytilid mussel populations along the Baltic salinity gradient. Laboratory experiments rearing juvenile Baltic Mytilus at a range of salinities (6, 11 and 16), HCO3 concentrations (300–2100 µmol kg−1) and Ca2+ concentrations (0.5–4 mmol kg−1) were coupled with field monitoring in three Baltic mussel reefs. Results reveal that as individual factors, low [HCO3], pH and salinity cannot explain low calcification rates in the Baltic Sea. Calcification rates are impeded when Ωaragonite ≤ 1 or the substrate inhibitor ratio ≤ 0.7, primarily due to [Ca2+] limitation which corresponds to a salinity of ca. 11. Increased food availability may be able to mask these negative impacts, but not when seawater conditions are permanently adverse, as observed in two Baltic reefs at salinities < 11. Future climatic models predict rapid desalination of the southwest and Central Baltic and potentially a reduction in [Ca2+] which may lead to a westward distribution shift of marine calcifiers. It is therefore vital to understand the mechanisms by which the ionic composition of seawater impacts bivalve calcification for better predicting the future of benthic Baltic ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Decoupling salinity and carbonate chemistry: low calcium ion concentration rather than salinity limits calcification in Baltic Sea mussels’

Ocean freshening and acidification differentially influence mortality and behavior of the Antarctic amphipod Gondogeneia antarctica


  • Glacial retreat induced by global warming can decrease salinity and pH of the Antarctic ocean.
  • The Antarctic amphipod Gondogeneia antarctica was exposed to low salinity (27 psu) and low pH (7.6) conditions.
  • Low salinity increased cannibalism and induced adjusted swimming.
  • Low pH increased mortality, impaired food detection and reduced daytime shelter use.
  • Ocean freshening and acidification act as independent stressors influencing behavior and physiology of Antarctic amphipods.


The Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) has experienced rapid atmospheric and ocean warming over the past few decades and many marine-terminating glaciers have considerably retreated. Glacial retreat is accompanied by fresh meltwater intrusion, which may result in the freshening and acidification of coastal waters. Marian Cove (MC), on King George Island in the WAP, undergoes one of the highest rates of glacial retreat. Intertidal and shallow subtidal waters are likely more susceptible to these processes, and sensitive biological responses are expected from the organisms inhabiting this area. The gammarid amphipod Gondogeneia antarctica is one of the most abundant species in the shallow, nearshore Antarctic waters, and it occupies an essential ecological niche in the coastal marine WAP ecosystem. In this study, we tested the sensitivity of G. antarctica to lowered salinity and pH by meltwater intrusion following glacial retreat. We exposed G. antarctica to four different treatments combining two salinities (34 and 27 psu) and pH (8.0 and 7.6) levels for 26 days. Mortality, excluding cannibalized individuals, increased under low pH but decreased under low salinity conditions. Meanwhile, low salinity increased cannibalism, whereas low pH reduced food detection. Shelter use during the daytime decreased under each low salinity and pH condition, indicating that the two stressors act as disruptors of amphipod behavior. Under low salinity conditions, swimming increased during the daytime but decreased at night. Although interactions between low salinity and low pH were not observed during the experiment, the results suggest that each stressor, likely induced by glacial melting, causes altered behaviors in amphipods. These environmental factors may threaten population persistence in Marian Cove and possibly other similar glacial embayments.

Continue reading ‘Ocean freshening and acidification differentially influence mortality and behavior of the Antarctic amphipod Gondogeneia antarctica’

Effects of low pH and low salinity induced by meltwater inflow on the behavior and physical condition of the Antarctic limpet, Nacella concinna

Seawater acidification and freshening in the intertidal zone of Marian Cove, Antarctica, which occurs by the freshwater inflow from snow fields and glaciers, could affect the physiology and behavior of intertidal marine organisms. In this study, we exposed Antarctic limpets, Nacella concinna, to two different pH (8.00 and 7.55) and salinity (34.0 and 27.0 psu) levels and measured their righting ability after being flipped over, mortality, condition factor, and shell dissolution. During the 35-day exposure, there was no significant difference in behavior and mortality between different treatments. However, the condition factor was negatively affected by low salinity. Both low pH and low salinity negatively influenced shell formation by decreasing the aragonite saturation state (Ωarg) and enhancing shell dissolution. Our results suggest that, though limpets can tolerate short-term low pH and salinity conditions, intrusions of meltwater accompanied by the glacial retreat may act as a serious threat to the population of N. concinna.

Continue reading ‘Effects of low pH and low salinity induced by meltwater inflow on the behavior and physical condition of the Antarctic limpet, Nacella concinna’

Contrasting responses to salinity and future ocean acidification in arctic populations of the amphipod Gammarus setosus


  • Climate change is leading to changes in salinity and pCO2 in arctic/sub-arctic coastal ecosystems.

  • We examined Gammarus setosus at 3 sites along a salinity gradient in the field and laboratory.

  • Reduced salinity had more of an effect than elevated pCO2 by reducing energy budgets.

  • Lower salinities increased ion transporting capacities in the laboratory but not in the field.

  • G. setosus at lower salinity sites have lower energy budgets suggesting impacts on performance.


Climate change is leading to alterations in salinity and carbonate chemistry in arctic/sub-arctic marine ecosystems. We examined three nominal populations of the circumpolar arctic/subarctic amphipod, Gammarus setosus, along a salinity gradient in the Kongsfjorden-/Krossfjorden area of Svalbard. Field and laboratory experiments assessed physiological (haemolymph osmolality and gill Na+/K+-ATPase activity, NKA) and energetic responses (metabolic rates, MO2, and Cellular Energy Allocation, CEA). In the field, all populations had similar osmregulatory capacities and MO2, but lower-salinity populations had lower CEA. Reduced salinity (S = 23) and elevated pCO2 (∼1000 μatm) in the laboratory for one month increased gill NKA activities and reduced CEA in all populations, but increased MO2 in the higher-salinity population. Elevated pCO2 did not interact with salinity and had no effect on NKA activities or CEA, but reduced MO2 in all populations. Reduced CEA in lower-rather than higher-salinity populations may have longer term effects on other energy demanding processes (growth and reproduction).

Continue reading ‘Contrasting responses to salinity and future ocean acidification in arctic populations of the amphipod Gammarus setosus’

Lower salinity leads to improved physiological performance in the coccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi, which partly ameliorates the effects of ocean acidification

While seawater acidification induced by elevated CO2 is known to impact coccolithophores, the effects in combination with decreased salinity caused by sea ice melting and/or hydrological events have not been documented. Here we show the combined effects of seawater acidification and reduced salinity on growth, photosynthesis and calcification of Emiliania huxleyi grown at 2 CO2 concentrations (low CO2 LC:400 μatm; high CO2 HC:1000 μatm) and 3 levels of salinity (25, 30, and 35‰). A decrease of salinity from 35 to 25‰ increased growth rate, cell size and photosynthetic performance under both LC and HC. Calcification rates were relatively insensitive to salinity though they were higher in the LC-grown compared to the HC-grown cells at 25‰ salinity, with insignificant differences under 30 and 35‰. Since salinity and OA treatments did not show interactive effects on calcification, changes in calcification: photosynthesis ratios are attributed to the elevated photosynthetic rates at lower salinities, with higher ratios of calcification to photosynthesis in the cells grown under 35‰ compared with those grown at 25‰. In contrast, photosynthetic carbon fixation increased almost linearly with decreasing salinity, regardless of the pCO2 treatments. When subjected to short-term exposure to high light, the low-salinity-grown cells showed the highest photochemical effective quantum yield with the highest repair rate, though the HC treatment enhanced the PSII damage rate. Our results suggest that, irrespective of pCO2, at low salinity Emiliania huxleyi up-regulates its photosynthetic performance which, despite a relatively insensitive calcification response, may help it better adapt to future ocean global environmental changes, including ocean acidification, especially in the coastal areas of high latitudes.

Continue reading ‘Lower salinity leads to improved physiological performance in the coccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi, which partly ameliorates the effects of ocean acidification’

Temperature and salinity, not acidification, predict near-future larval growth and larval habitat suitability of Olympia oysters in the Salish Sea

Most invertebrates in the ocean begin their lives with planktonic larval phases that are critical for dispersal and distribution of these species. Larvae are particularly vulnerable to environmental change, so understanding interactive effects of environmental stressors on larval life is essential in predicting population persistence and vulnerability of species. Here, we use a novel experimental approach to rear larvae under interacting gradients of temperature, salinity, and ocean acidification, then model growth rate and duration of Olympia oyster larvae and predict the suitability of habitats for larval survival. We find that temperature and salinity are closely linked to larval growth and larval habitat suitability, but larvae are tolerant to acidification at this scale. We discover that present conditions in the Salish Sea are actually suboptimal for Olympia oyster larvae from populations in the region, and that larvae from these populations might actually benefit from some degree of global ocean change. Our models predict a vast decrease in mean pelagic larval duration by the year 2095, which has the potential to alter population dynamics for this species in future oceans. Additionally, we find that larval tolerance can explain large-scale biogeographic patterns for this species across its range.

Continue reading ‘Temperature and salinity, not acidification, predict near-future larval growth and larval habitat suitability of Olympia oysters in the Salish Sea’

Effects of salinity and pH of seawater on the reproduction of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus

Fertilization and early development are usually the most vulnerable stages in the life of marine animals, and the biological processes during this period are highly sensitive to the environment. In nature, sea urchin gametes are shed in seawater, where they undergo external fertilization and embryonic development. In a laboratory, it is possible to follow the exact morphological and biochemical changes taking place in the fertilized eggs and the developing embryos. Thus, observation of successful fertilization and the subsequent embryonic development of sea urchin eggs can be used as a convenient biosensor to assess the quality of the marine environment. In this paper, we have examined how salinity and pH changes affect the normal fertilization process and the following development of Paracentrotus lividus. The results of our studies using confocal microscopy, scanning and transmission electron microscopy, and time-lapse Ca2+ image recording indicated that both dilution and acidification of seawater have subtle but detrimental effects on many aspects of the fertilization process. They include Ca2+ signaling and coordinated actin cytoskeletal changes, leading to a significantly reduced rate of successful fertilization and, eventually, to abnormal or delayed embryonic development.

Continue reading ‘Effects of salinity and pH of seawater on the reproduction of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus’

Effects of seawater salinity and pH on cellular metabolism and enzyme activities in biomineralizing tissues of marine bivalves


•Effects of salinity and pH on cellular metabolism were studied in bivalves.

•Biomineralizing cells had robust metabolism in the studied salinity and pH range.

•Oxygen consumption and protein synthesis rates declined at low pH.

•Na+/K+ ATPase activity increased at low salinity.

•H+ and Ca2+ transport activities were little affected by salinity and pH variation.


Molluscan shell formation is a complex energy demanding process sensitive to the shifts in seawater CaCO3 saturation due to changes in salinity and pH. We studied the effects of salinity and pH on energy demand and enzyme activities of biomineralizing cells of the Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas) and the hard-shell clam (Mercenaria mercenaria). Adult animals were exposed for 14 days to high (30), intermediate (18), or low (10) salinity at either high (8.0-8.2) or low (7.8) pH. Basal metabolic cost as well as the energy cost of the biomineralization-related cellular processes were determined in isolated mantle edge cells and hemocytes. The total metabolic rates were similar in the hemocytes of the two studied species, but considerably higher in the mantle cells of C. gigas compared with those of M. mercenaria. Cellular respiration was unaffected by salinity in the clams’ cells, while in oysters’ cells the highest respiration rate was observed at intermediate salinity (18). In both studied species, low pH suppressed cellular respiration. Low pH led to an upregulation of Na+/K+ ATPase activity in biomineralizing cells of oysters and clams. Activities of Ca2+ ATPase and H+ ATPase, as well as the cellular energy costs of Ca2+ and H+ transport in the biomineralizing cells were insensitive to the variation in salinity and pH in the clams and oysters. Species-specific variability in cellular response to low salinity and pH indicates that the disturbance of shell formation under these conditions has different underlying mechanisms in the two studied species.

Continue reading ‘Effects of seawater salinity and pH on cellular metabolism and enzyme activities in biomineralizing tissues of marine bivalves’

The combined effects of salinity and pH on shell biomineralization of the edible mussel Mytilus chilensis


• Coastal habitats such as estuaries show high environmental variability.

• pH and salinity impact on the periostracum organic composition.

• pH and salinity impact on the shell mineral organization.

• Salinity modulates the impact of pH on shell weight.

• The level of plasticity in shell properties differs with time exposure.


Coastal ecosystems influenced by river discharges are subjected to important environmental changes. Understanding how marine biota cope with its environment is relevant in predicting the responses to future conditions imposed by climate change. To date, a large number of studies have addressed the role of pH on shell and biomineralization properties on multiple calcifying species; however the role of salinity in combination with other stressors has been poorly studied. In particular, the edible mussel Mytilus chilensis, an important marine resource of the Chilean coasts, inhabits estuarine areas which show high natural variability in terms of pH and salinity. Here, we studied how M. chilensis shell periostracum, shell organic matrix and crystal orientation are affected by different pH (8.1 and 7.7) and salinity conditions (30, 25 and 20 psu), isolated and in combination, at different time intervals. Our results show differences in the plasticity of the different biomineralogical properties studied during the experiment under the different pH and salinity treatments. While the periostracum thickness and the total shell organic matter were not affected by pH and salinity, the periostracum organic composition did. Higher amounts of polysaccharides were observed under low pH conditions after 20 days of experiment, while after 60 days, low salinity was responsible for the decrease of the polysaccharides and proteins in the periostracum. Low salinity also produced a major disorder in crystal organization at the outer shell surface. Finally, total shell weight was only affected by low pH conditions under lower salinity conditions (20 psu). From the results, in the majority of the shell properties observed we did not observe any combined effect of pH and salinity. Also, we detected that the magnitude of the impacts of salinity and pH are variable and time-dependent. This would be suggesting some level of acclimatization of M. chilensis to lower pH and salinity conditions.

Continue reading ‘The combined effects of salinity and pH on shell biomineralization of the edible mussel Mytilus chilensis’

Effects of multiple stressors on the development and performance of decapod crustaceans

Many marine crustacean larvae develop in a relatively stable pelagic environment; therefore, they are likely to be sensitive to perturbations in their surrounding environmental conditions. Ocean Acidification (OA) is occurring on a globalised scale and may cause disruptions to crustacean larval survival. However, species and/or life history stages are not expected to respond uniformly to these near-future predicted changes. The performance of species that lack a compensatory capacity to cope with the changing conditions may potentially be detrimentally affected, which in turn may impact recruitment. In addition to this, little information exists surrounding the impacts of ocean acidification in conjunction with additional environmental stressors, such as salinity, temperature and food availability, which are predicted to covary with OA, upon brachyuran crustacean larvae. This research focused on the effects of elevated CO2, in combination with other environmental stressors, upon rates of larval development, performance and survival of a brachyuran crustacean species common to Europe (Carcinus maenas) and two species of shrimp (Palaemon serratus and Palaemon varians). These species have varying physiological abilities to cope with salinity change and such attributes may influence their capacities to survive elevated CO2 in combination with other environmental changes. Exposure of early larval stages to combinations of salinity, temperature and food limitation in C. maenas revealed that high temperature ameliorated the effect of low salinity on survival and developmental duration. Limited access to food also affected developmental duration, but exposure to elevated CO2 alone in a second experiment only affected survival, and low salinity alone had no effect. Exposure of early juvenile stages of C. maenas to CO2 and salinity, revealed that developmental duration was significantly affected by elevated CO2 and/or salinity at varying levels, whereas, for survival, such influences were only observed in later juvenile stages. These results suggest the possibility of a physiologically sensitive bottleneck within the life cycle of C. maenas. Exposure of early larval stages of the estuarine species, P. varians, to CO2 and salinity had no effect on either survival or developmental duration. For the predominantly coastal species, P. serratus, developmental duration was negatively influenced by the interaction of elevated CO2 and low salinity, but there was limited observed effect on overall survival at the early stages studied. Overall, evaluations of the effects of climate driven variables on physiological performance demonstrated that differences can occur among broods. In future, further studies are required to incorporate seasonal (and possibly spatial) variability in responses, due to maternal effects or phenotypic variation, as conclusions based on individuals collected over a short time frame are unlikely to fully represent population level responses.

Continue reading ‘Effects of multiple stressors on the development and performance of decapod crustaceans’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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