Posts Tagged 'South Pacific'

Local habitat influences on feeding and respiration of the intertidal mussels Perumytilus purpuratus exposed to increased pCO2 levels

Coastal ecosystems are exposed to changes in physical-chemical properties, such as those occurring in upwelling and freshwater-influenced areas. In these areas, inorganic carbon can influence seawater properties that may affect organisms and populations inhabiting benthic habitats such as the intertidal mussel Perumytilus purpuratus. Feeding and metabolic responses were measured in adult mussels from two geographic regions (central and southern Chile) and two local habitats (river-influenced and non-river-influenced) and three pCO2 levels (380, 750, and 1200 μatm pCO2 in seawater). The feeding rates of mussels tend to increase at high pCO2 levels in seawater; however this response was variable across regions and local habitats. In contrast, there was no difference in the respiratory rate of mussels between geographic areas, but there was a significant reduction of oxygen consumption at intermediate and high levels of pCO2. The results indicate that river-influenced organisms compensate for reductions in metabolic cost at elevated pCO2 levels by having their energy demands met, in contrast with non-river-influenced organisms. The lack of regional-scale variability in the physiological performance of mussels may indicate physiological homogeneity across populations and thus potential for local adaptation. However, the local-scale influences of river- and non-river-influenced habitats may counterbalance this regional response promoting intra-population variability and phenotypic plasticity in P. purpuratus. The plasticity may be an important mechanism that allows mussels to confront the challenges of projected ocean acidification scenarios.

Continue reading ‘Local habitat influences on feeding and respiration of the intertidal mussels Perumytilus purpuratus exposed to increased pCO2 levels’

Decoupling between the response of coral calcifying fluid pH and calcification to ocean acidification

Evaluating the factors responsible for differing species-specific sensitivities to declining seawater pH is central to understanding the mechanisms via which ocean acidification (OA) affects coral calcification. We report here the results of an experiment comparing the responses of the coral Acropora yongei and Pocillopora damicornis to differing pH levels (8.09, 7.81, and 7.63) over an 8-week period. Calcification of A. youngei was reduced by 35% at pH 7.63, while calcification of P. damicornis was unaffected. The pH in the calcifying fluid (pHcf) was determined using δ11B systematics, and for both species pHcf declined slightly with seawater pH, with the decrease being more pronounced in P. damicornis. The dissolved inorganic carbon concentration at the site of calcification (DICcf) was estimated using geochemical proxies (B/Ca and δ11B) and found to be double that of seawater DIC, and increased in both species as seawater pH decreased. As a consequence, the decline of the saturation state at the site of calcification (Ωcf) with OA was partially moderated by the DICcf increase. These results highlight that while pHcf, DICcf and Ωcf are important in the mineralization process, some corals are able to maintain their calcification rates despite shifts in their calcifying fluid carbonate chemistry.

Continue reading ‘Decoupling between the response of coral calcifying fluid pH and calcification to ocean acidification’

Effect of ocean acidification on the ecology of two tropical crustose coralline algae (phylum Rhodophyta)

Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are important members of coral reef communities. They accrete and consolidate the calcium carbonate framework of coral reefs, and some species are an important settlement substratum for coral larvae. CCA community composition is shaped, at least in part, by herbivory and competition. However, ocean acidification (OA) is negatively affecting CCA, with potential to affect CCA responses to herbivory (wounding) and their ability to compete for space. Changes in seawater chemistry because of OA cause reductions in the recruitment, abundance, and net calcification of CCA. In this thesis, the effects of OA on net calcification, regeneration of wounds, and competition was quantified for two species of CCA common in the back reefs of Mo’orea, French Polynesia; Porolithon onkodes and Lithophyllum insipidum. Three separate experiments were conducted in four flowing seawater tanks (flumes), each set to a different target pCO2 level representative of ambient (~ 400 µatm) or predicted end of the 21 century pCO2 (~ 700, 1000, and 1300 µatm). P. onkodes, was found to be the most abundant species of CCA in the back reefs of Mo’orea, followed by L. flavescens and L. insipidum. The abundance of P. onkodes is likely a direct result of its competitive ability. P. onkodes is thicker on average than the other common CCA in the back reefs of Mo’orea, and thicker species generally become dominant in areas of intense herbivory, such as coral reefs. In a flume experiment conducted from January to March 2016, net calcification declined 85% in P. onkodes at elevated pCO2 compared to a decline of 42% in L. insipidum, indicating that P. onkodes may be more negatively affected by OA. The differential responses to OA found here could alter the outcome of competitive interactions between P. onkodes and L. insipidum, leading to changes in the abundances of these species in CCA communities. Few studies have quantified the potential for OA to interact with natural disturbances, such as wounding of the thallus by herbivores. A flume experiment conducted from May to July 2016 found that there was a 58% reduction in the rate of vertical regeneration of artificial wounds within P. onkodes at elevated pCO2. This result could have important implications for the response of P. onkodes to grazing by excavating herbivores like parrotfish and sea urchins. Inability for CCA to recover from wounding, could increase the susceptibility of CCA to further wounding. In addition, the reductions in vertical regeneration of the wounds could also be indicative of reduced vertical growth rates. CCA with thicker thalli generally outcompete thinner CCA. Reduced vertical growth rates could reduce thallus thickness, and affect the outcome of competitive interactions among CCA. A flume experiment conducted from June to July 2016 found that there was no effect of elevated pCO2 on the outcome of competitive interactions between P. onkodes and L. insipidum. It is likely that this result may have been due to the relatively short duration of this experiment (one month). There was, however, an effect of the identity of the competitor on the proportion of live tissue remaining in focal individuals of P. onkodes. The proportion of live tissue remaining in focal individuals of P. onkodes was significantly lower in intraspecific pairings than in interspecific pairings or when paired with non-living substrate (controls). This result highlights the importance of including both intraspecific and interspecific interactions in future studies of the effects of OA on competition. Experiments of longer durations may elucidate the potential for elevated pCO2 to affect competition among CCA. CCA are ecologically important members of coral reefs. Changes in the community composition of CCA on coral reefs, because of altered competitive abilities under elevated pCO2, could affect the roles that CCA play in building and maintain coral reef ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Effect of ocean acidification on the ecology of two tropical crustose coralline algae (phylum Rhodophyta)’

Ocean life breaking rules by building shells in acidic extremes

Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuel combustion is acidifying our oceans [1,2] . This acidification is expected to have negative effects on calcifying animals because it affects their ability to build shells [3,4]. However, the effects of ocean acidification in natural environments, subject to ecological and evolutionary processes (such as predation, competition, and adaptation), is uncertain [5,6]. These processes may buffer, or even reverse, the direct, short-term effects principally measured in laboratory experiments (for example, [6] ). Here we describe the discovery of marine snails living at a shallow-water CO2 vent in the southwest Pacific, an environment 30 times more acidic than normal seawater (Figure 1). By measuring the chemical fingerprints locked within the shell material, we show that these snails have a restricted range of movement, which suggests that they live under these conditions for their entire lives. The existence of these snails demonstrates that calcifying animals can build their shells under the acidic and corrosive conditions caused by extreme CO2 enrichment. This unforeseen capacity, whether driven by ecological or adaptive processes, is key to understanding whether calcifying life may survive a high-CO2 future.

Continue reading ‘Ocean life breaking rules by building shells in acidic extremes’

Maximum thermal limits of coral reef damselfishes are size-dependent and resilient to near-future ocean acidification

Theoretical models predict that ocean acidification, caused by increased dissolved CO2, will reduce the maximum thermal limits of fishes, thereby increasing their vulnerability to rising ocean temperatures and transient heatwaves. Here, we test this prediction in three species of damselfishes on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Maximum thermal limits were quantified using critical thermal maxima (CTmax) tests following acclimation to either present-day or end-of-century levels of CO2 for coral reef environments (∼500 or ∼1,000 µatm, respectively). While species differed significantly in their thermal limits, whereby Dischistodus perspicillatus exhibited greater CTmax (37.88±0.03oC; N=47) than Dascyllus aruanus (37.68±0.02oC; N=85) and Acanthochromis polyacanthus (36.58±0.02oC; N=63), end-of-century CO2 had no effect (D. aruanus) or a slightly positive effect (increase in CTmax of 0.16oC in D. perspicillatus and 0.21oC in A. polyacanthus) on CTmax. Contrary to expectations, smaller individuals were equally as resilient to CO2 as larger conspecifics, and CTmax was higher at smaller body sizes in two species. These findings suggest that ocean acidification will not impair the maximum thermal limits of reef fishes, and they highlight the critical role of experimental biology in testing predictions of theoretical models forecasting the consequences of environmental change.

Continue reading ‘Maximum thermal limits of coral reef damselfishes are size-dependent and resilient to near-future ocean acidification’

Exposure to elevated pCO2 does not exacerbate reproductive suppression of Aurelia aurita jellyfish polyps in low oxygen environments

Eutrophication-induced hypoxia is one of the primary anthropogenic threats to coastal ecosystems. Under hypoxic conditions, a deficit of O2 and a surplus of CO2 will concurrently decrease pH, yet studies of hypoxia have seldom considered the potential interactions with elevated pCO2 (reduced pH). Previous studies on gelatinous organisms concluded that they are fairly robust to low oxygen and reduced pH conditions individually, yet the combination of stressors has only been examined for ephyrae. The goals of this study were to determine the individual and interactive effects of hypoxia and elevated pCO2 on the asexual reproduction and aerobic respiration rates of polyps of the scyphozoan Aurelia aurita during a manipulative experiment that ran for 36 d. pCO2 and pO2 were varied on a diel basis to closely mimic the diel conditions observed in the field. Exposure to low dissolved oxygen (DO) reduced asexual budding of polyps by ~50% relative to control conditions. Under hypoxic conditions, rates of respiration were elevated during an initial acclimation period (until Day 8), but respiration rates did not differ between DO levels under prolonged exposure. There was no significant effect of increased pCO2 on either asexual reproduction or aerobic respiration, suggesting that elevated pCO2 (reduced pH) did not exacerbate the negative reproductive effects of hypoxia on A. aurita polyps.

Continue reading ‘Exposure to elevated pCO2 does not exacerbate reproductive suppression of Aurelia aurita jellyfish polyps in low oxygen environments’

Combined effects of ocean acidification with morphology, water flow, and algal acclimation on metabolic rates of tropical coralline algae

Coral reefs are currently facing multiple stressors that threaten their health and function, including ocean acidification (OA). OA has been shown to negatively affect many reef calcifiers, such as coralline algae that provide many critical contributions to reef systems. Past studies have focused on how OA independently influences coralline algae, but more research is necessary as it is expected that the effects of OA on coralline algae will vary depending on many other factors. To better understand how algal morphology, water flow, and algal acclimation interact with OA to affect coralline algae, three studies were conducted in Moorea, French Polynesia, from June 2015 to July 2016. In January 2016, I tested the hypothesis that algal individuals with higher morphological complexity would exhibit faster metabolic rates under ambient pCO2 conditions, but would also demonstrate higher sensitivity to OA conditions. For three species of crustose coralline algae, Lithophyllum kotschyanum, Neogoniolithon frutescens, and Hydrolithon reinboldii, algal individuals with more complex morphologies demonstrated faster rates of calcification, photosynthesis, and respiration in the ambient pCO2 treatment than individuals with simpler morphological forms. There also appeared to be a relationship between morphology and sensitivity to OA conditions, with calcification rates negatively correlated with higher morphological complexity. In the summers of 2015 and 2016, I conducted three experiments examining the effects of water flow and OA on different morphologies of coralline algae to test the hypotheses that increased flow would enhance metabolic rates and mitigate the effects of OA, and that algae with more complex morphologies would be more responsive to increased water flow and more sensitive to OA conditions. A field experiment investigating the effects of water flow on Amphiroa fragilissima, L. kotschyanum, N. frutescens, and H. reinboldii detected enhanced rates of calcification, photosynthesis, and respiration with increased flow, and this relationship appeared to be the strongest for the crustose algal species with the highest structural complexity. A flume manipulation examining the combined effects of water flow and OA on A. fragilissima, L. kotschyanum, N. frutescens, H. reinboldii, and Porolithon onkodes suggested that coralline algal species with high structural complexity were the most sensitive to OA conditions. Finally, A. fragilissima and L. kotschyanum were maintained in different pCO2 and water flow conditions in a long-term mesocosm experiment, which indicated that flow was unable to mitigate the effects of OA on coralline algae. In the summer of 2016, I investigated the acclimation potential of A. fragilissima and L. kotschyanum to OA, and predicted that the original treatment conditions would induce phenotypic modifications that would influence algal responses to the end treatment. There were negative effects of long-term exposure of coralline algae to elevated pCO2 conditions on calcification and photosynthesis, though partial acclimation in calcification to OA was observed. The instantaneous exposure of elevated pCO2 had negative impacts on algal calcification, but had a nominal effect on photosynthesis. No effects of long-term or instantaneous exposure to elevated pCO2 were observed for respiration. The results of these studies indicate that the coralline algal response to OA conditions will likely be complex and depend on numerous factors including water flow, morphology, and acclimation potential. Therefore, it is critical that future studies further investigate the effects of these factors; specifically examining the mechanisms that underlie these responses in order to better predict the future of coralline algae and thus coral reef ecosystems in a more acidic ocean.

Continue reading ‘Combined effects of ocean acidification with morphology, water flow, and algal acclimation on metabolic rates of tropical coralline algae’


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