Posts Tagged 'South Pacific'

Climate change could drive marine food web collapse through altered trophic flows and cyanobacterial proliferation

Global warming and ocean acidification are forecast to exert significant impacts on marine ecosystems worldwide. However, most of these projections are based on ecological proxies or experiments on single species or simplified food webs. How energy fluxes are likely to change in marine food webs in response to future climates remains unclear, hampering forecasts of ecosystem functioning. Using a sophisticated mesocosm experiment, we model energy flows through a species-rich multilevel food web, with live habitats, natural abiotic variability, and the potential for intra- and intergenerational adaptation. We show experimentally that the combined stress of acidification and warming reduced energy flows from the first trophic level (primary producers and detritus) to the second (herbivores), and from the second to the third trophic level (carnivores). Warming in isolation also reduced the energy flow from herbivores to carnivores, the efficiency of energy transfer from primary producers and detritus to herbivores and detritivores, and the living biomass of detritivores, herbivores, and carnivores. Whilst warming and acidification jointly boosted primary producer biomass through an expansion of cyanobacteria, this biomass was converted to detritus rather than to biomass at higher trophic levels—i.e., production was constrained to the base of the food web. In contrast, ocean acidification affected the food web positively by enhancing trophic flow from detritus and primary producers to herbivores, and by increasing the biomass of carnivores. Our results show how future climate change can potentially weaken marine food webs through reduced energy flow to higher trophic levels and a shift towards a more detritus-based system, leading to food web simplification and altered producer–consumer dynamics, both of which have important implications for the structuring of benthic communities.

Continue reading ‘Climate change could drive marine food web collapse through altered trophic flows and cyanobacterial proliferation’

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’

Sensitivity to ocean acidification differs between populations of the Sydney rock oyster: role of filtration and ion-regulatory capacities


• We investigated the underlying physiology of higher OA resilience of oysters selected for higher growth.
• OA exposure affected hemolymph pH and PCO2 in wild but not in selected oysters.
• Selected oysters have a higher systemic capacity to release metabolic CO2 under OA.
• High capacity for CO2 release correlates with lower gill MO2 and high filtration rates.
• High and energy efficient filtration rates may promote OA resilience in oysters.


Understanding mechanisms of intraspecific variation in resilience to environmental drivers is key to predict species’ adaptive potential. Recent studies show a higher CO2 resilience of Sydney rock oysters selectively bred for increased growth and disease resistance (‘selected oysters’) compared to the wild population. We tested whether the higher resilience of selected oysters correlates with an increased ability to compensate for CO2-induced acid-base disturbances. After 7 weeks of exposure to elevated seawater PCO2 (1100 μatm), wild oysters had a lower extracellular pH (pHe = 7.54 ± 0.02 (control) vs. 7.40 ± 0.03 (elevated PCO2)) and increased hemolymph PCO2 whereas extracellular acid-base status of selected oysters remained unaffected. However, differing pHe values between oyster types were not linked to altered metabolic costs of major ion regulators (Na+/K+-ATPase, H+-ATPase and Na+/H+-exchanger) in gill and mantle tissues. Our findings suggest that selected oysters possess an increased systemic capacity to eliminate metabolic CO2, possibly through higher and energetically more efficient filtration rates and associated gas exchange. Thus, effective filtration and CO2 resilience might be positively correlated traits in oysters.

Continue reading ‘Sensitivity to ocean acidification differs between populations of the Sydney rock oyster: role of filtration and ion-regulatory capacities’

Heatwaves diminish the survival of a subtidal gastropod through reduction in energy budget and depletion of energy reserves

Extreme climatic events, such as heatwaves, are predicted to be more prevalent in future due to global climate change. The devastating impacts of heatwaves on the survival of marine organisms may be further intensified by ocean acidification. Here, we tested the hypothesis that prolonged exposure to heatwave temperatures (24 °C, +3 °C summer seawater temperature) would diminish energy budget, body condition and ultimately survival of a subtidal gastropod (Thalotia conica) by pushing close to its critical thermal maximum (CTmax). We also tested whether ocean acidification (pCO2: 1000 ppm) affects energy budget, CTmax and hence survival of this gastropod. Following the 8-week experimental period, mortality was markedly higher at 24 °C irrespective of pCO2 level, probably attributed to energy deficit (negative scope for growth) and concomitant depletion of energy reserves (reduced organ weight to flesh weight ratio). CTmax of T. conica appeared at 27 °C and was unaffected by ocean acidification. Our findings imply that prolonged exposure to heatwaves can compromise the survival of marine organisms below CTmax via disruption in energy homeostasis, which possibly explains their mass mortality in the past heatwave events. Therefore, heatwaves would have more profound effects than ocean acidification on future marine ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Heatwaves diminish the survival of a subtidal gastropod through reduction in energy budget and depletion of energy reserves’

Low and variable ecosystem calcification in a coral reef lagoon under natural acidification

Laboratory-based CO2 experiments and studies of naturally low pH coral reef ecosystems reveal negative impacts of ocean acidification on the calcifying communities that build coral reefs. Conversely, in Palau’s low pH lagoons, coral cover is high, coral communities are diverse, and calcification rates of two reef-building corals exhibit no apparent sensitivity to the strong natural gradient in pH and aragonite saturation state (Ωar). We developed two methods to quantify rates of Net Ecosystem Calcification (NEC), the ecosystem-level balance between calcification and dissolution, in Risong Lagoon, where average daily pH is ∼ 7.9 and Ωar ∼ 2.7. While coral cover in the lagoon is within the range of other Pacific reefs (∼ 26%), NEC rates were among the lowest measured, averaging 25.9 ± 13.7 mmol m−2 d−1 over two 4 d study periods. NEC rates were highly variable, ranging from a low of 13.7 mmol m−2 d−1 in March 2012 to a high of 40.3 mmol m−2 d−1 in November 2013, despite no significant changes in temperature, salinity, inorganic nutrients, Ωar, or pH. Our results indicate that the coral reef community of Risong Lagoon produces just enough calcium carbonate to maintain net positive calcification but comes dangerously close to net zero or negative NEC (net dissolution). Identifying the factors responsible for low NEC rates as well as the drivers of NEC variability in naturally low pH reef systems are key to predicting their futures under 21st century climate change.

Continue reading ‘Low and variable ecosystem calcification in a coral reef lagoon under natural acidification’

Reduced spore germination explains sensitivity of reef-building algae to climate change stressors

Reduced seawater pH and changes in carbonate chemistry associated with ocean acidification (OA) decrease the recruitment of crustose coralline algae (CCAcf.), an important coral-reef builder. However, it is unclear whether the observed decline in recruitment is driven by impairment of spore germination, or post-settlement processes (e.g. space competition). To address this, we conducted an experiment using a dominant CCA, Porolithon cf. onkodes to test the independent and combined effects of OA, warming, and irradiance on its germination success and early development. Elevated CO2 negatively affected several processes of spore germination, including formation of the germination disc, initial growth, and germling survival. The magnitude of these effects varied depending on the levels of temperature and irradiance. For example, the combination of high CO2 and high temperature reduced formation of the germination disc, but this effect was independent of irradiance levels, while spore abnormalities increased under high CO2 and high temperature particularly in combination with low irradiance intensity. This study demonstrates that spore germination of CCA is impacted by the independent and interactive effects of OA, increasing seawater temperature and irradiance intensity. For the first time, this provides a mechanism for how the sensitivity of critical early life history processes to global change may drive declines of adult populations of key marine calcifiers.

Continue reading ‘Reduced spore germination explains sensitivity of reef-building algae to climate change stressors’

Climate change projections for the surface ocean around New Zealand

The future status of the surface ocean around New Zealand was projected using two Earth System Models and four emission scenarios. By 2100 mean changes are largest under Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5), with a +2.5°C increase in sea surface temperature, and decreases in surface mixed layer depth (15%), macronutrients (7.5–20%), primary production (4.5%) and particle flux (12%). Largest macronutrient declines occur in the eastern Chatham Rise and subantarctic waters to the south, whereas dissolved iron increases in subtropical waters. Surface pH projections, validated against subantarctic time-series data, indicate a 0.335 decline to ∼7.77 by 2100. However, projected pH is sensitive to future CO2 emissions, remaining within the current range under RCP2.6, but decreasing below it by 2040 with all other scenarios. Sub-regions vulnerable to climate change include the Chatham Rise, polar waters south of 50°S, and subtropical waters north of New Zealand, whereas the central Tasman Sea is least affected.

Continue reading ‘Climate change projections for the surface ocean around New Zealand’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book