Ocean acidification (OA) is negatively affecting calcification in a wide variety of marine organisms. These effects are acute for many tropical scleractinian corals under short-term experimental conditions, but it is unclear how these effects interact with ecological processes, such as competition for space, to impact coral communities over multiple years. This study sought to test the use of individual-based models (IBMs) as a tool to scale up the effects of OA recorded in short-term studies to community-scale impacts, combining data from field surveys and mesocosm experiments to parameterize an IBM of coral community recovery on the fore reef of Moorea, French Polynesia. Focusing on the dominant coral genera from the fore reef, Pocillopora, Acropora, Montipora and Porites, model efficacy first was evaluated through the comparison of simulated and empirical dynamics from 2010–2016, when the reef was recovering from sequential acute disturbances (a crown-of-thorns seastar outbreak followed by a cyclone) that reduced coral cover to ~0% by 2010. The model then was used to evaluate how the effects of OA (1,100–1,200 µatm pCO2) on coral growth and competition among corals affected recovery rates (as assessed by changes in % cover y−1) of each coral population between 2010–2016. The model indicated that recovery rates for the fore reef community was halved by OA over 7 years, with cover increasing at 11% y−1 under ambient conditions and 4.8% y−1 under OA conditions. However, when OA was implemented to affect coral growth and not competition among corals, coral community recovery increased to 7.2% y−1, highlighting mechanisms other than growth suppression (i.e., competition), through which OA can impact recovery. Our study reveals the potential for IBMs to assess the impacts of OA on coral communities at temporal and spatial scales beyond the capabilities of experimental studies, but this potential will not be realized unless empirical analyses address a wider variety of response variables representing ecological, physiological and functional domains.
Coccolithophores are unicellular phytoplanktonic organisms characterized by a covering of calcite plates, the coccoliths, which are produced intracellularly. These calcifiers, as one of the main planktonic functional groups, play an important role in the inorganic carbon cycle and possibly as ballast that sinks organic carbon to the deep-sea. Most efforts to understanding coccolithophore response to ocean acidification (OA) –or the raise in atmospheric CO2 reduces ocean pH and saturation states (Ω) of CaCO3– have been through lab experiments, mostly using a small set of strains of the cosmopolitan, easily cultivated species Emiliania huxleyi. This species is especially interesting because it is young (~ 291,000 years) and has adapted to a wide range of marine environments. However, it is not the only coccolithophore and even within that species there is a lot of phenotypic and genetic diversity and diverse responses to OA in the lab. Despite the efforts made it is unclear how the physiological effects under controlled conditions translate to community-level responses in the field. This thesis aimed to contribute to understanding this issue by studying the distribution, composition and realized niches of coccolithophore assemblages and E. huxleyi morphotypes in contrasting pCO2/pH/Ωcalcite environments of the Eastern South Pacific, and to evaluate the responses of different E. huxleyi23 morphotypes to targeted pCO2/pH levels set in the lab. For this, the coccolithophores were surveyed in a coastal-oceanic section, mesotrophic waters, upwelling systems, and fjords-channels of Patagonia. From a total of 40 species, E. huxleyi was the most prevalent (30-100 % relative abundance). Within this taxon, several morphotypes has been described as stable in culture and genetically differentiated (e.g., the A and R morphotypes). The moderately-calcified A morphotype dominated the E. huxleyi populations being only surpassed by the R hyper-calcified morphotype in upwelling systems with high pCO2/low pH. This abrupt shift in the composition of E. huxleyi populations suggested that these coastal environments hold genetic reservoirs for their adaptation to OA. Therefore, the hypothesis was tested that these forms are adapted to resist high pCO2/low pH conditions. Unexpectedly, the morphotypes from the Eastern South Pacific were not more sensitive than the R hyper-calcified strains from neighboring high pCO2/low pH waters (lowering growth rates and PIC/POC ratios). On the other hand, realized-niche analysis showed that the A morphotype has a broader niche that is more tolerant to environmental-change (i.e., generalist) than the R morphotype’s niche, specialized to high pCO2/low pH waters. The lack of evidence for local adaptation to high pCO2/low pH conditions in E. huxleyi, might be explained by a narrow unimodal niche response to Ωcalcite revealed by niche analysis that was not tested experimentally. Alternatively, the R hyper-calcified morphotype might be selected by an unidentified condition particular to the Eastern South Pacific that correlates with temperature, salinity, and Ωcalcite of its realized-niche. Overall, despite their rapid turnover and large population sizes, oceanic planktonic microorganisms do not necessarily exhibit adaptations to high-pCO2 upwelled waters, and this ubiquitous coccolithophore may be near the limit of its capacity to adapt to ongoing OA.
Ocean Alkalinity Enhancement (OAE) simultaneously mitigates atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and ocean acidification; however, no previous studies have investigated the response of the non-linear marine carbonate system sensitivity to alkalinity enhancement on regional scales. We hypothesise that regional implementations of OAE can sequester more atmospheric CO2 than a global implementation. To address this, we investigate physical regimes and alkalinity sensitivity as drivers of the carbon-uptake potential response to global and different regional simulations of OAE. In this idealised ocean-only set-up, total alkalinity is enhanced at a rate of 0.25 Pmol a-1 in 75-year simulations using the Max Planck Institute Ocean Model coupled to the HAMburg Ocean Carbon Cycle model with pre-industrial atmospheric forcing. Alkalinity is enhanced globally and in eight regions: the Subpolar and Subtropical Atlantic and Pacific gyres, the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean. This study reveals that regional alkalinity enhancement has the capacity to exceed carbon uptake by global OAE. We find that 82–175 Pg more carbon is sequestered into the ocean when alkalinity is enhanced regionally and 156 PgC when enhanced globally, compared with the background-state. The Southern Ocean application is most efficient, sequestering 12% more carbon than the Global experiment despite OAE being applied across a surface area 40 times smaller. For the first time, we find that different carbon-uptake potentials are driven by the surface pattern of total alkalinity redistributed by physical regimes across areas of different carbon-uptake efficiencies. We also show that, while the marine carbonate system becomes less sensitive to alkalinity enhancement in all experiments globally, regional responses to enhanced alkalinity vary depending upon the background concentrations of dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity. Furthermore, the Subpolar North Atlantic displays a previously unexpected alkalinity sensitivity increase in response to high total alkalinity concentrations.
Oyster microbiomes are integral to healthy function and can be altered by climate change conditions. Genetic variation among oysters is known to influence the response of oysters to climate change and may ameliorate any adverse effects on oyster microbiome, however, this remains unstudied. Nine full-sibling selected breeding lines of the Sydney rock oyster (Saccostrea glomerata) were exposed to predicted warming (ambient = 24°C, elevated = 28°C) and ocean acidification (ambient pCO2 = 400, elevated pCO2 = 1000 µatm) for four weeks. The haemolymph bacterial microbiome was characterised using 16S rRNA (V3-V4) gene sequencing and varied among oyster lines in the control (ambient pCO2, 24°C) treatment. Microbiomes were also altered by climate change dependent on oyster lines. Bacterial α-diversity increased in response to elevated pCO2 in two selected lines, while bacterial β-diversity was significantly altered by combinations of elevated pCO2 and temperature in four selected lines. Climate change treatments caused shifts in the abundance of multiple Amplicon Sequence Variants (ASVs) driving change in the microbiome of some selected lines. We show that oyster genetic background may influence the Sydney rock oyster haemolymph microbiome under climate change and that future assisted evolution breeding programs to enhance resilience should consider the oyster microbiome.
- Ocean acidification (OA) under delta (∆) pH = – 0.3 (pH ~7.7), but not ∆pH = – 0.1 (pH ~ 7.9) relative to the present (~8.0 pH), reduced the survival, respiration and moulting of phyllosomas of T. australiensis.
- OA under pH ~7.7 adversely affected the attraction of T. australiensis phyllosomas to jellyfish cues.
- The majority of individual metabolites of phyllosomas were suppressed even in mild pH ~ 7.9.
- The interaction between phyllosoma and jellyfish may be impaired under pH ~7.7.
Ocean acidification (OA) can alter the behaviour and physiology of marine fauna and impair their ability to interact with other species, including those in symbiotic and predatory relationships. Phyllosoma larvae of lobsters are symbionts to many invertebrates and often ride and feed on jellyfish, however OA may threaten interactions between phyllosomas and jellyfish. Here, we tested whether OA predicted for surface mid-shelf waters of Great Barrier Reef, Australia, under ∆ pH = −0.1 (pH ~7.9) and ∆pH = −0.3 (pH ~7.7) relative to the present pH (~8.0) (P) impaired the survival, moulting, respiration, and metabolite profiles of phyllosoma larvae of the slipper lobster Thenus australiensis, and the ability of phyllosomas to detect chemical cues of fresh jellyfish tissue. We discovered that OA was detrimental to survival of phyllosomas with only 20% survival under ∆pH = −0.3 compared to 49.2 and 45.3% in the P and ∆pH = −0.1 treatments, respectively. The numbers of phyllosomas that moulted in the P and ∆pH = −0.1 treatments were 40% and 34% higher, respectively, than those in the ∆pH = −0.3 treatment. Respiration rates varied between pH treatments, but were not consistent through time. Respiration rates in the ∆pH = −0.3 and ∆pH = −0.1 treatments were initially 40% and 22% higher, respectively, than in the P treatment on Day 2 and then rates varied to become 26% lower (∆pH = −0.3) and 17% (∆pH = −0.1) higher towards the end of the experiment. Larvae were attracted to jellyfish tissue in treatments P and ∆pH = −0.1 but avoided jellyfish at ∆pH = −0.3. Moreover, OA conditions under ∆pH = −0.1 and ∆pH = −0.3 levels reduced the relative abundances of 22 of the 34 metabolites detected in phyllosomas via Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. Our study demonstrates that the physiology and ability to detect jellyfish tissue by phyllosomas of the lobster T. australiensis may be impaired under ∆pH = −0.3 relative to the present conditions, with potential negative consequences for adult populations of this commercially important species.
Under predicted future ocean conditions, reefs exposed to elevated nutrients will simultaneously experience ocean acidification and elevated temperature. We evaluated if moderate nutrients mitigate, minimize, or exacerbate negative effects of predicted future ocean conditions on coral physiology. For 30 days, Acropora millepora and Turbinaria reniformis were exposed to a fully factorial experiment of eight treatments including two seawater temperatures (26.4 °C and 29.8 °C), pCO2 levels (401 μatm pCO2 and 760 μatm pCO2), and nutrient concentrations (ambient: 0.40 μmol L−1 NO3− and 0.22 μmol L−1 PO43−, and moderate: 3.56 μmol L−1 NO3− and 0.31 μmol L−1 PO43−). Added nitrate was taken up by the algal endosymbionts and transferred to the coral hosts in both species, though to a much higher degree in A. millepora. When exposed to elevated temperature, elevated pCO2, or both, effects observed for chlorophyll a, calcification, biomass, and energy reserves were not compounded by the moderate nutrient concentrations in either species. Moderate nutrients enabled A. millepora to continue to meet daily metabolic demand via photosynthesis under predicted future ocean conditions and T. reniformis to greatly exceed daily metabolic demand via photosynthesis and heterotrophy. Our results suggest that balanced moderate nutrients are not detrimental to corals under predicted future ocean conditions and may even provide some benefits.
We compared the effects of preservation and storage methods on total alkalinity (AT) of seawater, estuarine water, freshwater, and groundwater samples stored for 0–6 months. Water samples, untreated or treated with HgCl2, 0.45 µm filtration, or filtration plus HgCl2, were stored in polypropylene or borosilicate glass vials for 0, 1, or 6 months. Mean AT of samples treated with HgCl2 was reduced by as much as 49.1 µmol kg−1 (1.3%). Borosilicate glass elevated AT, possibly due to dissolving silicates. There was little change in AT of control and filtered samples stored in polypropylene, except for untreated groundwater (~ 4.1% reduction at 6 months). HgCl2 concentrations of 0.02–0.05% reduced the AT of fresh, estuarine, and ground water samples by as much as 35.5 µmol kg−1 after 1 month, but had little effect on the AT of seawater. Adding glucose as a carbon source for microbial growth resulted in no AT changes in 0.45 µm-filtered samples. We suggest water samples intended for AT analyses can be filtered to 0.45 µm, and stored in polypropylene vials at 4 °C for at least 6 months. Borosilicate glassware and HgCl2 can be avoided to prevent analytical uncertainties and reduce risks related to use of Hg2+.
Long-term coral reef resilience to multiple stressors depends on their ability to maintain positive calcification rates. Estimates of coral ecosystem calcification and organic productivity provide insight into the environmental drivers and temporal changes in reef condition. Here, we analyse global spatiotemporal trends and drivers of coral reef calcification using a meta-analysis of ecosystem-scale case studies. A linear mixed effects regression model was used to test whether ecosystem-scale calcification is related to seasonality, methodology, calcifier cover, year, depth, wave action, latitude, duration of data collection, coral reef state, Ωar, temperature and organic productivity. Global ecosystem calcification estimated from changes in seawater carbonate chemistry was driven primarily by depth and benthic calcifier cover. Current and future declines in coral cover will significantly affect the global reef carbonate budget, even before considering the effects of sub-lethal stressors on calcification rates. Repeatedly studied reefs exhibited declining calcification of 4.3 ± 1.9% per year (x̄ = 1.8 ± 0.7 mmol m−2 d−1 yr−1), and increasing organic productivity at 3.0 ± 0.8 mmol m−2 d−1 per year since 1970. Therefore, coral reef ecosystems are experiencing a shift in their essential metabolic processes of calcification and photosynthesis, and could become net dissolving worldwide around 2054.
The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is a globally significant coral reef system supporting productive and diverse ecosystems. The GBR is under increasing threat from climate change and local anthropogenic stressors, with its general condition degrading over recent decades. In response to this, a number of techniques have been proposed to offset or ameliorate environmental changes. In this study, we use a coupled hydrodynamic-biogeochemical model of the GBR and surrounding ocean to simulate artificial ocean alkalinisation (AOA) as a means to reverse the impact of global ocean acidification on GBR reefs. Our results demonstrate that a continuous release of 90 000 t of alkalinity every 3 d over one year along the entire length of the GBR, following the Gladstone-Weipa bulk carrier route, increases the mean aragonite saturation state (Ωar) across the GBR’s 3860 reefs by 0.05. This change offsets just over 4 years (∼4.2) of ocean acidification under the present rate of anthropogenic carbon emissions. The injection raises Ωar in the 250 reefs closest to the route by ⩾0.15, reversing further projected Ocean Acidification. Following cessation of alkalinity injection Ωar returns to the value of the waters in the absence of AOA over a 6 month period, primarily due to transport of additional alkalinity into the Coral Sea. Significantly, our study provides for the first time a model of AOA applied along existing shipping infrastructure that has been used to investigate shelf scale impacts. Thus, amelioration of decades of OA on the GBR is feasible using existing infrastructure, but is likely to be extremely expensive, include as yet unquantified risks, and would need to be undertaken continuously until such time, probably centuries in the future, when atmospheric CO2 concentrations have returned to today’s values.
Anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are driving rapid changes in ocean conditions. Shallow-water coral reefs are experiencing the brunt of these changes, including intensifying marine heatwaves (MHWs) and rapid ocean acidification (OA). Consequently, coral reefs are in broad-scale decline, threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people. Ensuring survival of coral reefs in the 21st century will thus require a new management approach that incorporates robust understanding of reef-scale climate change, the mechanisms by which these changes impact corals, and their potential for adaptation. In this thesis, I extract information from within coral skeletons to 1) Quantify the climate changes occurring on coral reefs and the effects on coral growth, 2) Identify differences in the sensitivity of coral reefs to these changes, and 3) Evaluate the adaptation potential of the keystone reef-building coral, Porites. First, I develop a mechanistic Porites growth model and reveal the physicochemical link between OA and skeletal formation. Ishow that the thickening (densification) of coralskeletal framework is most vulnerable to OA and that, under 21st century climate model projections, OA will reduce Porites skeletal density globally, with greatest impact in the Coral Triangle. Second, I develop an improved metric of thermal stress, and use a skeletal bleaching proxy to quantify coral responses to intensifying heatwaves in the central equatorial Pacific (CEP) since 1982. My work reveals a long history of bleaching in the CEP, and reef-specific differences in thermal tolerance linked to past heatwave exposure implying that, over time, reef communities have adapted to tolerate their unique thermal regimes. Third, I refine the Sr-U paleo-thermometer to enable monthly-resolved sea surface temperatures (SST) generation using laser ablation ICPMS. I show that laser Sr-U accurately captures CEP SST, including the frequency and amplitude of MHWs. Finally, I apply laser Sr-U to reconstruct the past 100 years of SST at Jarvis Island in the CEP, and evaluate my proxy record of bleaching severity in this context. I determine that Porites coral populations on Jarvis Island have not yet adapted to the pace of anthropogenic climate change.
- Increased coccolith calcification degree at high pCO2 and low surface water pH.
- Enhanced glacial E. huxleyi biological pump as a buffer to the excess of pCO2atm.
- Enhanced deglacial E. huxleyi counterpump as a major source of high pCO2sw.
The modern Eastern Equatorial Pacific (EEP) Ocean is a high nutrient low chlorophyll (HNLC) upwelling region and a large oceanic source of carbon to the atmosphere. During the last deglaciation, the EEP played a major role in the outgassing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the upwelling surface water system of CO2-enriched deep-water masses originating from the Southern Ocean. The EEP upwelling system is also fertilizing the surface waters and enhancing the biological pump. Here we present data on the mass and calcification dynamics of the coccolithophore species Emiliania huxleyi spanning the last 30 ky at Site ODP 1238 (1°52.310′S, 82°46.934′W; 2203 m) in the EEP. Our results show an increased coccolith calcification degree during times of high pCO2 and low surface water pH conditions; this unexpected result is tentatively explained as related to changes in homeostasis equilibrium at the site of calcification and between the cell and the seawater environment. We estimated the E. huxleyi particulate inorganic to organic carbon ratio (PIC:POC) in order to detect changes in the carbonate counter-pump to carbon pump activity, which can act as either a positive or negative feedback to atmospheric CO2 modulating air-sea gas exchange. Our study indicates an enhanced coccolithophore biological pump during the last glacial that could have buffered, at least partially, the excess of pCO2atm via absorption into the ocean. Finally, during the last deglaciation, the enhanced carbonate counter pump was a major source of high pCO2sw in the EEP surface ocean.
- We measured and compared traits at sub-organismal and organismal level.
- Temperature, pH and predator cues affected the mussels’ traits.
- Largest mussels were found at 15 °C (control) in presence of predators.
- Crab cues increased mussel’s wet mass and calcification rate.
In order to make adequate projections on the consequences of climate change stressors on marine organisms, it is important to know how impacts of these stressors are affected by the presence of other species. Here we assessed the direct effects of ocean warming (OW) and acidification (OA) along with non-consumptive effects (NCEs) of a predatory crab and/or a predatory snail on the habitat-forming mussel Perumytilus purpuratus. Mussels were exposed for 10–14 weeks to contrasting pCO2 (500 and 1400 μatm) and temperature (15 and 20 °C) levels, in the presence/absence of cues from one or two predator species. We compared mussel traits at sub-organismal (nutritional status, metabolic capacity-ATP production-, cell stress condition via HSP70 expression) and organismal (survival, oxygen consumption, growth, byssus biogenesis, clearance rates, aggregation) levels. OA increased the mussels’ oxygen consumption; and OA combined with OW increased ATP demand and the use of carbohydrate reserves. Mussels at present-day pCO2 levels had the highest protein content. Under OW the predatory snail cues induced the highest cell stress condition on the mussels. Temperature, predator cues and the interaction between them affected mussel growth. Mussels grew larger at the control temperature (15 °C) when crab and snail cues were present. Mussel wet mass and calcification were affected by predator cues; with highest values recorded in crab cue presence (isolated or combined with snail cues). In the absence of predator cues in the trails, byssus biogenesis was affected by OA, OW and the OA × OW and OA × predator cues interactions. At present-day pCO2 levels, more byssus was recorded with snail than with crab cues. Clearance rates were affected by temperature, pCO2 and the interaction between them. The investigated stressors had no effects on mussel aggregation. We conclude that OA, OW and the NCEs may lead to neutral, positive or negative consequences for mussels.
Increasing atmospheric CO2 is driving major environmental changes in the ocean, such as an increase in average ocean temperature, a decrease in average ocean pH (ocean acidification or OA), and an increase in the number and severity of extreme climatic events (e.g., anomalous temperature events and heatwaves). Uncertainty exists in the capacity for species to withstand these stressors occurring concomitantly. Here, we tested whether an acclimation history of ocean warming (OW) and OA affects the physiological responses of an abundant, reef-building species of crustose coralline algae (CCA), Porolithon cf. onkodes, to chronic and acute thermal stress. To address this, we exposed algae to varying temperature and pH levels for 6 weeks and this chronic treatment experiment was followed by an acute exposure to an anomalous temperature event (+4–6°C from acclimation temperature). Net photosynthetic rate was negatively affected across all treatments by increasing temperature during the acute temperature event, however, algae acclimated to the control temperature were able to maintain photosynthetic rates for +4°C above their acclimation temperature, whereas algae acclimated to elevated temperature were not. Average relative change in O2 produced resulted in a 100–175% decrease, with the largest decrease found in algae acclimated to the combined treatment of elevated temperature and reduced pH. We conclude that acclimation to chronic global change stressors (i.e., OW and OA) will reduce the tolerance of P. cf. onkodes to anomalous increases in temperature, and this may have implications for reef building processes.
On the iconic Great Barrier Reef (GBR), the cumulative impacts of tropical cyclones, marine heatwaves and regular outbreaks of coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) have severely depleted coral cover. Climate change will further exacerbate this situation over the coming decades unless effective interventions are implemented. Evaluating the efficacy of alternative interventions in a complex system experiencing major cumulative impacts can only be achieved through a systems modelling approach. We have evaluated combinations of interventions using a coral reef meta-community model. The model consisted of a dynamic network of 3753 reefs supporting communities of corals and CoTS connected through ocean larval dispersal, and exposed to changing regimes of tropical cyclones, flood plumes, marine heatwaves and ocean acidification. Interventions included reducing flood plume impacts, expanding control of CoTS populations, stabilizing coral rubble, managing solar radiation and introducing heat-tolerant coral strains. Without intervention, all climate scenarios resulted in precipitous declines in GBR coral cover over the next 50 years. The most effective strategies in delaying decline were combinations that protected coral from both predation (CoTS control) and thermal stress (solar radiation management) deployed at large scale. Successful implementation could expand opportunities for climate action, natural adaptation and socioeconomic adjustment by at least one to two decades.
Ocean Acidification (OA) can have pervasive effects in calcifying marine organisms, and a better understanding of how different populations respond at the physiological and evolutionary level could help to model the impacts of global change in marine ecosystems. Due to its natural geography and oceanographic processes, the Chilean coast provides a natural laboratory where benthic organisms are frequently exposed to diverse projected OA scenarios. The goal of this study was to assess whether a population of mollusks thriving in a more variable environment (Talcaruca) would present higher phenotypic plasticity in physiological and morphological traits in response to different pCO2 when compared to a population of the same species from a more stable environment (Los Molles). To achieve this, two benthic limpets (Scurria zebrina and Scurria viridula) inhabiting these two contrasting localities were exposed to ocean acidification experimental conditions representing the current pCO2 in the Chilean coast (500 μatm) and the levels predicted for the year 2100 in upwelling zones (1500 (μatm). Our results show that the responses to OA are species-specific, even in this related species. Interestingly, S. viridula showed better performance under OA than S. zebrina (i.e., similar sizes and carbonate content in individuals from both populations; lower effects of acidification on the growth rate combined with a reduction of metabolism at higher pCO2). Remarkably, these characteristics could explain this species’ success in overstepping the biogeographical break in the area of Talcaruca, which S. zebrina cannot achieve. Besides, the results show that the habitat factor has a strong influence on some traits. For instance, individuals from Talcaruca presented a higher growth rate plasticity index and lower shell dissolution rates in acidified conditions than those from Los Molles. These results show that limpets from the variable environment tend to display higher plasticity, buffering the physiological effects of OA compared with limpets from the more stable environment. Taken together, these findings highlight the key role of geographic variation in phenotypic plasticity to determine the vulnerability of calcifying organisms to future scenarios of OA.
According to current experimental evidence, coral reefs could disappear within the century if CO2 emissions remain unabated. However, recent discoveries of diverse and high cover reefs that already thrive under extreme conditions seem to contradict these projections. Volcanic CO2 vents, semi-enclosed lagoons and mangrove estuaries are unique study sites where one or more ecologically relevant parameters for life in the oceans are close or even worse than currently projected for the year 2100. These natural analogues of future conditions hold new hope for the future of coral reefs and provide unique natural laboratories to explore how reef species could keep pace with climate change. To achieve this, it is essential to characterize their environment as a whole, and accurately consider all possible environmental factors that may differ from what is expected in the future and that may possibly alter the ecosystem response.
In this study, we focus on the semi-enclosed lagoon of Bouraké (New Caledonia, SW Pacific Ocean) where a healthy reef ecosystem thrives in warm, acidified and deoxygenated water. We used a multi-scale approach to characterize the main physical-chemical parameters and mapped the benthic community composition (i.e., corals, sponges, and macroalgae). The data revealed that most physical and chemical parameters are regulated by the tide, strongly fluctuate 3 to 4 times a day, and are entirely predictable. The seawater pH and dissolved oxygen decrease during falling tide and reach extreme low values at low tide (7.2 pHT and 1.9 mg O2 L−1 at Bouraké, vs 7.9 pHT and 5.5 mg O2 L−1 at reference reefs). Dissolved oxygen, temperature, and pH fluctuates according to the tide of up to 4.91 mg O2 L−1, 6.50 °C, and 0.69 pHT units on a single day. Furthermore, the concentration of most of the chemical parameters was one- to 5-times higher at the Bouraké lagoon, particularly for organic and inorganic carbon and nitrogen, but also for some nutrients, notably silicates. Surprisingly, despite extreme environmental conditions and altered seawater chemical composition, our results reveal a diverse and high cover community of macroalgae, sponges and corals accounting for 28, 11 and 66 species, respectively. Both environmental variability and nutrient imbalance might contribute to their survival under such extreme environmental conditions. We describe the natural dynamics of the Bouraké ecosystem and its relevance as a natural laboratory to investigate the benthic organism’s adaptive responses to multiple stressors like future climate change conditions.
Ecosystem feedbacks in response to ocean acidification can amplify or diminish the diel pH oscillations that characterize productive coastal waters. We report that benthic microalgae generate such oscillations in the porewater of cohesive sediment and ask how carbonation (acidification) of the overlying seawater alters these in the absence and presence of biogenic calcite. To do so, we placed a 1-mm layer of ground oyster shells (Treatment) or sand (Control) onto intact sediment cores free of large dwelling fauna, and then gradually increased the pCO2 in the seawater above half of the Treatment and Control cores from 472 to 1216 μatm (pH 8.0 to 7.6, CO2:HCO3 from 4.8 to 9.6 x 10-4). Vertical porewater [O2] and [H+] microprofiles measured 16 d later showed that this carbonation had decreased O2 penetration in all cores, indicating a metabolic response. In carbonated seawater: (1) sediment biogeochemical processes added and removed more H+ to and from the porewater in darkness and light, respectively, than in ambient seawater increasing the amplitude of the dark–light porewater [H+] oscillations, and (2) the dissolution of calcite decreased the porewater [H+] below that in overlying seawater, reversing the dark sediment–seawater H+ flux and decreasing the amplitude of diel [H+] oscillations. This dissolution did not, however, counter the negative effect of carbonation on sediment O2 penetration. We hypothesise that the latter effect and the observed enhanced acidification of the sediment porewater were caused by an ecosystem feedback: a CO2-induced increase in the microbial reoxidation of reduced solutes with O2.
Climate change is expected to warm and acidify oceans and alter the phenology of phytoplankton, creating a mismatch between larvae and their food. Transgenerational plasticity (TGP) may allow marine species to acclimate to climate change; however, it is expected that this may come with elevated energetic demands. This study used the oysters, Saccostrea glomerata and Crassostrea gigas, to test the effects of adult parental exposure to elevated pCO2 and temperature on larvae during starvation and recovery. It was anticipated that beneficial effects of TGP will be limited when larvae oyster are starved. Transgenerational responses and lipid reserves of larvae were measured for 2 weeks. Larvae of C. gigas and S. glomerata from parents exposed to elevated pCO2 had greater survival when exposed to elevated CO2, but this differed between species and temperature. For S. glomerata, survival of larvae was greatest when the conditions experienced by larvae matched the condition of their parents. For C. gigas, survival of larvae was greater when parents and larvae were exposed to elevated pCO2. Larvae of both species used lipids when starved. The total lipid content was dependent on parental exposure and temperature. Against expectations, the beneficial TGP responses of larvae remained, despite starvation.
Volcanic CO2 seeps are natural laboratories that can provide insights into the adaptation of species to ocean acidification. Whilst many species are challenged by reduced pH levels, some species benefit from the altered environment and thrive. Here, we explore the molecular mechanisms of adaptation to ocean acidification in a population of a temperate fish species that experiences increased population sizes under elevated CO2. Fish from CO2 seeps exhibited an overall increased gene expression in gonad tissue compared to those from ambient CO2 sites. Up‐regulated genes at CO2 seeps are possible targets of adaptive selection as they can directly influence the physiological performance of fishes exposed to ocean acidification. Most of the up‐regulated genes at seeps were functionally involved in the maintenance of pH homeostasis and increased metabolism, and presented a deviation from neutral evolution expectations in their patterns of DNA polymorphisms, providing evidence for adaptive selection to ocean acidification. The targets of this adaptive selection are likely regulatory sequences responsible for the increased expression of these genes which would allow a fine‐tuned physiological regulation to maintain homeostasis and thrive at CO2 seeps. Our findings reveal that standing genetic variation in DNA sequences regulating the expression of genes in response to a reduced pH environment could provide for adaptive potential to near‐future ocean acidification in fishes. Moreover, with this study we provide a forthright methodology combining transcriptomics and genomics which can be applied to infer the adaptive potential to different environmental conditions in wild marine populations.
Southeast Asia is a hotspot of riverine export of terrigenous organic carbon to the ocean, accounting for ~10% of the global land-to-ocean riverine flux of terrigenous dissolved organic carbon (tDOC). While anthropogenic disturbance is thought to have increased the tDOC loss from peatlands in Southeast Asia, the fate of this tDOC in the marine environment and the potential impacts of its remineralization on coastal ecosystems remain poorly understood. We collected a multi-year biogeochemical time series in the central Sunda Shelf (Singapore Strait), where the seasonal reversal of ocean currents delivers water masses from the South China Sea first before (during Northeast Monsoon) and then after (during Southwest Monsoon) they have mixed with run-off from peatlands on Sumatra. The concentration and stable isotope composition of dissolved organic carbon, and colored dissolved organic matter spectra, reveal a large input of tDOC to our site during Southwest Monsoon. Using isotope mass balance calculations, we show that 60–70% of the original tDOC input is remineralized in the coastal waters of the Sunda Shelf, causing seasonal acidification by up to 0.10 pH units. The persistent CO2 oversaturation drives a CO2 efflux of 4.1 – 8.2 mol C m-2 yr-1 from the Singapore Strait, suggesting that a large proportion of the remineralized peatland tDOC is ultimately emitted to the atmosphere. However, incubation experiments show that the remaining 30–40% tDOC exhibits surprisingly low lability to microbial and photochemical degradation, suggesting that up to 20–30% of peatland tDOC might be relatively refractory and exported to the open ocean.