Posts Tagged 'South Pacific'

Paradise lost: end‐of‐century warming and acidification under business‐as‐usual emissions have severe consequences for symbiotic corals

Despite recent efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, current global emission trajectories are still following the business‐as‐usual RCP8.5 emission pathway. The resulting ocean warming and acidification have transformative impacts on coral reef ecosystems, detrimentally affecting coral physiology and health, and these impacts are predicted to worsen in the near future. In this study, we kept fragments of the symbiotic corals Acropora intermedia (thermally sensitive) and Porites lobata (thermally tolerant) for 7 weeks under an orthogonal design of predicted end‐of‐century RCP8.5 conditions for temperature and pCO2 (3.5 °C and 570 ppm above present‐day respectively) to unravel how temperature and acidification, individually or interactively, influence metabolic and physiological performance. Our results pinpoint thermal stress as the dominant driver of deteriorating health in both species because of its propensity to destabilize coral‐dinoflagellate symbiosis (bleaching). Acidification had no influence on metabolism but had a significant negative effect on skeleton growth, particularly when photosynthesis was absent such as in bleached corals or under dark conditions. Total loss of photosynthesis after bleaching caused an exhaustion of protein and lipid stores and collapse of calcification that ultimately led to A. intermedia mortality. Despite complete loss of symbionts from its tissue, P. lobata maintained small amounts of photosynthesis and experienced a weaker decline in lipid and protein reserves that presumably contributed to higher survival of this species. Our results indicate that ocean warming and acidification under business‐as‐usual CO2 emission scenarios will likely extirpate thermally‐sensitive coral species before the end of the century, while slowing the recovery of more thermally‐tolerant species from increasingly severe mass coral bleaching and mortality. This could ultimately lead to the gradual disappearance of tropical coral reefs globally, and a shift on surviving reefs to only the most resilient coral species.

Continue reading ‘Paradise lost: end‐of‐century warming and acidification under business‐as‐usual emissions have severe consequences for symbiotic corals’

Antagonistic interplay between pH and food resources affects copepod traits and performance in a year-round upwelling system

Linking pH/pCO2 natural variation to phenotypic traits and performance of foundational species provides essential information for assessing and predicting the impact of ocean acidification (OA) on marine ecosystems. Yet, evidence of such linkage for copepods, the most abundant metazoans in the oceans, remains scarce, particularly for naturally corrosive Eastern Boundary Upwelling systems (EBUs). This study assessed the relationship between pH levels and traits (body and egg size) and performance (ingestion rate (IR) and egg reproduction rate (EPR)) of the numerically dominant neritic copepod Acartia tonsa, in a year-round upwelling system of the northern (23° S) Humboldt EBUs. The study revealed decreases in chlorophyll (Chl) ingestion rate, egg production rate and egg size with decreasing pH as well as egg production efficiency, but the opposite for copepod body size. Further, ingestion rate increased hyperbolically with Chl, and saturated at ~1 µg Chl. L−1. Food resources categorized as high (H, >1 µg L−1) and low (L,  7.89) and future (>400 µatm pCO2, pH < 7.89) were used to compare our observations to values globally employed to experimentally test copepod sensitivity to OA. A comparison (PERMANOVA) test with Chl/pH (2*2) design showed that partially overlapping OA levels expected for the year 2100 in other ocean regions, low-pH conditions in this system negatively impacted traits and performance associated with copepod fitness. However, interacting antagonistically with pH, food resource (Chl) maintained copepod production in spite of low pH levels. Thus, the deleterious effects of ocean acidification are modulated by resource availability in this system.

Continue reading ‘Antagonistic interplay between pH and food resources affects copepod traits and performance in a year-round upwelling system’

Impact of ocean acidification on the metabolome of the brown macroalgae Lobophora rosacea from New Caledonia


• Metabolomic responses of Lobophora rosacea are compared at different pH.

• Significant metabolomic differences are observed in situ between control and lower pH.

• An ex situ experiment demonstrates a short-term effect of ocean acidification.

• The concentration of metabolites related to lobophorenols decreases at low pH.

• We suggest a down-regulation of metabolic pathways involving oxylipins or their transformation when decreasing the pH


Macroalgae are critical components of coral reef ecosystems. Yet, they compete for space with corals, and in case of environmental disturbances, they are increasingly involved in phase-shifts from coral-dominated to macroalgae-dominated reefs. As regard to climate change, ocean acidification (OA) has been shown to be detrimental to corals and could favor macroalgal proliferations. However, little is known about the effects of OA on macroalgal phenotypes. Comparative metabolomic studies are particularly relevant to assess phenotypic responses of macroalgae to stress as some seaweed are known to produce a large diversity of specialized metabolites involved in various ecological functions. The main aim of our study was to explore the impact of OA on the metabolome of brown macroalgae using Lobophora rosacea as a model species. This species is widespread in New Caledonian lagoons where it is a key component of coral-algal interactions. Metabolomic changes were analyzed using Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (UPLC-HRMS) applied to three different OA scenarii: low and variable pH over a long-term timescale (in situ at Bouraké), low and constant pH over a short-term timescale (ex situ experiment), and current pH (control). Different metabotypes were defined in diverse pH conditions, and a significant decrease in some specialized metabolites concentrations was noticed at low pH including lobophorenols B and C as well as other oxylipin derivatives. We suggest a down-regulation of metabolic pathways involving lobophorenols, in low pH conditions, or their transformation, which is in accordance with the optimal defense theory. In addition, we used Microtox® bioassays as a proxy for macroalgal toxicity and found no significant differences between low pH and control samples. This study details the first metabolomic-based study on a fleshy macroalgae in response to OA and provides new insights for this important functional group producing a large number of metabolites in response to their close environment.

Continue reading ‘Impact of ocean acidification on the metabolome of the brown macroalgae Lobophora rosacea from New Caledonia’

Ocean acidification does not impair the behaviour of coral reef fishes

The partial pressure of CO2 in the oceans has increased rapidly over the past century, driving ocean acidification and raising concern for the stability of marine ecosystems1,2,3. Coral reef fishes are predicted to be especially susceptible to end-of-century ocean acidification on the basis of several high-profile papers4,5 that have reported profound behavioural and sensory impairments—for example, complete attraction to the chemical cues of predators under conditions of ocean acidification. Here, we comprehensively and transparently show that—in contrast to previous studies—end-of-century ocean acidification levels have negligible effects on important behaviours of coral reef fishes, such as the avoidance of chemical cues from predators, fish activity levels and behavioural lateralization (left–right turning preference). Using data simulations, we additionally show that the large effect sizes and small within-group variances that have been reported in several previous studies are highly improbable. Together, our findings indicate that the reported effects of ocean acidification on the behaviour of coral reef fishes are not reproducible, suggesting that behavioural perturbations will not be a major consequence for coral reef fishes in high CO2 oceans.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification does not impair the behaviour of coral reef fishes’

Diel temperature and pH variability scale with depth across diverse coral reef habitats

Coral reefs are facing intensifying stressors, largely due to global increases in seawater temperature and decreases in pH. However, there is extensive environmental variability within coral reef ecosystems, which can impact how organisms respond to global trends. We deployed spatial arrays of autonomous sensors across distinct shallow coral reef habitats to determine patterns of spatiotemporal variability in seawater physicochemical parameters. Temperature and pH were positively correlated over the course of a day due to solar heating and light‐driven metabolism. The mean temporal and spatial ranges of temperature and pH were positively correlated across all sites, with different regimes of variability observed in different reef types. Ultimately, depth was a reliable predictor of the average diel ranges in both seawater temperature and pH. These results demonstrate that there is widespread environmental variability on diel timescales within coral reefs related to water column depth, which needs to be included in assessments of how global change will locally affect reef ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Diel temperature and pH variability scale with depth across diverse coral reef habitats’

Elevated CO2 and food ration affect growth but not the size-based hierarchy of a reef fish

Under projected levels of ocean acidification, shifts in energetic demands and food availability could interact to effect the growth and development of marine organisms. Changes to individual growth rates could then flow on to influence emergent properties of social groups, particularly in species that form size-based hierarchies. To test the potential interactive effects of (1) food availability, (2) elevated CO2 during juvenile development, and (3) parental experience of elevated CO2 on the growth, condition and size-based hierarchy of juvenile fish, we reared orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula) for 50 days post-hatching in a fully orthogonal design. Development in elevated CO2 reduced standard length and weight of juveniles, by 9% and 11% respectively, compared to ambient. Development under low food availability reduced length and weight of juveniles by 7% and 15% respectively, compared to high food. Parental exposure to elevated CO2 restored the length of juveniles to that of controls, but it did not restore weight, resulting in juveniles from elevated CO2 parents exhibiting 33% lower body condition when reared in elevated CO2. The body size ratios (relative size of a fish from the rank above) within juvenile groups were not affected by any treatment, suggesting relative robustness of group-level structure despite alterations in individual size and condition. This study demonstrates that both food availability and elevated CO2 can influence the physical attributes of juvenile reef fish, but these changes may not disrupt the emergent group structure of this social species, at least amongst juveniles.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 and food ration affect growth but not the size-based hierarchy of a reef fish’

Elevated CO2 affects anxiety but not a range of other behaviours in juvenile yellowtail kingfish


  • The effects of elevated CO2 on behaviours of kingfish were trait specific.
  • Elevated CO2 increased anxiety in kingfish.
  • Exposure to high temperature in isolation had no significant effect on any trait.


Elevated seawater CO2 can cause a range of behavioural impairments in marine fishes. However, most studies to date have been conducted on small benthic species and very little is known about how higher oceanic CO2 levels could affect the behaviour of large pelagic species. Here, we tested the effects of elevated CO2, and where possible the interacting effects of high temperature, on a range of ecologically important behaviours (anxiety, routine activity, behavioural lateralization and visual acuity) in juvenile yellowtail kingfish, Seriola lalandi. Kingfish were reared from the egg stage to 25 days post-hatch in a full factorial design of ambient and elevated CO2 (∼500 and ∼1000 μatm pCO2) and temperature (21 °C and 25 °C). The effects of elevated CO2 were trait-specific with anxiety the only behaviour significantly affected. Juvenile S. lalandi reared at elevated CO2 spent more time in the dark zone during a standard black-white test, which is indicative of increased anxiety. Exposure to high temperature had no significant effect on any of the behaviours tested. Overall, our results suggest that juvenile S. lalandi are largely behaviourally tolerant to future ocean acidification and warming. Given the ecological and economic importance of large pelagic fish species more studies investigating the effect of future climate change are urgently needed.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 affects anxiety but not a range of other behaviours in juvenile yellowtail kingfish’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book