Posts Tagged 'South Pacific'

Adult exposure to ocean acidification and warming remains beneficial for oyster larvae following starvation

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.

Continue reading ‘Adult exposure to ocean acidification and warming remains beneficial for oyster larvae following starvation’

Natural CO2 seeps reveal adaptive potential to ocean acidification in fish

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.

Continue reading ‘Natural CO2 seeps reveal adaptive potential to ocean acidification in fish’

Extensive remineralization of peatland-derived dissolved organic carbon and acidification in the Sunda Shelf Sea, Southeast Asia

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.

Continue reading ‘Extensive remineralization of peatland-derived dissolved organic carbon and acidification in the Sunda Shelf Sea, Southeast Asia’

Climate change impacts on corals in the UK overseas territories of BIOT and the Pitcairn Islands


The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) consists of five atolls of low-lying islands, including the largest atoll in the world, Great Chagos Bank, and a number of submerged atolls and banks. Diego Garcia is the only inhabited island. The BIOT Marine Protected Area (MPA) was designatedin 2010. It covers the entire maritime zone and coastal waters, an approximate area of 640,000 km2. The marine environment is rich and diverse, attracting sea birds, sharks, cetaceans and sea turtles and with extensive seagrass and coral reef habitats. It includes the endangered Chagos brain coral (Ctenella chagius), an endemic massive coral unique to BIOT. BIOT reefs have suffered extensive bleaching and mortality, and they remain vulnerable to current and future climate change and other pressures, including:

The heavy mortality has been caused by recurrent marine heatwaves since the 1970s. Reefs have not yet recovered from the most severe bleaching in 2016 and 2017, with increasingly severe events expected. Deeper fore-reefs may act as refuges, but those colonies are likely to be more sensitive to temperature change. Limiting other pressures will not guarantee resilience to future bleaching.

Ocean acidification
There has been a low impact of ocean acidification on coral reefs so far, but when combined with future bleaching therisk of decalcification and erosion will increase. Under high emissions scenarios, BIOT is projected to become less suitable for corals by the end of the century.

Continue reading ‘Climate change impacts on corals in the UK overseas territories of BIOT and the Pitcairn Islands’

Will community calcification reflect reef accretion on future, degraded coral reefs?

Coral bleaching events continue to drive the degradation of coral reefs worldwide, causing a shift in the benthic community from coral to algae dominated ecosystems. Critically, this shift may decrease the capacity of degraded coral reef communities to maintain net positive accretion during warming-driven stress events (e.g., reef-wide coral bleaching). Here we measured rates of net ecosystem calcification (NEC) and net ecosystem production (NEP) on a degraded coral reef lagoon community (coral cover < 10 % and algae cover > 20 %) during a reef-wide bleaching event in February of 2020 at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. We found that during this bleaching event, rates of community NEP and NEC across replicate transects remained positive and did not change in response to bleaching. Repeated benthic surveys over a period of 20 d indicated an increase in the percent area of bleached coral tissue, corroborated by relatively low Symbiodiniaceae densities (~0.6 × 106 cm−2) and dark-adapted photosynthetic yields in photosystem II of corals (~0.5) sampled along each transect over this period. Given that a clear decline in coral health was not reflected in the overall community NEC estimates, it is possible that elevated temperatures in the water column that compromise coral health enhanced the thermodynamic favourability for calcification in other, ahermatypic benthic calcifiers. These data suggest that positive NEC on degraded reefs may not equate to the net positive accretion of reef structure in a future, warmer ocean. Critically, our study highlights that if coral cover continues to decline as predicted, NEC may no longer be an appropriate proxy for reef growth as the proportion of the community NEC signal owed to ahermatypic calcification increases and coral dominance on the reef decreases.

Continue reading ‘Will community calcification reflect reef accretion on future, degraded coral reefs?’

Ecosystem composition and environmental factors as drivers of pH on barrier reefs

Tropical coral reefs are both biologically diverse and economically important ecosystems, yet are under threat globally, facing a multitude of stressors including global warming, ocean acidification, nutrient loading, over-fishing and sedimentation. Reef building corals precipitate an aragonite skeleton (CaCO3), which forms the base of the coral reef ecosystem, but it is this skeleton, which makes them sensitive to changes in ocean pH. To precipitate their skeletons, corals raise their internal pH, as seawater pH decreases this increases the energy demands needed to facilitate calcification. Furthermore, reductions in coral calcification has significant implications for reef health, potentially altering community structure with reef-wide consequences. Global ocean pH is decreasing due to rising atmospheric concentrations of CO2, however, dynamic ecosystems, alongside carbon and freshwater input from land, may result in coastal ocean pH being lower than is predicted by open ocean models. While it is predicted than ocean pH will decrease by 0.3 units by 2100 if emissions are not curbed, coral reefs, particularly those near major river outflow, may already be experiencing pH values similar to that of future scenarios.

Our aim was to determine the factors which influence pH in coastal reef systems and thus potentially mitigate or exacerbate atmospheric CO2 mediated ocean acidification. This was achieved by contrasting reefs in distinct environmental settings and collecting data over a sufficient temporal resolution to permit the identification of pertinent drivers. To accomplish this we deployed fixed point observatories in the distinct reefs of Belize (fore and back reef sites), Fiji and Dominica. These custom-built platforms were equipped with a spectrophotometric pH sensor and a conductivity, temperature and dissolved oxygen (CT-DO) sensor from which data was logged at 30-120 minute intervals.

A strong diel cycle in pH, O2 and temperature was observed at all reef sites in response to the changing balance of respiration and photosynthesis. However, the range of these changes varied between the different sites – Belize fore reef (pH 7.849­ – 8.000), Belize back reef (pH 7.897 – 8.039), Fiji (pH 7.951 – 8.0950) and Dominica (pH 7.843 – 8.144). Meteorological conditions, such as wind direction, affected the amplitude of diurnal pH variability and its relationship with other parameters, likely by influencing mixing and the spatial distribution of seawater and freshwater endmembers. The relationship between pH and O2 varied between sites reflecting differences in ecosystem processes (e.g. calcification and primary production) and ecosystem composition (e.g. hard coral and algae cover, proximity to seagrass). Our data confirms that different reef sites are subject to varying degrees of ocean acidification and that controls on pH vary between environments. Furthermore, it highlights the need for widespread high-resolution monitoring to identify, and where possible enact protective measures, in vulnerable reef regions. As coral reefs continue to experience ocean acidification our data also serves to document baseline conditions against which future changes can be assessed.

Continue reading ‘Ecosystem composition and environmental factors as drivers of pH on barrier reefs’

Unexpected role of communities colonizing dead coral substrate in the calcification of coral reefs

Global and local anthropogenic stressors such as climate change, acidification, overfishing, and pollution are expected to shift the benthic community composition of coral reefs from dominance by calcifying organisms to dominance by non‐calcifying algae. These changes could reduce the ability of coral reef ecosystems to maintain positive net calcium carbonate accretion. However, relationships between community composition and calcification rates remain unclear. We performed field experiments to quantify the metabolic rates of the two most dominant coral reef substrate types, live coral and dead coral substrate colonized by a mixed algal assemblage, using a novel underwater respirometer. Our results revealed that calcification rates in the daytime were similar for the live coral and dead coral substrate communities. However, in the dark, while live corals continued to calcify at slower rates, the dead coral substrate communities exhibited carbonate dissolution. Daytime net photosynthesis of the dead coral substrate communities was up to five times as much as for live corals, which we hypothesize may have created favorable conditions for the precipitation of carbonate minerals. We conclude that: (1) calcification from dead coral substrate communities can contribute to coral reef community calcification during the day, and (2) dead coral substrate communities can also contribute to carbonate mineral dissolution at night, decreasing ecosystem calcification over a diel cycle. This provides evidence that reefs could shift from slow, long‐term accretion of calcium carbonate to a state where large daily cycling of calcium carbonate occurs, but with little or no long‐term accumulation of the carbonate minerals needed to sustain the reef against erosional forces.

Continue reading ‘Unexpected role of communities colonizing dead coral substrate in the calcification of coral reefs’

Ocean temperature, but not acidification, causes sea anemone bleaching under a near-future climate scenario

Climate change is causing ocean temperature and partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO(2)) to increase. For sea anemones that have Symbiodiniaceae, high temperatures induce bleaching, whereas rises in pCO(2) can enhance photosynthesis and increase host growth and abundance. It is, however, not clear how the interaction of these two stressors impacts sea anemones that provide habitat for anemonefishes. Here, we investigated the bleaching response of the sea anemone Entacmaea quadricolor, under four conditions: (i) current temperature and current pCO(2) (control); (ii) future pCO(2); (iii) future temperature; and (iv) future temperature and future pCO(2). After 16 days of exposure, future temperature, but not pCO(2) nor their interaction, significantly reduced the Symbiodiniaceae density and total chlorophyll Symbiodiniaceae cell(-1). Colour score was lower in the sea anemones exposed to future temperature than current temperature from day 4 onwards. In contrast, total chlorophyll symbiont cell(-1) increased in the future temperature treatments, and light-adapted effective quantum yield remained similar in all treatments. Although pCO(2) had no impact within the time frame of our experiment, the predicted future temperature induced bleaching in E. quadricolor. As bleaching events increase in frequency and severity, this will likely impact the abundance of host sea anemones and their symbiotic anemonefishes.

Continue reading ‘Ocean temperature, but not acidification, causes sea anemone bleaching under a near-future climate scenario’

Ocean acidification may slow the pace of tropicalization of temperate fish communities

Poleward range extensions by warm-adapted sea urchins are switching temperate marine ecosystems from kelp-dominated to barren-dominated systems that favour the establishment of range-extending tropical fishes. Yet, such tropicalization may be buffered by ocean acidification, which reduces urchin grazing performance and the urchin barrens that tropical range-extending fishes prefer. Using ecosystems experiencing natural warming and acidification, we show that ocean acidification could buffer warming-facilitated tropicalization by reducing urchin populations (by 87%) and inhibiting the formation of barrens. This buffering effect of CO2 enrichment was observed at natural CO2 vents that are associated with a shift from a barren-dominated to a turf-dominated state, which we found is less favourable to tropical fishes. Together, these observations suggest that ocean acidification may buffer the tropicalization effect of ocean warming against urchin barren formation via multiple processes (fewer urchins and barrens) and consequently slow the increasing rate of tropicalization of temperate fish communities.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification may slow the pace of tropicalization of temperate fish communities’

Effect of environmental history on the habitat-forming kelp Macrocystis pyrifera responses to ocean acidification and warming: a physiological and molecular approach

The capacity of marine organisms to adapt and/or acclimate to climate change might differ among distinct populations, depending on their local environmental history and phenotypic plasticity. Kelp forests create some of the most productive habitats in the world, but globally, many populations have been negatively impacted by multiple anthropogenic stressors. Here, we compare the physiological and molecular responses to ocean acidification (OA) and warming (OW) of two populations of the giant kelp Macrocystis pyrifera from distinct upwelling conditions (weak vs strong). Using laboratory mesocosm experiments, we found that juvenile Macrocystis sporophyte responses to OW and OA did not differ among populations: elevated temperature reduced growth while OA had no effect on growth and photosynthesis. However, we observed higher growth rates and NO3 assimilation, and enhanced expression of metabolic-genes involved in the NO3 and CO2 assimilation in individuals from the strong upwelling site. Our results suggest that despite no inter-population differences in response to OA and OW, intrinsic differences among populations might be related to their natural variability in CO2, NO3 and seawater temperatures driven by coastal upwelling. Further work including additional populations and fluctuating climate change conditions rather than static values are needed to precisely determine how natural variability in environmental conditions might influence a species’ response to climate change.

Continue reading ‘Effect of environmental history on the habitat-forming kelp Macrocystis pyrifera responses to ocean acidification and warming: a physiological and molecular approach’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book