Posts Tagged 'South Pacific'

Ocean acidification from below in the tropical Pacific

Identifying ocean acidification and its controlling mechanisms is an important priority within the broader question of understanding how sustained anthropogenic CO2 emissions are harming the health of the ocean. Through extensive analysis of observational data products for ocean inorganic carbon, here we quantify the rate at which acidification is proceeding in the western tropical Pacific Warm Pool, revealing ‐0.0013 ±0.0001 yr‐1 for pH and ‐0.0083±0.0007 yr‐1 for the saturation index of aragonite for the years 1985‐2016. However, the mean rate of total dissolved inorganic carbon increase (+0.81 ±0.06 μmol kg‐1 yr‐1) sustaining acidification was ~20% slower than what would be expected if it were simply controlled by the rate of atmospheric CO2 increase and transmitted through local air‐sea CO2 equilibration. Joint Lagrangian and Eulerian model diagnostics indicate that the acidification of the Warm Pool occurs primarily through the anthropogenic CO2 that invades the ocean in the extra‐tropics, is transported to the tropics through the thermocline shallow overturning circulation, and then re‐emerges into surface waters within the tropics through the Equatorial Undercurrent from below. An interior residence time of several years to decades, acting in conjunction with the accelerating CO2 growth in the atmosphere, can be expected to contribute to modulating the rate of Warm Pool acidification.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification from below in the tropical Pacific’

Elevated temperature and CO2 have positive effects on the growth and survival of larval Australasian snapper


• Larval Snapper were positively affected by projected end of century temperature and pCO2 from fertilization to 16 days post-hatching.

• Elevated temperature increased the size of larvae, however high pCO2 had no effect.

• High pCO2 significantly increased survival at 16 days post-hatch, but elevated temperature had no effect.

• Some species and populations of marine fish exhibit positive effects from projected environmental change.


Rising water temperature and increased uptake of CO2 by the ocean are predicted to have widespread impacts on marine species. However, the effects are likely to vary, depending on a species’ sensitivity and the geographical location of the population. Here, we investigated the potential effects of elevated temperature and pCO2 on larval growth and survival in a New Zealand population of the Australasian snapper, Chrysophyrs auratus. Eggs and larvae were reared in a fully cross-factored experiment (18 °C and 22 °C/pCO2 440 and 1040 μatm) to 16 days post hatch (dph). Morphologies at 1 dph and 16 dph were significantly affected by temperature, but not CO2. At 1dph, larvae at 22 °C were longer (7%) and had larger muscle depth at vent (14%), but had reduced yolk (65%) and oil globule size (16%). Reduced yolk reserves in recently hatched larvae suggests higher metabolic demands in warmer water. At 16 dph, larvae at elevated temperature were longer (12%) and muscle depth at vent was larger (64%). Conversely, survival was primarily affected by CO2 rather than temperature. Survivorship at 1 dph and 16 dph was 24% and 54% higher, respectively, under elevated CO2 compared with ambient conditions. Elevated temperature increased survival (24%) at 1 dph, but not at 16 dph. These results suggest that projected climate change scenarios may have an overall positive effect on early life history growth and survival in this population of C. auratus. This could benefit recruitment success, but needs to be weighed against negative effects of elevated CO2 on metabolic rates and swimming performance observed in other studies on the same population.

Continue reading ‘Elevated temperature and CO2 have positive effects on the growth and survival of larval Australasian snapper’

An uncertain future: effects of ocean acidification and elevated temperature on a New Zealand snapper (Chrysophrys a uratus) population


• Modelling suggests the effect of climate change on snapper populations is uncertain.

• Impacts range from a 29% reduction to a 44% increase in fishery yield.

• These impacts are most likely mediated via impacts on recruitment.


Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are warming and acidifying Earth’s oceans, which is likely to lead to a variety of effects on marine ecosystems. Fish populations will be vulnerable to this change, and there is now substantial evidence of the direct and indirect effects of climate change on fish. There is also a growing effort to conceptualise the effects of climate change on fish within population models. In the present study knowledge about the response of New Zealand snapper to warming and acidification was incorporated within a stock assessment model. Specifically, a previous tank experiment on larval snapper suggested both positive and negative effects, and otolith increment analysis on wild snapper indicated that growth may initially increase, followed by a potential decline as temperatures continue to warm. As a result of this uncertainty, sensitivity analysis was performed by varying average virgin recruitment (R0) by ±30%, adult growth by ±6%, but adjusting mean size at recruitment by +48% as we had better evidence for this increase. Overall adjustments to R0 had the biggest impact on the future yield (at a management target of 40% of an unfished population) of the Hauraki Gulf snapper fishery. The most negative scenario suggested a 29% decrease in fishery yield, while the most optimistic scenario suggested a 44% increase. While largely uncertain, these results provide some scope for predicting future impacts on the snapper fishery. Given that snapper is a species where the response to climate change has been specifically investigated, increasing uncertainty in a future where climate change and other stressors interact in complex and unpredictable ways is likely to be an important consideration for the management of nearly all fish populations.

Continue reading ‘An uncertain future: effects of ocean acidification and elevated temperature on a New Zealand snapper (Chrysophrys a uratus) population’

Diel pCO2 variation among coral reefs and microhabitats at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef

Most laboratory experiments examining the effect of ocean acidification on marine organisms use stable pH/pCO2 treatments based on average projections for the open ocean. However, pH/pCO2 levels vary spatially and temporally in marine environments, and this variation can affect organism responses to pH/pCO2. On coral reefs, diel pH/pCO2 variability at the individual reef scale has been reported in a few studies, but variation among microhabitats within a reef remains poorly understood. This study determined the pH/pCO2 variability of three different reefs, and three contrasting coral reef microhabitats (dominated by hard coral, soft coral, or open substrate) within each reef. Three SeaFET pH loggers were deployed simultaneously at the three microhabitats within a reef over a 9-day period. This was repeated at three different reefs around the Lizard Island lagoon. The loggers recorded pHT and temperature every 5 min. Water samples were collected from each microhabitat during four points of the tidal cycle (high, low, rising, and falling) and analysed for total alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon. The data show a clear diel pCO2 cycle, increasing overnight and decreasing during the day, in association with photosynthesis and respiration cycles. Diel pCO2 differed more between reefs than between microhabitats within reefs. Variation between reefs was most likely influenced by water flow, with the more protected (low flow) reefs experiencing a greater range in pCO2 (Δ 250 μatm) than the exposed (high flow) reefs (Δ 116 μatm). These results add to a growing body of the literature on the diel variation of pCO2 of shallow, nearshore environments and suggest that when projecting future pCO2 levels, it is important to consider reef metabolism as well as physical and hydrodynamic factors.

Continue reading ‘Diel pCO2 variation among coral reefs and microhabitats at Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef’

Seawater pH reconstruction using boron isotopes in multiple planktonic foraminifera species with different depth habitats and their potential to constrain pH and pCO2 gradients (update)

Boron isotope systematics of planktonic foraminifera from core-top sediments and culture experiments have been studied to investigate the sensitivity of δ11B of calcite tests to seawater pH. However, our knowledge of the relationship between δ11B and pH remains incomplete for many taxa. Thus, to expand the potential scope of application of this proxy, we report δ11B data for seven different species of planktonic foraminifera from sediment core tops. We utilize a method for the measurement of small samples of foraminifera and calculate the δ11B-calcite sensitivity to pH for Globigerinoides ruber, Trilobus sacculifer (sacc or without sacc), Orbulina universa, Pulleniatina obliquiloculata, Neogloboquadrina dutertrei, Globorotalia menardii, and Globorotalia tumida, including for unstudied core tops and species. These taxa have diverse ecological preferences and are from sites that span a range of oceanographic regimes, including some that are in regions of air–sea equilibrium and others that are out of equilibrium with the atmosphere. The sensitivity of δ11Bcarbonate to δ11Bborate (e.g., Δδ11Bcarbonate∕Δδ11Bborate) in core tops is consistent with previous studies for T. sacculifer and G. ruber and close to unity for N. dutertrei, O. universa, and combined deep-dwelling species. Deep-dwelling species closely follow the core-top calibration for O. universa, which is attributed to respiration-driven microenvironments likely caused by light limitation and/or symbiont–host interactions. Our data support the premise that utilizing boron isotope measurements of multiple species within a sediment core can be utilized to constrain vertical profiles of pH and pCO2 at sites spanning different oceanic regimes, thereby constraining changes in vertical pH gradients and yielding insights into the past behavior of the oceanic carbon pumps.

Continue reading ‘Seawater pH reconstruction using boron isotopes in multiple planktonic foraminifera species with different depth habitats and their potential to constrain pH and pCO2 gradients (update)’

Emergent properties of branching morphologies modulate the sensitivity of coral calcification to high PCO2

Experiments with coral fragments (i.e. nubbins) have shown that net calcification is depressed by elevated PCO2. Evaluating the implications of this finding requires scaling of results from nubbins to colonies, yet the experiments to codify this process have not been carried out. Building from our previous research demonstrating that net calcification of Pocillopora verrucosa (2–13 cm diameter) was unaffected by PCO2 (400 and 1000 µatm) and temperature (26.5 and 29.7°C), we sought generality to this outcome by testing how colony size modulates PCO2 and temperature sensitivity in a branching acroporid. Together, these taxa represent two of the dominant lineages of branching corals on Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Two trials conducted over 2 years tested the hypothesis that the seasonal range in seawater temperature (26.5 and 29.2°C) and a future PCO2 (1062 µatm versus an ambient level of 461 µatm) affect net calcification of an ecologically relevant size range (5–20 cm diameter) of colonies of Acropora hyacinthus. As for P. verrucosa, the effects of temperature and PCO2 on net calcification (mg day−1) of A. verrucosa were not statistically detectable. These results support the generality of a null outcome on net calcification of exposing intact colonies of branching corals to environmental conditions contrasting seasonal variation in temperature and predicted future variation in PCO2. While there is a need to expand beyond an experimental culture relying on coral nubbins as tractable replicates, rigorously responding to this need poses substantial ethical and logistical challenges.

Continue reading ‘Emergent properties of branching morphologies modulate the sensitivity of coral calcification to high PCO2’

Responses of a coral reef shark acutely exposed to ocean acidification conditions

Anthropogenic ocean acidification (OA) is a threat to coral reef fishes, but few studies have investigated responses of high-trophic-level predators, including sharks. We tested the effects of 72-hr exposure to OA-relevant elevated partial pressures of carbon dioxide (pCO2) on oxygen uptake rates, acid–base status, and haematology of newborn tropical blacktip reef sharks (Carcharhinus melanopterus). Acute exposure to end-of-century pCO2 levels resulted in elevated haematocrit (i.e. stress or compensation of oxygen uptake rates) and blood lactate concentrations (i.e. prolonged recovery) in the newborns. Conversely, whole blood and mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentrations, blood pH, estimates of standard and maximum metabolic rates, and aerobic scope remained unaffected. Taken together, newborn blacktip reef sharks appear physiologically robust to end-of-century pCO2 levels, but less so than other, previously investigated, tropical carpet sharks. Our results suggest peak fluctuating pCO2 levels in coral reef lagoons could still physiologically affect newborn reef sharks, but studies assessing the effects of long-term exposure and in combination with other anthropogenic stressors are needed.

Continue reading ‘Responses of a coral reef shark acutely exposed to ocean acidification conditions’

Plastic response of the oyster Ostrea chilensis to temperature and pCO2 within the present natural range of variability

Estuaries are characterized by high fluctuation of their environmental conditions. Environmental parameters measured show that the seawater properties of the Quempillén estuary (i.e. temperature, salinity, pCO2, pH and ΩCaCO3) were highly fluctuating and related with season and tide. We test the effects of increasing temperature and pCO2 in the seawater on the physiological energetics of the bivalve Ostrea chilensis. Juvenile oysters were exposed to an orthogonal combination of three temperatures (10, 15, and 20°C) and two pCO2 levels (~400 and ~1000 μatm) for a period of 60 days to evaluate the temporal effect (i.e. 10, 20, 30, 60 days) on the physiological rates of the oysters. Results indicated a significant effect of temperature and time of exposure on the clearance rate, while pCO2 and the interaction between pCO2 and the other factors studied did not show significant effects. Significant effects of temperature and time of exposure were also observed on the absorption rate, but not the pCO2 nor its interaction with other factors studied. Oxygen consumption was significantly affected by pCO2, temperature and time. Scope for growth was only significantly affected by time; despite this, the highest values were observed for individuals subject to to 20°C and to ~1000 μatm pCO2. In this study, Ostrea chilensis showed high phenotypic plasticity to respond to the high levels of temperature and pCO2 experienced in its habitat as no negative physiological effects were observed. Thus, the highly variable conditions of this organism’s environment could select for individuals that are more resistant to future scenarios of climate change, mainly to warming and acidification.

Continue reading ‘Plastic response of the oyster Ostrea chilensis to temperature and pCO2 within the present natural range of variability’

Effects of low and high pH on sea urchin settlement, implications for the use of alkali to counter the impacts of acidification


• Seaweeds and diatoms on settlement plates created low pH and high pH conditions as they respired and photosynthesised.

• Low pH had adverse effects on growth and morphology of sea urchin post-larvae.

• High pH generally had little effect on growth and development, but reduced settlement rates.

• Controlling pH in invertebrate culture systems might improve settlement rates and post-settlement growth.


Respiration, photosynthesis, and calcification of cultured organisms and biological substrata can substantially alter the pH and other carbonate parameters of water in aquaculture systems. One such example is the diel cycle of photosynthesis and respiration by diatoms and seaweeds growing on ‘settlement plates’ used to induce metamorphosis of invertebrate larvae and as food for post-larvae. We documented low pH and high pH conditions in nursery raceways and simulated settlement tanks that were as much as 0.26 pH units lower and 0.52 pH units higher than the pH of the source seawater supplied to the systems. To better understand whether the low pH and high pH conditions commonly found in aquaculture culture systems affected the success of the settlement stage of the sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii, we induced larvae to settle at pH 7.6, 7.8 (created by injecting CO2), 8.1 (ambient), 8.2, and 8.3 (created by raising total alkalinity), and followed post-settlement growth, development, and survival for 16 d. At metamorphosis, low pH significantly increased the occurrence of abnormalities and reduced the number and length of the sea urchins’ spines and pedicellaria, but did not affect settlement rate or size compared to ambient pH. In contrast, high pH generally had little effect on morphological traits, but settlement was significantly reduced by 14–26% compared to ambient and low pH treatments. After 16 d, juveniles in the low pH treatments were as much as 7% smaller, had 2–4 fewer and 9–13% shorter spines, and had less-developed digestive systems compared to juveniles in ambient or high pH treatments, and there was a non-significant trend towards lower survival in low pH treatments. Our results highlight that the low pH and high pH conditions in invertebrate settlement and nursery culture systems have the potential to hamper production through reduced settlement or growth rates. We need to understand the impacts of fluctuating pH in culture systems, especially day-night oscillations. Treating seawater with alkali chemicals to stabilise pH and counter acidification should be done with caution. Due to the potential for deleterious effects on settlement, dosage regimens will need to be optimised.

Continue reading ‘Effects of low and high pH on sea urchin settlement, implications for the use of alkali to counter the impacts of acidification’

Evaluation of a new carbon dioxide system for autonomous surface vehicles

Current carbon measurement strategies leave spatiotemporal gaps that hinder the scientific understanding of the oceanic carbon biogeochemical cycle. Data products and models are subject to bias because they rely on data that inadequately capture mesoscale spatiotemporal (kilometers and days to weeks) changes. High-resolution measurement strategies need to be implemented to adequately evaluate the global ocean carbon cycle. To augment the spatial and temporal coverage of ocean-atmosphere carbon measurements, an Autonomous Surface Vehicle CO2 (⁠⁠) system was developed. From 2011 to 2018, ASVCO2 systems were deployed on seven Wave Glider and Saildrone missions along the U.S. Pacific and Australia’s Tasmanian coastlines and in the tropical Pacific to evaluate the viability of the sensors and their applicability to carbon cycle research. Here we illustrate that the ASVCO2 systems are capable of long-term oceanic deployment and robust collection of air and seawater pCO2 within ± 2 µatm based on comparisons with established ship-board underway systems, with previously described MAPCO2 systems, and with companion ASVCO2 systems deployed side-by-side.

Continue reading ‘Evaluation of a new carbon dioxide system for autonomous surface vehicles’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book