Posts Tagged 'South Pacific'

Boosted nutritional quality of food by CO2 enrichment fails to offset energy demand of herbivores under ocean warming, causing energy depletion and mortality


• We tested if energy transfer via feeding is boosted under future seawater conditions.
• Energy budget of herbivores and nutritional quality of their food were determined.
• Energy budget raised by feeding on the more nutritious food under ocean acidification.
• When combined with warming, however, mass mortality occurred due to energy depletion.
• Enhanced food quality inadequately offsets the energy demand under ocean warming.


The CO2-boosted trophic transfer from primary producers to herbivores has been increasingly discovered at natural CO2 vents and in laboratory experiments. Despite the emerging knowledge of this boosting effect, we do not know the extent to which it may be enhanced or dampened by ocean warming. We investigated whether ocean acidification and warming enhance the nutritional quality (C:N ratio) and energy content of turf algae, which is speculated to drive higher feeding rate, greater energy budget and eventually faster growth of herbivores. This proposal was tested by observing the physiological (feeding rate, respiration rate and energy budget) and demographic responses (growth and survival) of a common grazing gastropod (Phasianella australis) to ocean acidification and warming in a 6-month mesocosm experiment. Whilst we observed the boosting effect of ocean acidification and warming in isolation on the energy budget of herbivores by either increasing feeding rate on the more nutritious algae or increasing energy gain per feeding effort, their growth and survival were reduced by the sublethal thermal stress under ocean warming, especially when both climate change stressors were combined. This reduced growth and survival occurred as a consequence of depleted energy reserves, suggesting that the boosting effect via trophic transfer might not sufficiently compensate for the increased energy demand imposed by ocean warming. In circumstances where ocean acidification and warming create an energy demand on herbivores that outweighs the energy enhancement of their food (i.e. primary producers), the performance of herbivores to control their blooming resources likely deteriorates and thus runaway primary production ensues.

Continue reading ‘Boosted nutritional quality of food by CO2 enrichment fails to offset energy demand of herbivores under ocean warming, causing energy depletion and mortality’

The capacity of oysters to regulate energy metabolism‐related processes may be key to their resilience against ocean acidification

Bivalve molluscs, such as oysters, are threatened by shifts in seawater chemistry resulting from climate change. However, a few species and populations within a species stand out for their capacity to cope with the impacts of climate change‐associated stressors. Understanding the intracellular basis of such differential responses can contribute to the development of strategies to minimise the pervasive effects of a changing ocean on marine organisms. In this study, we explored the intracellular responses to ocean acidification in two genetically distinct populations of Sydney rock oysters (Saccostrea glomerata). Selectively bred and wild type oysters exhibited markedly different mitochondrial integrities (mitochondrial membrane potential) and levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in their hemocytes under CO2 stress. Analysis of these cellular parameters after 4 and 15 days of exposure to elevated CO2 indicated that the onset of intracellular responses occurred earlier in the selectively bred oysters when compared to the wild type population. This may be due to an inherent capacity for increased intracellular energy production or adaptive energy reallocation in the selectively bred population. The differences observed in mitochondrial integrity and in ROS formation between oyster breeding lines reveal candidate biological processes that may underlie resilience or susceptibility to ocean acidification. Such processes can be targeted in breeding programs aiming to mitigate the impacts of climate change on threatened species.

Continue reading ‘The capacity of oysters to regulate energy metabolism‐related processes may be key to their resilience against ocean acidification’

Determining coral reef calcification and primary production using automated alkalinity, pH and pCO2 measurements at high temporal resolution

We investigated coral reef carbonate chemistry dynamics and metabolic rates using an automated system that measured total alkalinity (TA, 30 min intervals), pH on the total scale (pHT, 10 min intervals) and the partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2, 1 min intervals) over 2 weeks at Heron Island (Great Barrier Reef, Australia). The calculation of pHT (using the pCO2 and TA pair) and pCO2 (using the pH and TA pair) had similar values to the measured pHT and pCO2 values. In contrast, calculated TA from the pCO2-pH pair showed a large discrepancy with measured TA (average difference between measured and calculated TA = 52 μmol kg−1). High frequency sampling allowed for detailed analysis of the observations and an assessment of optimum sampling intervals required to characterise the net ecosystem calcification (NEC) and production (NEP) using a slack water approach. Depending on the sampling interval (30 min–2 h time steps) used for calculations, the estimated daily NEC and NEP could differ by 12% and 30%, respectively. Abrupt changes in both NEC and NEP were observed at dawn and dusk, with positive NEC during these periods despite negative NEP. Integrating NEC and NEP over a full diel cycle using 1 or 2 h integration time steps resulted in small differences of 2–7% for NEC and 1–3% for NEP. A diel hysteresis pattern rather than a simple linear relationship was observed between the aragonite saturation state (Ωar) and NEC. The observed hysteresis supports recent studies suggesting that short-term observations of seawater Ωar may not be a good predictor of long-term changes in NEC due to ocean acidification. The slope of the DIC to TA relationship was slightly higher (0.33) in 2014 than in an earlier study in 2012 (0.30). The automated, high frequency sampling approach employed here can deliver high precision data and can be used at other coral reef research stations to reveal long-term changes in NEC and NEP potentially driven by ocean acidification, eutrophication or other local changes.

Continue reading ‘Determining coral reef calcification and primary production using automated alkalinity, pH and pCO2 measurements at high temporal resolution’

The duality of ocean acidification as a resource and a stressor

Ecologically dominant species often define ecosystem states, but as human disturbances intensify, their subordinate counterparts increasingly displace them. We consider the duality of disturbance by examining how environmental drivers can simultaneously act as a stressor to dominant species and as a resource to subordinates. Using a model ecosystem, we demonstrate that CO2‐driven interactions between species can account for such reversals in dominance; i.e., the displacement of dominants (kelp forests) by subordinates (turf algae). We established that CO2 enrichment had a direct positive effect on productivity of turfs, but a negligible effect on kelp. CO2 enrichment further suppressed the abundance and feeding rate of the primary grazer of turfs (sea urchins), but had an opposite effect on the minor grazer (gastropods). Thus, boosted production of subordinate producers, exacerbated by a net reduction in its consumption by primary grazers, accounts for community change (i.e., turf displacing kelp). Ecosystem collapse, therefore, is more likely when resource enrichment alters competitive dominance of producers, and consumers fail to compensate. By recognizing such duality in the responses of interacting species to disturbance, which may stabilize or exacerbate change, we can begin to understand how intensifying human disturbances determine whether or not ecosystems undergo phase shifts.

Continue reading ‘The duality of ocean acidification as a resource and a stressor’

Carbonate system distribution, anthropogenic carbon and acidification in the Western Tropical South Pacific (OUTPACE 2015 transect)

The western tropical South Pacific was sampled along a longitudinal 4000 km transect (OUTPACE cruise, 18 Feb., 3 Apr. 2015) for measurement of carbonates parameters (total alkalinity and total inorganic carbon) between the Melanesian Archipelago (MA) and the western part of the South Pacific gyre (WGY). This manuscript reports this new dataset and derived properties: pH on the total scale (pHT) and the CaCO3 saturation state with respect to calcite (Ωcal) and aragonite (Ωara). We also estimate anthropogenic carbon (CANT) distribution in the water column using the TrOCA method (Tracer combining Oxygen, inorganic Carbon and total Alkalinity). Along the OUTPACE transect, CANT inventories of 37–43 mol m−2 were estimated with higher CANT inventories in MA waters (due to a deeper penetration of CANT in the intermediate waters) than in the WGY waters although highest CANT concentrations were detected in the sub-surface waters of WGY. By combining our OUTPACE dataset with data available in GLODAPv2 (1974–2009), temporal changes in oceanic inorganic carbon were evaluated. An increase of 1.3 to 1.6 µmol kg−1 a−1 for total inorganic carbon in the upper thermocline waters is estimated whereas CANT increases of 1.1 to 1.2 µmol kg−1 a−1. In the MA intermediate waters (27 kg m−3 < σθ < 27.2 kg m−3) an increase of 0.4 µmol kg−1 a−1 of CANT is detected. Our results suggest a clear progression of ocean acidification in the western tropical South Pacific with a decrease of the oceanic pH of up to −0.0027 a−1 and a shoaling of the saturation depth for aragonite of up to 200 m since the pre-industrial period.

Continue reading ‘Carbonate system distribution, anthropogenic carbon and acidification in the Western Tropical South Pacific (OUTPACE 2015 transect)’

Responses of two temperate sponge species to ocean acidification

There are still major gaps in our understanding of the impact of ocean acidification (OA) on some groups of organisms within different geographic regions. We investigated the effect of OA on two common and ecologically important temperate sponge species in New Zealand (Tethya bergquistae and Crella incrustans). Sponges were kept at pH 8 (control) and 7.6 for 4 weeks. Responses of the two species varied, with T. bergquistae kept at pH 7.6 showing some mortality in response to reduced pH and evidence of tissues necrosis. In contrast, only one C. incrustans died in the pH 7.6 treatment and showed little evidence of any tissue degradation. Only T. bergquistae showed evidence for physiological effects of reduced pH as respiration rates were generally higher in the pH 7.6 treatment. Our results provide preliminary evidence to support a general tolerance of temperate sponges to reduced pH, but that some species-specific responses may exist.

Continue reading ‘Responses of two temperate sponge species to ocean acidification’

On the wrong track: ocean acidification attracts larval fish to irrelevant environmental cues

Population replenishment of marine life largely depends on successful dispersal of larvae to suitable adult habitat. Ocean acidification alters behavioural responses to physical and chemical cues in marine animals, including the maladaptive deterrence of settlement-stage larval fish to odours of preferred habitat and attraction to odours of non-preferred habitat. However, sensory compensation may allow fish to use alternative settlement cues such as sound. We show that future ocean acidification reverses the attraction of larval fish (barramundi) to their preferred settlement sounds (tropical estuarine mangroves). Instead, acidification instigates an attraction to unfamiliar sounds (temperate rocky reefs) as well as artificially generated sounds (white noise), both of which were ignored by fish living in current day conditions. This finding suggests that by the end of the century, following a business as usual CO2 emission scenario, these animals might avoid functional environmental cues and become attracted to cues that provide no adaptive advantage or are potentially deleterious. This maladaptation could disrupt population replenishment of this and other economically important species if animals fail to adapt to elevated CO2 conditions.

Continue reading ‘On the wrong track: ocean acidification attracts larval fish to irrelevant environmental cues’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book