Posts Tagged 'South Pacific'

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’

Organ health and development in larval kingfish are unaffected by ocean acidification and warming

Anthropogenic CO2 emissions are causing global ocean warming and ocean acidification. The early life stages of some marine fish are vulnerable to elevated ocean temperatures and CO2 concentrations, with lowered survival and growth rates most frequently documented. Underlying these effects, damage to different organs has been found as a response to elevated CO2 in larvae of several species of marine fish, yet the combined effects of acidification and warming on organ health are unknown. Yellowtail kingfish, Seriola lalandi, a circumglobal subtropical pelagic fish of high commercial and recreational value, were reared from fertilization under control (21 °C) and elevated (25 °C) temperature conditions fully crossed with control (500 µatm) and elevated (1,000 µatm) pCO2 conditions. Larvae were sampled at 11 days and 21 days post hatch for histological analysis of the eye, gills, gut, liver, pancreas, kidney and liver. Previous work found elevated temperature, but not elevated CO2, significantly reduced larval kingfish survival while increasing growth and developmental rate. The current histological analysis aimed to determine whether there were additional sublethal effects on organ condition and development and whether underlying organ damage could be responsible for the documented effects of temperature on survivorship. While damage to different organs was found in a number of larvae, these effects were not related to temperature and/or CO2 treatment. We conclude that kingfish larvae are generally vulnerable during organogenesis of the digestive system in their early development, but that this will not be exacerbated by near-future ocean warming and acidification.

Continue reading ‘Organ health and development in larval kingfish are unaffected by ocean acidification and warming’

Elevated CO2 and heatwave conditions affect the aerobic and swimming performance of juvenile Australasian snapper

As climate change advances, coastal marine ecosystems are predicted to experience increasingly frequent and intense heatwaves. At the same time, already variable CO2 levels in coastal habitats will be exacerbated by ocean acidification. High temperature and elevated CO2 levels can be stressful to marine organisms, especially during critical early life stages. Here, we used a fully cross-factored experiment to test the effects of simulated heatwave conditions (+ 4 °C) and elevated CO2 (1000 µatm) on the aerobic physiology and swimming performance of juvenile Australasian snapper, Chrysophrys auratus, an ecologically and economically important mesopredatory fish. Both elevated temperature and elevated CO2 increased resting metabolic rate of juvenile snapper, by 21–22% and 9–10%, respectively. By contrast, maximum metabolic rate was increased by elevated temperature (16–17%) and decreased by elevated CO2 (14–15%). The differential effects of elevated temperature and elevated CO2 on maximum metabolic rate resulted in aerobic scope being reduced only in the elevated CO2 treatment. Critical swimming speed also increased with elevated temperature and decreased with elevated CO2, matching the results for maximum metabolic rate. Periods of elevated CO2 already occur in the coastal habitats occupied by juvenile snapper, and these events will be exacerbated by ongoing ocean acidification. Our results show that elevated CO2 has a greater effect on metabolic rates and swimming performance than heatwave conditions for juvenile snapper, and could reduce their overall performance and potentially have negative consequences for population recruitment.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 and heatwave conditions affect the aerobic and swimming performance of juvenile Australasian snapper’

Parental acclimation to future ocean conditions increases development rates but decreases survival in sea urchin larvae

Environmental conditions experienced by parents can have lasting effects on offspring. For some marine organisms, parental acclimation may attenuate the negative effects observed in offspring exposed to the same conditions. Here, development of the coral reef sea urchin Echinometra sp. A was examined in larvae derived from parents acclimated for 20 months in either present-day conditions or those predicted for the year 2100 (+ 2 °C/pH 7.8). Egg size was measured, and larval morphology, survival and respiration were quantified in larvae raised in present-day (26 °C/pH 8.1) and 2100 (28 °C/pH 7.8) treatments to near settlement to determine whether parental acclimation promotes greater resilience to climate change stressors. Although there was no difference in egg size, larvae from 2100 parents were generally larger and more developmentally advanced than those derived from present-day parents. However, negative carryover effects reduced survival in offspring of parents acclimated to 2100 conditions. At 15 days post-fertilization, survival of offspring derived from 2100 parents was 50.6% and 43.7% when raised in present-day and 2100 conditions, respectively, compared to 59.9% and 64.6% in offspring derived from present-day parents. When raised in 2100 conditions, respiration declined by 36.8% in larvae derived from present-day parents, while respiration rates of larvae from 2100 parents increased by 109%, suggesting that carryover effects may be associated with higher energy consumption and physiological stress in larvae from 2100 parents. Although parental acclimation enhanced growth of larvae in early development, overall, negative carryover effects outweighed potential benefits of parental acclimation to ocean warming and acidification in this species.

Continue reading ‘Parental acclimation to future ocean conditions increases development rates but decreases survival in sea urchin larvae’

Elevated temperature, but not acidification, reduces fertilization success in the small giant clam, Tridacna maxima

Elevated temperature and decreased ocean pH (ocean acidification) are associated with anthropogenic climate change and can adversely affect fertilization and development in marine invertebrates. However, the potential synergistic impact of these stressors on fertilization success remains unresolved for many ecologically and economically important species including giant clams of the genus Tridacna. Individual and interactive effects of warming and acidification on fertilization (successful first cleavage) were investigated in the small giant clam, Tridacna maxima. Experiments were performed on gametes of T. maxima (collected in October 2015 from the island of Moorea, French Polynesia; 17.54° S, 149.83° W) fertilized under ambient conditions (27 °C, pH 8.1) and under conditions congruent with temperature and pH projections for the coming century (31 °C, pH 7.6). Fertilization success was low, but within previously reported levels, under ambient conditions (47.7 ± 3.4%) and was significantly reduced at elevated temperature per se and in combination with lowered pH (18.5 ± 4.4% and 21.2 ± 4.6%, respectively). However, acidification alone had no effect on fertilization success in T. maxima (48.2 ± 3.1%). These results indicate that although fertilization in T. maxima is resilient to lowered pH, it is strongly inhibited by elevated temperature. Populations of T. maxima may, therefore, be at risk of low reproductive success over the coming century as a result of rising ocean temperature.

Continue reading ‘Elevated temperature, but not acidification, reduces fertilization success in the small giant clam, Tridacna maxima’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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