Posts Tagged 'substrate'

Reduced seawater pH alters marine biofilms with impacts for marine polychaete larval settlement


• Reduced seawater pH strongly influences biofilm community composition, at both eukaryotic and prokaryotic level

• For older biofilms, biofilm age plays no role in community composition

• Incubation under different pH treatments results in variations in apparent colour and structural complexity of marine biofilms

• Incubation of marine biofilms under different pH treatments alters the settlement response in marine invertebrates

• The changes in marine biofilm community composition induced by seawater pH are most likely responsible for the changes observed in invertebrate settlement selectivity


Ocean acidification (OA) can negatively affect early-life stages of marine organisms, with the key processes of larval settlement and metamorphosis potentially vulnerable to reduced seawater pH. Settlement success depends strongly on suitable substrates and environmental cues, with marine biofilms as key settlement inducers for a range of marine invertebrate larvae. This study experimentally investigated (1) how seawater pH determines growth and community composition of marine biofilms, and (2) whether marine biofilms developed under different pH conditions can alter settlement success in the New Zealand serpulid polychaete Galeolaria hystrix. Biofilms were developed under six pH(T) treatments (spanning from 7.0 to 8.1 [ambient]) in a flow-through system for up to 14 months. Biofilms of different ages (7, 10 and 14 months) were used to assay successful settlement of competent G. hystrix larvae reared under ambient conditions. Biofilm microbiomes were characterized through amplicon sequencing of the small subunit ribosomal rRNA gene (16S and 18S). Biofilm community composition was stable over time within each pH treatment and biofilm age did not affect larval settlement selectivity. Seawater pH treatment strongly influenced biofilm community composition, as well as subsequent settlement success when biofilms were presented to competent Galeolaria larvae. Exposure to biofilms incubated under OA-treatments caused a decrease in larval settlement of up to 40% compared to the ambient treatments. We observed a decrease in settlement on biofilms relative to ambient pH for slides incubated at pH 7.9 and 7.7. This trend was reversed at pH 7.4, resulting in high settlement, comparable to ambient biofilms. Settlement decreased on biofilms from pH 7.2, and no settlement was observed on biofilms from pH 7.0. For the first time, we show that long-term incubation of marine biofilms under a wide range of reduced seawater pH treatments can alter marine biofilms in such a way that settlement success in marine invertebrates can be compromised.

Continue reading ‘Reduced seawater pH alters marine biofilms with impacts for marine polychaete larval settlement’

Growth response of calcifying marine epibionts to biogenic pH fluctuations and global ocean acidification scenarios

In coastal marine environments, physical and biological forces can cause dynamic pH fluctuations from microscale (diffusive boundary layer [DBL]) up to ecosystem‐scale (benthic boundary layer [BBL]). In the face of ocean acidification (OA), such natural pH variations may modulate an organism’s response to OA by providing temporal refugia. We investigated the effect of pH fluctuations, generated by the brown alga Fucus serratus‘ biological activity, on the calcifying epibionts Balanus improvisus and Electra pilosa under OA. For this, both epibionts were grown on inactive and biologically active surfaces and exposed to (1) constant pH scenarios under ambient (pH 8.1) or OA conditions (pH 7.7), or (2) oscillating pH scenarios mimicking BBL conditions at ambient (pH 7.7–8.6) or OA scenarios (pH 7.4–8.2). Furthermore, all treatment combinations were tested at 10°C and 15°C. Against our expectations, OA treatments did not affect epibiont growth under constant or fluctuating (BBL) pH conditions, indicating rather high robustness against predicted OA scenarios. Furthermore, epibiont growth was hampered and not fostered on active surfaces (fluctuating DBL conditions), indicating that fluctuating pH conditions of the DBL with elevated daytime pH do not necessarily provide temporal refugia from OA. In contrast, results indicate that factors other than pH may play larger roles for epibiont growth on macrophytes (e.g., surface characteristics, macrophyte antifouling defense, or dynamics of oxygen and nutrient concentrations). Warming enhanced epibiont growth rates significantly, independently of OA, indicating no synergistic effects of pH treatments and temperature within their natural temperature range.

Continue reading ‘Growth response of calcifying marine epibionts to biogenic pH fluctuations and global ocean acidification scenarios’

DNA methylation changes in response to ocean acidification at the time of larval metamorphosis in the edible oyster, Crassostrea hongkongensis


  • Low pH stress resulted in hyper- and hypo-methylated genes in the pediveliger larvae of the Hong Kong oyster
  • Differentially methylated loci were concentrated in the exon region within the gene bodies
  • High capability of oyster larvae to acclimate and adapt to low pH condition within single generation despite poor habitat selection for attachment
  • Differential methylation is associated to higher metamorphosis success rate and poor larval substratum selection under low pH stress.


Unprecedented rate of increased CO2 level in the ocean and the subsequent changes in carbonate system including decreased pH, known as ocean acidification (OA), is predicted to disrupt not only the calcification process but also several other physiological and developmental processes in a variety of marine organisms, including edible oysters. Nonetheless, not all species are vulnerable to those OA threats, e.g. some species may be able to cope with OA stress using environmentally induced modifications on gene and protein expressions. For example, external environmental stressors including OA can influence the addition and removal of methyl groups through epigenetic modification (e.g. DNA methylation) process to turn gene expression “on or off” as part of a rapid adaptive mechanism to cope with OA. In this study, we tested the above hypothesis through testing the effect of OA, using decreased pH 7.4 as proxy, on DNA methylation pattern of an endemic and a commercially important estuary oyster species, Crassostrea hongkongensis at the time of larval habitat selection and metamorphosis. Larval growth rate did not differ between control pH 8.1 and treatment pH 7.4. The metamorphosis rate of the pediveliger larvae was higher at pH 7.4 than those in control pH 8.1, however over one-third of the larvae raised at pH 7.4 failed to attach on optimal substrate as defined by biofilm presence. During larval development, a total of 130 genes were differentially methylated across the two treatments. The differential methylation in the larval genes may have partially accounted for the higher metamorphosis success rate under decreased pH 7.4 but with poor substratum selection ability. Differentially methylated loci were concentrated in the exon regions and appear to be associated with cytoskeletal and signal transduction, oxidative stress, metabolic processes, and larval metamorphosis, which implies the high potential of C. hongkongensis larvae to acclimate and adapt through non-genetic ways to OA threats within a single generation.

Continue reading ‘DNA methylation changes in response to ocean acidification at the time of larval metamorphosis in the edible oyster, Crassostrea hongkongensis’

Ocean acidification induces carry-over effects on the larval settlement of the New Zealand abalone, Haliotis iris

Larval settlement is a key process in the lifecycle of benthic marine organisms; however, little is known on how it could change in reduced seawater pH and carbonate saturation states under future ocean acidification (OA). This is important, as settlement ensures species occur in optimal environments and, for commercially important species such as abalone, reduced settlement could decrease future population success. We investigated how OA could affect settlement success in the New Zealand abalone Haliotis iris by examining: (1) direct effects of seawater at ambient (pHT 8.05) and reduced pHT (7.65) at the time of settlement, (2) indirect effects of settlement substrates (crustose coralline algae, CCA) preconditioned at ambient and reduced pHT for 171 days, and (3) carry-over effects, by examining settlement in larvae reared to competency at ambient and reduced pHT (7.80). We found no effects of seawater pH or CCA incubation on larval settlement success. OA-induced carry-over effects were evident, with lower settlement in larvae reared at reduced pH. Understanding the mechanisms behind these responses is key to fully comprehend the extent to which OA will affect marine organisms and the industries that rely on them.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification induces carry-over effects on the larval settlement of the New Zealand abalone, Haliotis iris’

Building global change resilience: concrete has the potential to ameliorate the negative effects of climate-driven ocean change on a newly-settled calcifying invertebrate


• Coastal protection structures need to be upgraded in response to rising sea levels.
• Upgrades using pH-buffering concrete may shield colonizers from ocean acidification.
• We settled sea urchins on concrete and rocks in ocean conditions predicted by 2100.
• Concrete inhibited settlement, but had positive effects on growth and survival.
• Concrete shows potential for responding to sea level rise and ocean climate change.


Global climate change is driving sea level rise and increasingly frequent storm events, which are negatively impacting rapidly-growing coastal communities. To mitigate these impacts, coastal infrastructure must be further protected by upgrading hard defences. We propose that incorporating pH-buffering materials into these upgrades could safeguard marine organisms from the adverse effects of ocean acidification and ocean warming during the vulnerable transition from planktonic larvae to benthic juveniles. To test this, we examined the effects of ocean warming (24 or 27 °C), ocean acidification (pH 8.1, 7.9, 7.7), and substratum (concrete, greywacke, granite) in all combinations on the settlement success of an ecologically and commercially important sea urchin, Tripneustes gratilla. Low pH (7.9, 7.7) generally reduced the quantity and size of juveniles four weeks post-settlement, although this was partially ameliorated by increased temperature (24 vs. 27 °C). In the warmed and acidified treatments, settlement rates were lower on concrete than granite or greywacke, but two weeks post-settlement, juveniles on concrete were larger, and had longer spines and higher survival rates than on greywacke or granite, respectively. The benefits provided by concrete to newly-settled juveniles may be related to alkali chemicals leaching from concrete buffering low pH conditions in surrounding seawater and/or increased availability of bicarbonate in the boundary layers around its surface. Our results highlight the potential for pH-buffering materials to assist marine organisms in coping with the effects of changing ocean conditions, but further research is required to understand the generality and mechanism(s) driving the beneficial effects of concrete and to test pH-buffering materials in the field.

Continue reading ‘Building global change resilience: concrete has the potential to ameliorate the negative effects of climate-driven ocean change on a newly-settled calcifying invertebrate’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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