Posts Tagged 'temperature'

Response of corals Acropora pharaonis and Porites lutea to changes in pH and temperature in the Gulf

Coral reefs are harboring a large part of the marine biodiversity and are important ecosystems for the equilibrium of the oceans. As a consequence of anthropogenic CO2 emission, a drop in pH and an increase in seawater temperature is observed in the Gulf coastal waters that potentially threaten coral assemblages. An experimental study was conducted on two species of corals to assess the effect of ocean warming and ocean acidification on the net calcification rate. Two pH conditions 8.2 and 7.5 and three temperatures, 22.5, 27.5 and 32.5 °C, were considered. Net calcification rates were measured using 45Ca radiotracer. Both temperature and pH had a significant effect on net calcification rates following a similar pattern for both species. The highest calcification rate was observed at low temperature and high pH. Increased temperature and decreased pH led to a decrease in net calcification rates. An interactive effect was observed as the effect of pH decreased with increasing temperature. However, the two species of coral were able to calcify in all the tested combination of temperature and pH suggesting that they are adapted to short term changes in temperature and pH. Ability to calcify even at a high temperature of 32.5 °C that is identical to the summertime Gulf seawater temperature under both the ambient and low pH condition with no mortalities, raises a question: are these corals adapted to high seawater temperatures and low pH? More in-depth assessments will be required to confirm if this is an adaptation to higher temperatures in Persian Gulf corals.

Continue reading ‘Response of corals Acropora pharaonis and Porites lutea to changes in pH and temperature in the Gulf’

Future ocean climate homogenizes communities across habitats through diversity loss and rise of generalist species

Predictions of the effects of global change on ecological communities are largely based on single habitats. Yet in nature, habitats are interconnected through the exchange of energy and organisms, and the responses of local communities may not extend to emerging community networks (i.e. metacommunities). Using large mesocosms and meiofauna communities as a model system, we investigated the interactive effects of ocean warming and acidification on the structure of marine metacommunities from three shallow‐water habitats: sandy soft‐bottoms, marine vegetation and rocky reef substrates. Primary producers and detritus – key food sources for meiofauna – increased in biomass under the combined effect of temperature and acidification. The enhanced bottom‐up forcing boosted nematode densities but impoverished the functional and trophic diversity of nematode metacommunities. The combined climate stressors further homogenized meiofauna communities across habitats. Under present‐day conditions metacommunities were structured by habitat type, but under future conditions they showed an unstructured random pattern with fast‐growing generalist species dominating the communities of all habitats. Homogenization was likely driven by local species extinctions, reducing interspecific competition that otherwise could have prevented single species from dominating multiple niches. Our findings reveal that climate change may simplify metacommunity structure and prompt biodiversity loss, which may affect the biological organization and resilience of marine communities.

Continue reading ‘Future ocean climate homogenizes communities across habitats through diversity loss and rise of generalist species’

An ecotoxicological study on physiological responses of Archaster typicus to salinity, thermal and ocean acidification stressors

Environmental biomarkers, also known as early warning signals, have increasingly
become a subject of interest in environmental studies. The common sea star, Archaster typicus, found in shallow sandy habitats associated with coral reefs in Singapore, was utilised to study the effects of varying treatment conditions of salinity, temperature and pH. Treatment conditions were derived from predicted future scenarios of thermal and ocean acidification conditions. Experiments were conducted to determine physiological responses of sea stars that were subjected to treatments over 24h (acute) and 120h (chronic) exposures. The biomarker responses examined included righting behaviour (time taken to right after being overturned), burrowing time and feeding responses (time
taken to close stomach/mouth plate) in experimental sea stars. To validate results of physiological biomarkers, two other biomarker responses were measured from coelomic fluid extracted from the experimental sea stars. These were the cellular lysosome integrity response (Neutral Red Retention time, NRRT) and the biochemical Ferric Reducing Antioxidant Power (FRAP) assay. In acute exposure experiments, results indicated that sea stars exhibited significant differences in physiological responses under various salinity, temperature and pH treatments. At chronic exposure regimes, lethal effects were more evident, with higher mortality rates observed in all salinity and temperature treatment regimes. Results from salinity treatments showed that physiological responses in sea stars were significantly impaired at treatments of 15‰ and 50‰ salinities. Significant results were observed in NRRT and burrowing behavioural assays in temperature treatments. Treatments with pH of 7.4 and 7.2 at the acute exposure duration resulted in a significant impairment of righting ability. The acute and chronic effects of salinity fluctuations, ocean warming and acidification on A
2 typicus were most consistently observed in the righting and burrowing behaviour assays. This indication of reduced fitness together with reduced cellular responses show a reduction in survival ability in the sea star under low salinity, high temperature and low pH conditions. Further studies could thus help us understand the effects of global warming on the physiology of organisms in various shallow water habitats.

Continue reading ‘An ecotoxicological study on physiological responses of Archaster typicus to salinity, thermal and ocean acidification stressors’

Integrity of crustacean predator defenses under ocean acidification and warming conditions

Crustaceans are a diverse group of species, but all rely on an exoskeleton that is shed and formed anew throughout their lifetime. Exoskeletons perform a wide range of functions, sometimes acting as armor, a means to produce sound, a tool to crush hard prey, or even a window to facilitate transparency. The exoskeleton and its functions, however, are likely vulnerable to ocean acidification and ocean warming, which may alter its composition and the energy allocated towards its production. I investigated the effects of these future ocean conditions on two southern Californian crustaceans, the California spiny lobster Panulirus interruptus and the grass shrimp Hippolyte californiensis, which rely on their exoskeleton for different predator defenses. P. interruptus is an iconic feature of southern California’s kelp forest ecosystem but also a potential prey item for many of its large predators. Spiny lobsters use their antennae, mandibles, carapace, and horns to avoid predation. Each of these structures is specialized for a certain defense, displaying differences in composition, structure, and material properties that allow the antennae, for example, to remain flexible to avoid breaking when pushing predators away while imbuing hardness in crushing structures like the mandible (Chapter 1). Juvenile lobsters exposed to ocean acidification-like conditions largely maintained their predator defenses, displaying some differences in the composition across the exoskeleton but no strong effects to defense functionality, including the non-exoskeletal defenses of detecting chemical cues and the tail-flip escape response (Chapter 3). Additionally, larval P. interruptus, exposed to both ocean acidification and warming conditions, grew slightly smaller in reduced pH but maintained their transparency in both conditions (Chapter 2). In contrast, H. californiensis resides in eelgrass meadows where a primary defense strategy is cryptic colouration, accomplished via a transparent exoskeleton with underlying pigment. When exposed to both ocean acidification and ocean warming-like conditions, shrimp maintained their transparency and did not respond negatively to either condition (Chapter 4). Together, this work on both species demonstrates that a diversity of predator defenses in temperate crustaceans, included those afforded by the exoskeleton, appear to be relatively resilient to both future ocean acidification and ocean warming conditions.

Continue reading ‘Integrity of crustacean predator defenses under ocean acidification and warming conditions’

Marine mass mortality in a global change context: impacts on individuals, populations and communities

Human actions are pushing natural systems into states that have no historical precedent. In response, empirical and theoretical researchers are increasingly focused on developing ways to predict the responses of ecological systems to change. However, significant knowledge gaps remain, often leading to “ecological surprises” where observed impacts of global change do not align with existing theory or hypotheses. In this dissertation, I study the response to perturbations of a well-characterized system for ecological research, the Northeast Pacific rocky intertidal, to advance our understanding of and ability to predict the impacts of global change on individuals, populations and communities. In 2013 and 2014, sea star species along the west coast of North America were affected by an outbreak of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome (SSWS), resulting in an epidemic of mass mortality that spanned unprecedented geographic and temporal scales and resulted in the near extirpation of multiple sea star species from many locations along the coast. One of the species that was most strongly affected in the intertidal zone was Pisaster ochraceus, an iconic predatory sea star that has the ability to play a keystone role in its community through foraging on and ultimately controlling the lower boundary of mussel prey populations. The first two chapters of this dissertation take advantage of SSWS as a “natural” form of top predator removal to assess the consequences of this type of perturbation on ecosystem resilience. In Chapter 2, I tested the hypotheses that P. ochraceus loss would facilitate a population expansion of a smaller, mesopredator sea star, Leptasterias sp., and that this expansion would have negative effects on P. ochraceus population recovery. This result would follow expectations of competitive release and aligns with existing research on the competitive relationship between these species from the Northeast Pacific intertidal. I used field surveys to track Leptasterias populations just before the onset of and up to three years after SSWS. Contrary to expectation, I did not see an increase in the distribution or density of Leptasterias, and instead saw a decrease in individual size post-SSWS. Further, I found no evidence of competition between P. ochraceus recruits and Leptasterias for resources. Thus, although my hypotheses were grounded in theory and previous research, they were not supported by data. These results suggest that Leptasterias will not provide a bottleneck for P. ochraceus population recovery from SSWS, nor compensate for lowered P. ochraceus predation. The dynamics of P. ochraceus at the recruit (early benthic juvenile) life-history stage has long been considered a gap in our understanding of the species, as recruits have been historically rare in the intertidal and hard to study. Post-SSWS, however, many sites along the coast experienced unprecedented recruitment of P. ochraceus into intertidal ecosystems. In Chapter 3, I used a field experiment to test the hypothesis that this pulse of recruitment was facilitated by SSWS-related adult loss, the consequent decrease in predation by adult P. ochraceus, and increase in prey availability for recruits. Instead of finding evidence that adults dominate recruits in food competition and inhibit recruit success, I found that recruits have a negative effect on P. ochraceus adult densities. Further, treatments where recruits were excluded and only adults had access to prey communities showed the highest control of sessile invertebrate prey populations at the end of the year-long experiment. Thus, these results suggest that adult P. ochraceus will not hinder recruit recovery, but propose a mechanism whereby high recruit densities may increase vulnerability to SSWS-induced shifts in community structure. Outbreaks of mass mortality, particularly those as widespread as SSWS, are one of many ecological challenges driven by anthropogenic environmental changes such as warming and ocean acidification. However, predicting the vulnerability of species and populations to global change is an ongoing and significant challenge for researchers and managers. In Chapter 4 I assessed whether intraspecific physiological variability could help predict P. ochraceus recruit response to ocean acidification and warming. I found that individual metabolic rate interacted with ocean acidification and food availability to drive sea star growth, and that an interaction between metabolic rate and temperature also predicted sea star predation on Mytilus spp. mussels. Thus, these results have implications not only for P. ochraceus but also for its food web interactions. Incorporating these results into predictive frameworks may improve our ability to anticipate and scale up responses to global change across levels of ecological organization. In summary, my dissertation, although chock-full of surprises, presents several paths forward for improving predictive ability in the face of accelerating anthropogenic global changes. Further, we reinforce the notion that management strategies should be cautious and anticipate ecological surprises. Predicting the future is challenging even when predictions are well-informed, particularly in environmental contexts that have never been encountered before.

Continue reading ‘Marine mass mortality in a global change context: impacts on individuals, populations and communities’

Physiological responses of a coccolithophore to multiple environmental drivers

Highlights
• Coccolithophores were more stressful in the higher solar UV irradiance exposures.

• The cells increased their functional antennae sizes under the future ocean conditions.

• Coccolithophores photosynthesized more in the high CO2 and warming ocean.

• Synergistical or antagonistic interactions were observed among multiple drivers.

Abstract
Ocean acidification is known to affect primary producers differentially in terms of species and environmental conditions, with controversial results obtained under different experimental setups. In this work we examined the physiological performances of the coccolithophore Gephyrocapsa oceanica that had been acclimated to 1000 μatm CO2 for ~400 generations, and then exposed to multiple drivers, light intensity, light fluctuating frequency, temperature and UV radiation. Here, we show that increasing light intensity resulted in higher non-photochemical quenching and the effective absorption cross-section of PSII. The effective photochemical efficiency (Fv′/Fm′) decreased with increased levels of light, which was counterbalanced by fluctuating light regimes. The greenhouse condition acts synergistically with decreasing fluctuating light frequency to increase the Fv′/Fm′ and photosynthetic carbon fixation rate. Our data suggest that the coccolithophorid would be more stressed with increased exposures to solar UV irradiances, though its photosynthetic carbon fixation could be enhanced under the greenhouse condition.

Continue reading ‘Physiological responses of a coccolithophore to multiple environmental drivers’

The impact of climate change on intertidal species, camouflage and predation

To understand the impact of climate change on ecosystems we need to know not only how individual species will be affected, but also the relationships between them. Predator-prey relationships determine the structure and function of ecosystems worldwide, governing the abundance of populations, the distribution of different species within habitats and, ultimately, the composition of communities. Many predator-prey relationships are shifting as a result of environmental change, with climate change causing both mismatches in the abundance and distribution of species and changes in predator and prey behaviour. However, few studies have addressed how climate change might impact the interactions between species, particularly the development of anti-predator defences, which enable prey to limit their predation risk. One of the most widespread defences in nature is camouflage, with many species capable of changing colour to match their background to avoid being seen and eaten. The impact of climate change on this process is largely unknown, save for studies on species that exhibit seasonal changes in coloration. Using behavioural assays with predatory rock gobies (Gobius paganellus) and chameleon prawn prey (Hippolyte varians), I first demonstrate how background matching affects survival, shedding light on the fitness benefits of camouflage. Building on this fundamental understanding, this project explores how defensive coloration may be affected by anthropogenic climate change. Through a series of laboratory studies I test what impact ocean warming and ocean acidification have on the development of camouflage in intertidal crustaceans (chameleon prawns and common shore crabs, Carcinus maenas). Camouflage is modelled according to the visual systems of relevant predators, allowing us to understand what implications their coloration has for detectability, predation risk, and associated trophic links. Finally, this project investigates how camouflage can be applied to conservation and aquaculture. By rearing juvenile European lobster (Homarus gammarus) on different backgrounds, I show that they are capable of colour change for camouflage, as well as colour change throughout ontogeny. This capacity could be harnessed to help improve survival on release into the wild. As such, this thesis explores the fundamental science of camouflage, anthropogenic impacts on this process and its applications for conservation.

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