Posts Tagged 'vents'

Potential resilience to ocean acidification of benthic foraminifers living in Posidonia oceanica meadows: the case of the shallow venting site of Panarea

This research shows the results regarding the response to acidic condition of the sediment and Posidonia foraminiferal assemblages collected around the Panarea Island. The Aeolian Archipelago represents a natural laboratory and a much-promising study site for multidisciplinary marine research (carbon capture and storage, geochemistry of hydrothermal fluids and ocean acidification vs. benthic and pelagic organisms). The variability and the complexity of the interaction of the ecological factors characterizing extreme environments such as shallow hydrothermal vents did not allow us to carry out a real pattern of biota responses in situ, differently from those observed under controlled laboratory conditions. However, the study provides new insights into foraminiferal response to increasing ocean acidification (OA) in terms of biodiversity, faunal density, specific composition of the assemblages and morphological variations of the shells. The study highlights how the foraminiferal response to different pH conditions can change depending on different environmental conditions and microhabitats (sediments, Posidonia leaves and rhizomes). Indeed, mineral sediments were more impacted by acidification, whereas Posidonia microhabitats, thanks to their buffer effect, can offer “refugia” and more mitigated acidic environment. At species level, rosalinids and agglutinated group represent the most abundant taxa showing the most specific resilience and capability to face acidic conditions.

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The role of epiphytes in seagrass productivity under ocean acidification

Ocean Acidification (OA), due to rising atmospheric CO2, can affect the seagrass holobiont by changing the plant’s ecophysiology and the composition and functioning of its epiphytic community. However, our knowledge of the role of epiphytes in the productivity of the seagrass holobiont in response to environmental changes is still very limited. CO2 vents off Ischia Island (Italy) naturally reduce seawater pH, allowing to investigate the adaptation of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica L. (Delile) to OA. Here, we analyzed the percent cover of different epiphytic groups and the epiphytic biomass of P. oceanica leaves, collected inside (pH 6.9–7.9) and outside (pH 8.1–8.2) the CO2 vents. We estimated the contribution of epiphytes to net primary production (NPP) and respiration (R) of leaf sections collected from the vent and ambient pH sites in laboratory incubations. Additionally, we quantified net community production (NCP) and community respiration (CR) of seagrass communities in situ at vent and ambient pH sites using benthic chambers. Leaves at ambient pH sites had a 25% higher total epiphytic cover with encrusting red algae (32%) dominating the community, while leaves at vent pH sites were dominated by hydrozoans (21%). Leaf sections with and without epiphytes from the vent pH site produced and respired significantly more oxygen than leaf sections from the ambient pH site, showing an average increase of 47 ± 21% (mean ± SE) in NPP and 50 ± 4% in R, respectively. Epiphytes contributed little to the increase in R; however, their contribution to NPP was important (56 ± 6% of the total flux). The increase in productivity of seagrass leaves adapted to OA was only marginally reflected by the results from the in situ benthic chambers, underlining the complexity of the seagrass community response to naturally occurring OA conditions.

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Phenotypic responses in fish behaviour narrow as climate ramps up

Natural selection alters the distribution of phenotypes as animals adjust their behaviour and physiology to environmental change. We have little understanding of the magnitude and direction of environmental filtering of phenotypes, and therefore how species might adapt to future climate, as trait selection under future conditions is challenging to study. Here, we test whether climate stressors drive shifts in the frequency distribution of behavioural and physiological phenotypic traits (17 fish species) at natural analogues of climate change (CO2 vents and warming hotspots) and controlled laboratory analogues (mesocosms and aquaria). We discovered that fish from natural populations (4 out of 6 species) narrowed their phenotypic distribution towards behaviourally bolder individuals as oceans acidify, representing loss of shyer phenotypes. In contrast, ocean warming drove both a loss (2/11 species) and gain (2/11 species) of bolder phenotypes in natural and laboratory conditions. The phenotypic variance within populations was reduced at CO2 vents and warming hotspots compared to control conditions, but this pattern was absent from laboratory systems. Fishes that experienced bolder behaviour generally showed increased densities in the wild. Yet, phenotypic alterations did not affect body condition, as all 17 species generally maintained their physiological homeostasis (measured across 5 different traits). Boldness is a highly heritable trait that is related to both loss (increased mortality risk) and gain (increased growth, reproduction) of fitness. Hence, climate conditions that mediate the relative occurrence of shy and bold phenotypes may reshape the strength of species interactions and consequently alter fish population and community dynamics in a future ocean.

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Effects of seawater acidification on echinoid adult stage: a review

The continuous release of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing the acidity of seawater worldwide, and the pH is predicted to be reduced by ~0.4 units by 2100. Ocean acidification (OA) is changing the carbonate chemistry, jeopardizing the life of marine organisms, and in particular calcifying organisms. Because of their calcareous skeleton and limited ability to regulate the acid–base balance, echinoids are among the organisms most threatened by OA. In this review, 50 articles assessing the effects of seawater acidification on the echinoid adult stage have been collected and summarized, in order to identify the most important aspects to consider for future experiments. Most of the endpoints considered (i.e., related to calcification, physiology, behaviour and reproduction) were altered, highlighting how various and subtle the effects of pH reduction can be. In general terms, more than 43% of the endpoints were modified by low pH compared with the control condition. However, animals exposed in long-term experiments or resident in CO2-vent systems showed acclimation capability. Moreover, the latitudinal range of animals’ distribution might explain some of the differences found among species. Therefore, future experiments should consider local variability, long-term exposure and multigenerational approaches to better assess OA effects on echinoids.

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Structural and functional analyses of motile fauna associated with Cystoseira brachycarpa along a gradient of ocean acidification in a CO2-vent system off Panarea (Aeolian Islands, Italy)

Ocean acidification (OA), one of the main climate-change-related stressors linked to increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, is considered an important threat to marine biodiversity and habitats. Studies on CO2-vents systems, naturally acidified environments that mimic future ocean scenarios, help to explore the sensitivity of species and to understand how benthic communities rearrange their structure and functioning under the pressure of OA. We addressed this problem by studying the benthic invertebrates associated with a habitat-forming brown alga (Cystoseira brachycarpa) in the Bottaro crater vents system off Panarea island (Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy), by sampling along an OA gradient from the proximity of the main venting area (station B3, pH 7.9) to a control zone (B1 station, pH 8.1). Samples were collected in September 2016 and 2018. A total of 184 taxa and 23 different functional traits have been identified, considering feeding habit, motility, size, reproductive and developmental biology, and occurrence of calcareous structures. Invertebrates are distributed according to the distance from the high venting zone and low pH levels and results very consistent between the two investigated years. In the low-pH area (B3), 43% of the species are selected. The functional traits of the fauna mirror this zonation pattern, mainly changing the relative proportion of the number of individuals of the various functional guilds along the OA gradient. Invertebrates inhabiting the low-pH zone are mainly composed of weakly or non-calcified species, with small size, burrower/tubicolous habit, omnivorous or suspension feeders, and with direct development and brooding habit. In the other stations, heavily calcified forms, herbivore and herbivore/detritivore, and with medium (1–5 cm) and large (>5 cm) sizes prevail, showing indirect benthic and planktic development. The taxonomic analysis, coupled with functional aspects, increases our prediction of which traits could be potentially more advantageous for species to adapt to the hypothesized scenarios of OA, and identify present and future winner and/or loser organisms in the future ocean of the Anthropocene.

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Ecological and biotechnological relevance of Mediterranean hydrothermal vent systems

Marine hydrothermal systems are a special kind of extreme environments associated with submarine volcanic activity and characterized by harsh chemo-physical conditions, in terms of hot temperature, high concentrations of CO2 and H2S, and low pH. Such conditions strongly impact the living organisms, which have to develop adaptation strategies to survive. Hydrothermal systems have attracted the interest of researchers due to their enormous ecological and biotechnological relevance. From ecological perspective, these acidified habitats are useful natural laboratories to predict the effects of global environmental changes, such as ocean acidification at ecosystem level, through the observation of the marine organism responses to environmental extremes. In addition, hydrothermal vents are known as optimal sources for isolation of thermophilic and hyperthermophilic microbes, with biotechnological potential. This double aspect is the focus of this review, which aims at providing a picture of the ecological features of the main Mediterranean hydrothermal vents. The physiological responses, abundance, and distribution of biotic components are elucidated, by focusing on the necto-benthic fauna and prokaryotic communities recognized to possess pivotal role in the marine ecosystem dynamics and as indicator species. The scientific interest in hydrothermal vents will be also reviewed by pointing out their relevance as source of bioactive molecules.

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Effects of local acidification on benthic communities at shallow hydrothermal vents of the Aeolian Islands (Southern Tyrrhenian, Mediterranean Sea)

Simple Summary

Ocean acidification is causing major changes in marine ecosystems, with varying levels of impact depending on the region and habitat investigated. Here, we report noticeable changes in both meio- and macrobenthic assemblages at shallow hydrothermal vents located in the Mediterranean Sea. In general, the areas impacted by the vent fluids showed decrease in the abundance of several taxa and a shift in community composition, but with a clear biomass reduction evident only for macrofauna. CO2 emissions at shallow hydrothermal vents cause a progressive simplification of community structure and a general biodiversity decline due to the loss of the most sensitive meio- and macrofaunal taxa, which were replaced by the more tolerant groups, such as oligochaetes, or highly mobile species, able to escape from extreme conditions. Our results provide new insight on the tolerance of marine meio- and macrofaunal taxa to the extreme conditions generated by hydrothermal vent emissions in shallow-water ecosystems.


The Aeolian Islands (Mediterranean Sea) host a unique hydrothermal system called the “Smoking Land” due to the presence of over 200 volcanic CO2-vents, resulting in water acidification phenomena and the creation of an acidified benthic environment. Here, we report the results of a study conducted at three sites located at ca. 16, 40, and 80 m of depth, and characterized by CO2 emissions to assess the effects of acidification on meio- and macrobenthic assemblages. Acidification caused significant changes in both meio- and macrofaunal assemblages, with a clear decrease in terms of abundance and a shift in community composition. A noticeable reduction in biomass was observed only for macrofauna. The most sensitive meiofaunal taxa were kinorhynchs and turbellarians that disappeared at the CO2 sites, while the abundance of halacarids and ostracods increased, possibly as a result of the larger food availability and the lower predatory pressures by the sensitive meiofaunal and macrofaunal taxa. Sediment acidification also causes the disappearance of more sensitive macrofaunal taxa, such as gastropods, and the increase in tolerant taxa such as oligochaetes. We conclude that the effects of shallow CO2-vents result in the progressive simplification of community structure and biodiversity loss due to the disappearance of the most sensitive meio- and macrofaunal taxa.

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Low pH and low coral cover at a shallow hydrothermal vent site in Batangas, Philippines

The coral community and pH conditions were characterized at a shallow hydrothermal vent in Batangas, Philippines. Hard coral cover was 14.8 ± 12.5% (mean ± standard deviation) and made up of more than 26 hard coral TAUs (taxonomic amalgamation units). Seawater pH was highly dynamic, especially near the most active vent plume, ranging from a low of 6.12 to a high of 8.09 over the 10 m x 10 m site. Fourteen (14) coral TAUs were found within 1 m of this vent plume, suggesting they can persist under variable pH conditions. These results contribute towards understanding the response of coral communities under future climate change scenarios.

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Microbial biofilms along a geochemical gradient at the shallow-water hydrothermal system of Vulcano Island, Mediterranean Sea

Shallow water hydrothermal vents represent highly dynamic environments where strong geochemical gradients can shape microbial communities. Recently, these systems are being widely used for investigating the effects of ocean acidification on biota as vent emissions can release high CO2 concentrations causing local pH reduction. However, other gas species, as well as trace elements and metals, are often released in association with CO2 and can potentially act as confounding factors. In this study, we evaluated the composition, diversity and inferred functional profiles of microbial biofilms in Levante Bay (Vulcano Island, Italy, Mediterranean Sea), a well-studied shallow-water hydrothermal vent system. We analyzed 16S rRNA transcripts from biofilms exposed to different intensity of hydrothermal activity, following a redox and pH gradient across the bay. We found that elevated CO2 concentrations causing low pH can affect the response of bacterial groups and taxa by either increasing or decreasing their relative abundance. H2S proved to be a highly selective factor shaping the composition and affecting the diversity of the community by selecting for sulfide-dependent, chemolithoautotrophic bacteria. The analysis of the 16S rRNA transcripts, along with the inferred functional profile of the communities, revealed a strong influence of H2S in the southern portion of the study area, and temporal succession affected the inferred abundance of genes for key metabolic pathways. Our results revealed that the composition of the microbial assemblages vary at very small spatial scales, mirroring the highly variable geochemical signature of vent emissions and cautioning for the use of these environments as models to investigate the effects of ocean acidification on microbial diversity.

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Shallow sea gas manifestations in the Aegean Sea (Greece) as natural analogs to study ocean acidification: first catalog and geochemical characterization

The concepts of CO2 emission, global warming, climate change, and their environmental impacts are of utmost importance for the understanding and protection of the ecosystems. Among the natural sources of gases into the atmosphere, the contribution of geogenic sources plays a crucial role. However, while subaerial emissions are widely studied, submarine outgassing is not yet well understood. In this study, we review and catalog 122 literature and unpublished data of submarine emissions distributed in ten coastal areas of the Aegean Sea. This catalog includes descriptions of the degassing vents through in situ observations, their chemical and isotopic compositions, and flux estimations. Temperatures and pH data of surface seawaters in four areas affected by submarine degassing are also presented. This overview provides useful information to researchers studying the impact of enhanced seawater CO2 concentrations related either to increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere or leaking carbon capture and storage systems.

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In situ experiments on the effect of low pH on the ultrastructure of the seagrasses Cymodocea nodosa and Posidonia oceanica

The present study investigates the impacts of low pH on the cell structure of the seagrasses Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile and Cymodocea nodosa (Ucria) Ascherson. The study was applied with in situ experiments at the Castello Aragonese of Ischia (Naples, Italy), where shallow submarine vents, lowering the pH, can be used as natural laboratories. Shoots of the seagrasses were transferred from the control area (pH 8.1) to the two venting areas (pH 7.8 and 6.8) for different times. Epidermal cells of young leaves were examined using transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and tubulin immunofluorescence. After one week at pH 7.8, the cell structure of Posidonia oceanica was normal, while in Cymodocea nodosa microtubule (MT) network and cell structure were affected. In addition, in C. nodosa, ultrastructural analysis revealed a gradual degradation of the nuclei, a disorganization of the chloroplasts, and an increase in the number of mitochondria and dictyosomes. The exposure of both plants for 3 weeks at pH 6.8 resulted in the aggregation and finally in the dilation of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) membranes. Tubulin immunofluorescence revealed that after three weeks, the MT cytoskeleton of both plants was severely affected. All these alterations can be considered as indications of an apoptotic like programmed cell death (AL-PCD) which may be executed in order to regulate stress response.

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Coral micro- and macro-morphological skeletal properties in response to life-long acclimatization at CO2 vents in Papua New Guinea

This study investigates the effects of long-term exposure to OA on skeletal parameters of four tropical zooxanthellate corals naturally living at CO2 seeps and adjacent control sites from two locations (Dobu and Upa Upasina) in the Papua New Guinea underwater volcanic vent system. The seeps are characterized by seawater pH values ranging from 8.0 to about 7.7. The skeletal porosity of Galaxea fascicularisAcropora millepora, massive Porites, and Pocillopora damicornis was higher (up to ~ 40%, depending on the species) at the seep sites compared to the control sites. Pocillopora damicornis also showed a decrease of micro-density (up to ~ 7%). Thus, further investigations conducted on this species showed an increase of the volume fraction of the larger pores (up to ~ 7%), a decrease of the intraskeletal organic matrix content (up to ~ 15%), and an increase of the intraskeletal water content (up to ~ 59%) at the seep sites. The organic matrix related strain and crystallite size did not vary between seep and control sites. This multi-species study showed a common phenotypic response among different zooxanthellate corals subjected to the same environmental pressures, leading to the development of a more porous skeletal phenotype under OA.

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Decreasing pH impairs sexual reproduction in a Mediterranean coral transplanted at a CO2 vent

Ocean acidification, due to the increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere and its absorption by the oceans, affects many aspects of marine calcifying organisms’ biology, including reproduction. Most of the available studies on low pH effects on coral reproduction have been conducted on tropical species under controlled conditions, while little information is reported for either tropical or temperate species in the field. This study describes the influence of decreasing pH on sexual reproduction of the temperate non-zooxanthellate colonial scleractinian Astroides calycularis, transplanted in four sites along a natural pH gradient at the underwater volcanic crater of Panarea Island (Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy). The average pH values of each site (range: pHTS 8.07–7.40) match different scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for the end of the century. After 3 months under experimental conditions, the reproductive parameters of both oocytes and spermaries (abundance, gonadal index, and diameters) seem to be unaffected by low pH. However, a delay in spermary development in the pre-fertilization period and a persistence of mature oocytes in the fertilization period were observed in the most acidic site. Furthermore, no embryos were found in colonies from the two most acidic sites, suggesting a delay or an interruption of the fertilization process due to acidified conditions. These findings suggest a negative effect of low pH on A. calycularis sexual reproduction. However, long-term experiments, including the synergistic impact of pH and temperature, are needed to predict if this species will be able to adapt to climate change over the next century.

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Two temperate corals are tolerant to low pH regardless of previous exposure to natural CO2 vents

Ocean acidification is perceived to be a major threat for many calcifying organisms, including scleractinian corals. Here we investigate (1) whether past exposure to low pH environments associated with CO2 vents could increase corals tolerance to low pH and (2) whether zooxanthellate corals are more tolerant to low pH than azooxanthellate corals. To test these hypotheses, two Mediterranean colonial corals Cladocora caespitosa (zooxanthellate) and Astroides calycularis (azooxanthellate) were collected from CO2 vents and reference sites and incubated in the laboratory under present-day (pH on the total scale, pHT 8.07) and low pH conditions (pHT 7.70). Rates of net calcification, dark respiration and photosynthesis were monitored during a six-month experiment. Monthly net calcification was assessed every 27 to 35 d using the buoyant weight technique, whereas light and dark net calcification was estimated using the alkalinity anomaly technique during 1 h incubations. Neither species showed any change in net calcification rates, respiration, and photosynthesis regardless of their environmental history, pH treatment and trophic strategy. Our results indicate that C. caespitosa and A. calycularis could tolerate future ocean acidification conditions for at least 6 months. These results will aid in predicting species’ future responses to ocean acidification, and thus improve the management and conservation of Mediterranean corals.

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Heterogeneity around CO2 vents obscures the effects of ocean acidification on shallow reef communities

Studies that use CO2 vents as natural laboratories to investigate the impacts of ocean acidification (OA) typically employ control-impact designs or local-scale gradients in pH or pCO2, where impacted sites are compared to reference sites. While these strategies can accurately represent well-defined and stable vent systems in relatively homogenous environments, it may not adequately encompass the natural variability of heterogeneous coastal environments where many CO2 vents exist. Here, we assess the influence of spatial heterogeneity on the perceived impacts of OA at a vent system well established in the OA literature. Specifically, we use a multi-scale approach to investigate and map the spatial variability in seawater pH and benthic communities surrounding vents at Whakaari-White Island, New Zealand to better understand the scale and complexity of ecological impacts of an acidified environment. We found a network of vents embedded in complex topography throughout the study area, and spatially variable pH and pCO2 levels. The distribution of habitats (i.e. macroalgal forests and turfing algae) was most strongly related to substratum type and sea urchin densities, rather than pH. Epifaunal communities within turfing algae differed with sampling distance from vents, but this pattern was driven by higher abundances of a number of taxa immediately adjacent to vents, where pH and temperature gradients are steep and white bacterial mats are prevalent. Our results contrast with previous studies at White Island that have used a control-impact design and suggested significant impacts of elevated CO2 on benthic communities. Instead, we demonstrate a highly heterogeneous reef where it is difficult to separate effects of reduced pH from spatial variation in reef communities. We urge that future research carefully considers and quantifies the biological and physical complexity of venting environments, and suggest that in dynamic systems, such as White Island, the use of control-impact designs can oversimplify and potentially overestimate the future impacts of OA.

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Ocean acidification and mollusc settlement in Posidonia oceanica meadows: does the seagrass buffer lower pH effects at CO2 vents?

Ocean acidification has been broadly recognised to have effects on the structure and functioning of marine benthic communities. The selection of tolerant or vulnerable species can also occur during settlement phases, especially for calcifying organisms which are more vulnerable to low pH–high pCO2 conditions. Here, we use three natural CO2 vents (Castello Aragonese north and south sides, and Vullatura, Ischia, Italy) to assess the effect of a decrease of seawater pH on the settlement of Mollusca in Posidonia oceanica meadows, and to test the possible buffering effect provided by the seagrass. Artificial collectors were installed and collected after 33 days, during April–May 2019, in three different microhabitats within the meadow (canopy, bottom/rhizome level, and dead matte without plant cover), following a pH decreasing gradient from an extremely low pH zone (pH < 7.4), to ambient pH conditions (pH = 8.10). A total of 4659 specimens of Mollusca, belonging to 57 different taxa, were collected. The number of taxa was lower in low and extremely low pH conditions. Reduced mollusc assemblages were reported at the acidified stations, where few taxa accounted for a high number of individuals. Multivariate analyses revealed significant differences in mollusc assemblages among pH conditions, microhabitat, and the interaction of these two factors. Acanthocardia echinataAlvania lineataAlvania sp. juv, Eatonina fulgidaHiatella arcticaMytilys galloprovincialisMusculus subpictusPhorcus sp. juv, and Rissoa variabilis were the species mostly found in low and extremely low pH stations, and were all relatively robust to acidified conditions. Samples placed on the dead matte under acidified conditions at the Vullatura vent showed lower diversity and abundances if compared to canopy and bottom/rhizome samples, suggesting a possible buffering role of the Posidonia on mollusc settlement. Our study provides new evidence of shifts in marine benthic communities due to ocean acidification and evidence of how P. oceanica meadows could mitigate its effects on associated biota in light of future climate change.

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Positive species interactions strengthen in a high-CO2 ocean

Negative interactions among species are a major force shaping natural communities and are predicted to strengthen as climate change intensifies. Similarly, positive interactions are anticipated to intensify and could buffer the consequences of climate-driven disturbances. We used in situ experiments at volcanic CO2 vents within a temperate rocky reef to show that ocean acidification can drive community reorganization through indirect and direct positive pathways. A keystone species, the algal-farming damselfish Parma alboscapularis, enhanced primary productivity through its weeding of algae whose productivity was also boosted by elevated CO2. The accelerated primary productivity was associated with increased densities of primary consumers (herbivorous invertebrates), which indirectly supported increased secondary consumers densities (predatory fish) (i.e. strengthening of bottom-up fuelling). However, this keystone species also reduced predatory fish densities through behavioural interference, releasing invertebrate prey from predation pressure and enabling a further boost in prey densities (i.e. weakening of top-down control). We uncover a novel mechanism where a keystone herbivore mediates bottom-up and top-down processes simultaneously to boost populations of a coexisting herbivore, resulting in altered food web interactions and predator populations under future ocean acidification.

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Global review of the impact of naturally occurring shallow water CO2 seeps

Studying the local impacts of natural marine discharges can help in understanding the local impacts of large-scale restoration programs. This paper reviews studies of naturally occurring CO2 rich hydrothermal vents to understand how nature responds. Venting CO2 raises both total DIC, and the CO2 partial pressure by a factor of 10 or 20 times, lowering the pH and the saturation state of calcium carbonate, impeding calcification by calcifying organisms.

The ocean is a relatively stable environment and significant changes to water chemistry caused by high levels of CO2 input impacts marine organisms. Many algae are able to survive and photosynthesise at low pH levels, and some may actually benefit from an increase in dissolved CO2. However, coralline and calcareous algae that form carbonate skeletons are negatively impacted at low pH. Ecologically and economically valuable marine flora such as kelp, seagrass and certain seaweeds can benefit from increased DIC, exhibiting increases in photosynthetic and growth rates. Kelp and seagrass may also increase local pH levels, creating refuges for calcifying marine species.

The calcification rates of Many marine invertebrates decrease with increasing pCO2. At sites closer to vent openings, with lower pH, the abundance and diversity of invertebrates is significantly reduced. This can impact species valuable to the fishery and aquaculture industry by directly affecting recruitment, growth and survivorship of species such as mussels and oysters and indirectly through reduced abundance of invertebrate prey for herring and mackerel. Corals are also negatively impacted by declining pH and calcium carbonate saturation, yet not all hard corals respond evenly. More resilient genera such as Porites can survive pH drops to approximately 7.8, however below this value reef development is virtually absent and the habitat is dominated by algae and soft corals.

Naturally occurring low pH sites are relatively common in the marine environment and though they clearly alter species composition and abundance, the locally lower pH does not kill marine life, and beyond dispersion zones species are unaffected. Global ocean acidification is a serious problem, however the impacts of local releases of CO2 are relatively limited, resulting in community shifts towards low pH tolerant species. Reversal of global ocean acidification is essential, and restoration of the oceans will require huge carbon dioxide removal (CDR) processes.

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Epiphytic hydroids on Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows are winner organisms under future ocean acidification conditions: evidence from a CO2 vent system (Ischia Island, Italy)

Effects of ocean acidification (OA) on the plant phenology and colonization/settlement pattern of the hydrozoan epibiont community of the leaves of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica have been studied at volcanic CO2 vents off Ischia (Italy). The study was conducted in shallow Posidonia stands (2.5–3.5 m depth), in three stations on the north and three on the south sides of the vent’s area (Castello Aragonese vents), distributed along a pH gradient. At each station, 10–15 P. oceanica shoots were collected every three months for one-year cycle (Sept 2009–2010). The shoot density of Posidonia beds in the most acidified stations along the gradient (pH < 7.4) was significantly higher than that in the control area (pH = 8.10). On the other hand, we recorded lower leaf lengths and widths in the acidified stations in the whole year of observations, compared to those in the control stations. However, the overall leaf surface (Leaf Area Index) available for epiphytes under ocean acidification conditions was higher on the south side and on both the most acidified stations because of the higher shoot density under OA conditions. The hydrozoan epibiont community on the leaf canopy accounted for seven species, three of which were relatively abundant and occurring all year around (Sertularia perpusilla, Plumularia obliqua, Clytia hemisphaerica). All hydroids species showed a clear tolerance to low pH levels, including chitinous and non-calcifying forms, likely favoured also by the absence of competition for substratum with the calcareous forms of epiphytes selected against OA.

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Natural CO2 seeps reveal adaptive potential to ocean acidification in fish

Volcanic CO2 seeps are natural laboratories that can provide insights into the adaptation of species to ocean acidification. Whilst many species are challenged by reduced pH levels, some species benefit from the altered environment and thrive. Here, we explore the molecular mechanisms of adaptation to ocean acidification in a population of a temperate fish species that experiences increased population sizes under elevated CO2. Fish from CO2 seeps exhibited an overall increased gene expression in gonad tissue compared to those from ambient CO2 sites. Up‐regulated genes at CO2 seeps are possible targets of adaptive selection as they can directly influence the physiological performance of fishes exposed to ocean acidification. Most of the up‐regulated genes at seeps were functionally involved in the maintenance of pH homeostasis and increased metabolism, and presented a deviation from neutral evolution expectations in their patterns of DNA polymorphisms, providing evidence for adaptive selection to ocean acidification. The targets of this adaptive selection are likely regulatory sequences responsible for the increased expression of these genes which would allow a fine‐tuned physiological regulation to maintain homeostasis and thrive at CO2 seeps. Our findings reveal that standing genetic variation in DNA sequences regulating the expression of genes in response to a reduced pH environment could provide for adaptive potential to near‐future ocean acidification in fishes. Moreover, with this study we provide a forthright methodology combining transcriptomics and genomics which can be applied to infer the adaptive potential to different environmental conditions in wild marine populations.

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