Posts Tagged 'vents'

Long-term response of Dictyota dichotoma var. intricata (C. Agardh) Greville (Phaeophyceae) to ocean acidification: Insights from high pCO2 vents


•We observed a reduced abundance and individual size of Dictyota at 8.1 compared to pH 6.7

•The photochemical efficiency differs between the two populations of Dictyota, living at two different pH for decades

•Individuals at low pH (6.7) have lower photochemical efficiency, low energetic costs but a higher capability to face the oxidative stress

•The saved energy may be invested in growth and reproduction, ensuring the biological success under ocean acidification

•First physiological plasticity and, then the adaptive response may be at base of short- and long-term response of Dictyota


The ocean acidification may severely affect macroalgal communities of the shallowest coastal habitats where they play relevant structural and functional roles. In this paper were investigated the physiological traits of two populations of Dictyota dichotoma var. intricata, living at two different pH for several generations to assess the reasons of the algae reduced abundance at current (8.1) compared to low pH (6.7). Besides, through transplant experiments, the two populations were analysed for the stress response and reversibility of physiological performance at different pH. The long-term acclimation to high pCO2/low pH favours an ecotype characterised by low energetic costs, higher photochemical efficiency and more resistance to the oxidative stress, compared to individuals living at current pH. These traits promoted the growth and reproduction of the community living at pH 6.7, favouring a lower macroalgal diversity, but a higher ecological success under ocean acidification. The similar behaviour observed between Dictyota living at pH 6.7 and transplanted thalli from pH 6.7 to 8.1, suggested a high tolerance to pH changes in the short-term. On the contrary, adaptive responses may have favoured molecular adjustments on the long-term, as showed by the significant differences between the wild populations at pH 8.1 and 6.7. The overall data indicate that both plasticity and adaptive mechanisms may be the reasons for the success of the brown seaweeds under future high pCO2/low pH. The plasticity due to photochemistry adjustments is likely involved in the early response to environmental changes. Conversely, modifications in the photosynthetic biochemical machinery suggest that more complex adaptive mechanisms occurred in the current population of Dictyota living at pH 6.7. Further studies on population genetics will reveal if any differentiation is taking place at the population level or a local adaptation has already occurred in Dictyota and other brown algae under chronic low pH.

Continue reading ‘Long-term response of Dictyota dichotoma var. intricata (C. Agardh) Greville (Phaeophyceae) to ocean acidification: Insights from high pCO2 vents’

Effects of ocean acidification on phenology and epiphytes of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica at two CO2 vent systems of Ischia (Italy)

Morphological features of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica (L.) Delile and its epiphyte community were studied in three acidified stations located in two CO2 vents systems and one control station under normal pH conditions off the island of Ischia (Italy) to highlight the possible effects of ocean acidification. Plant phenology was analyzed every two months for a year cycle (June 2016–April 2017), while epiphytes were studied in the period of highest development of both the leaf canopy and the epiphytic community (June, August, and October 2016). The shoot density of Posidonia beds in the acidified stations of the studied sites was significantly higher than that in the control area. Significant differences in the mean leaf length according to the pH condition, month, and the interaction of these two factors were observed (PERMANOVA); the mean leaf width differed also among pH conditions and months. We recorded lower leaf lengths and widths in the acidified stations in all the considered months, compared to those in the control station. These differences are consistent with the higher impact of grazing by the herbivorous fish Sarpa salpa observed on the leaves in the acidified stations. However, the overall leaf surface available for epiphytes was similar among stations because of the higher shoot density under ocean acidification conditions. Overall, the composition and structure of the epiphytic community on the Posidonia leaves showed significant differences in relation to acidification: in both acidified sites, all the calcareous forms, both encrusting red algae (Corallinales) and animals (bryozoans, foraminiferans, and spirorbids), disappeared or were strongly reduced, in favor of encrusting or erect fleshy algae, and non-calcifying invertebrates (hydrozoans, tunicates) which dominated the assemblage. Coralline algae are early species in the epiphytic colonization of P. oceanica and therefore their absence can further modify the pattern of leaf colonization by other species. Therefore, the changes found in the epiphyte community in low pH areas could have potential cascading effects on the seagrass trophic network and the functioning of the system.

Continue reading ‘Effects of ocean acidification on phenology and epiphytes of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica at two CO2 vent systems of Ischia (Italy)’

Coral persistence despite extreme periodic pH fluctuations at a volcanically acidified Caribbean reef

Naturally acidified environments, such as those caused by volcanic CO2 venting, reveal how complex coral reef ecosystems may respond to future ocean acidification conditions. Few of these sites have been described worldwide, and only a single such site is known from the Caribbean. Herein, we have characterized an area of volcanic acidification at Mayreau Island, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Despite localized CO2 enrichment and gas venting, the surrounding area has high hard and soft coral cover, as well as extensive carbonate frameworks. Twice daily extremes in acidification, in some cases leading to undersaturation of aragonite, are correlated with tidal fluctuations and are likely related to water flow. Corals persisting despite this periodic acidification can provide insights into mechanisms of resilience and the importance of natural pH variability on coral reefs.

Continue reading ‘Coral persistence despite extreme periodic pH fluctuations at a volcanically acidified Caribbean reef’

Changes in fish communities due to benthic habitat shifts under ocean acidification conditions


• Ocean acidification-mediated habitat shifts and decreased complexity affect associated fish communities.

• Altered fish traits and reduced diversity occurred under near-future ocean acidification levels.

• Ocean acidification may oppose the poleward-shift of tropical fish species under warming.


Ocean acidification will likely change the structure and function of coastal marine ecosystems over coming decades. Volcanic carbon dioxide seeps generate dissolved CO2 and pH gradients that provide realistic insights into the direction and magnitude of these changes. Here, we used fish and benthic community surveys to assess the spatio-temporal dynamics of fish community properties off CO2 seeps in Japan. Adding to previous evidence from ocean acidification ecosystem studies conducted elsewhere, our findings documented shifts from calcified to non-calcified habitats with reduced benthic complexity. In addition, we found that such habitat transition led to decreased diversity of associated fish and to selection of those fish species better adapted to simplified ecosystems dominated by algae. Our data suggest that near-future projected ocean acidification levels will oppose the ongoing range expansion of coral reef-associated fish due to global warming.

Continue reading ‘Changes in fish communities due to benthic habitat shifts under ocean acidification conditions’

Earthquake and typhoon trigger unprecedented transient shifts in shallow hydrothermal vents biogeochemistry

Shallow hydrothermal vents are of pivotal relevance for ocean biogeochemical cycles, including seawater dissolved heavy metals and trace elements as well as the carbonate system balance. The Kueishan Tao (KST) stratovolcano off Taiwan is associated with numerous hydrothermal vents emitting warm sulfur-rich fluids at so-called White Vents (WV) and Yellow Vent (YV) that impact the surrounding seawater masses and habitats. The morphological and biogeochemical consequences caused by a M5.8 earthquake and a C5 typhoon (“Nepartak”) hitting KST (12th May, and 2nd–10th July, 2016) were studied within a 10-year time series (2009–2018) combining aerial drone imagery, technical diving, and hydrographic surveys. The catastrophic disturbances triggered landslides that reshaped the shoreline, burying the seabed and, as a consequence, native sulfur accretions that were abundant on the seafloor disappeared. A significant reduction in venting activity and fluid flow was observed at the high-temperature YV. Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) maxima in surrounding seawater reached 3000–5000 µmol kg−1, and Total Alkalinity (TA) drawdowns were below 1500–1000 µmol kg−1 lasting for one year. A strong decrease and, in some cases, depletion of dissolved elements (Cd, Ba, Tl, Pb, Fe, Cu, As) including Mg and Cl in seawater from shallow depths to the open ocean followed the disturbance, with a recovery of Mg and Cl to pre-disturbance concentrations in 2018. The WV and YV benthic megafauna exhibited mixed responses in their skeleton Mg:Ca and Sr:Ca ratios, not always following directions of seawater chemical changes. Over 70% of the organisms increased skeleton Mg:Ca ratio during rising DIC (higher CO2) despite decreasing seawater Mg:Ca ratios showing a high level of resilience. KST benthic organisms have historically co-existed with such events providing them ecological advantages under extreme conditions. The sudden and catastrophic changes observed at the KST site profoundly reshaped biogeochemical processes in shallow and offshore waters for one year, but they remained transient in nature, with a possible recovery of the system within two years.

Continue reading ‘Earthquake and typhoon trigger unprecedented transient shifts in shallow hydrothermal vents biogeochemistry’

Resistance of seagrass habitats to ocean acidification via altered interactions in a tri-trophic chain

Despite the wide knowledge about prevalent effects of ocean acidification on single species, the consequences on species interactions that may promote or prevent habitat shifts are still poorly understood. Using natural CO2 vents, we investigated changes in a key tri-trophic chain embedded within all its natural complexity in seagrass systems. We found that seagrass habitats remain stable at vents despite the changes in their tri-trophic components. Under high pCO2, the feeding of a key herbivore (sea urchin) on a less palatable seagrass and its associated epiphytes decreased, whereas the feeding on higher-palatable green algae increased. We also observed a doubled density of a predatory wrasse under acidified conditions. Bottom-up CO2 effects interact with top-down control by predators to maintain the abundance of sea urchin populations under ambient and acidified conditions. The weakened urchin herbivory on a seagrass that was subjected to an intense fish herbivory at vents compensates the overall herbivory pressure on the habitat-forming seagrass. Overall plasticity of the studied system components may contribute to prevent habitat loss and to stabilize the system under acidified conditions. Thus, preserving the network of species interactions in seagrass ecosystems may help to minimize the impacts of ocean acidification in near-future oceans.

Continue reading ‘Resistance of seagrass habitats to ocean acidification via altered interactions in a tri-trophic chain’

Patterns in microbiome composition differ with ocean acidification in anatomic compartments of the Mediterranean coral Astroides calycularis living at CO2 vents


• Coral microbiomes contribute to host acclimatization to environmental change.

• Natural CO2 gradients are a model of global change-induced ocean acidification.

• Non-symbiotic coral Astroides calycularis survives in a natural acidified site.

• Calycularis mucus microbiome is the most affected by low pH conditions.

• Low pH conditions induce changes in microbiome supporting nitrogen cycling.


Coral microbiomes, the complex microbial communities associated with the different anatomic compartments of the coral, provide important functions for the host’s survival, such as nutrient cycling at the host’s surface, prevention of pathogens colonization, and promotion of nutrient uptake. Microbiomes are generally referred to as plastic entities, able to adapt their composition and functionality in response to environmental change, with a possible impact on coral acclimatization to phenomena related to climate change, such as ocean acidification. Ocean sites characterized by natural gradients of pCO2 provide models for investigating the ability of marine organisms to acclimatize to decreasing seawater pH. Here we compared the microbiome of the temperate, shallow water, non-symbiotic solitary coral Astroides calycularis that naturally lives at a volcanic CO2 vent in Ischia Island (Naples, Italy), with that of corals living in non-acidified sites at the same island. Bacterial DNA associated with the different anatomic compartments (mucus, tissue and skeleton) of A. calycularis was differentially extracted and a total of 68 samples were analyzed by 16S rRNA gene sequencing. In terms of phylogenetic composition, the microbiomes associated with the different coral anatomic compartments were different from each other and from the microbial communities of the surrounding seawater. Of all the anatomic compartments, the mucus-associated microbiome differed the most between the control and acidified sites. The differences detected in the microbial communities associated to the three anatomic compartments included a general increase in subdominant bacterial groups, some of which are known to be involved in different stages of the nitrogen cycle, such as potential nitrogen fixing bacteria and bacteria able to degrade organic nitrogen. Our data therefore suggests a potential increase of nitrogen fixation and recycling in A. calycularis living close to the CO2 vent system.

Continue reading ‘Patterns in microbiome composition differ with ocean acidification in anatomic compartments of the Mediterranean coral Astroides calycularis living at CO2 vents’

Responses of sea urchin larvae to field and laboratory acidification


• We deploy identical populations of sea urchin embryos in lab and field ocean acidification scenarios.

• Acidification had opposite effects on larval growth in the lab and in the field.

• Results of ocean acidification lab studies may not necessarily scale to field conditions.


Understanding the extent to which laboratory findings of low pH on marine organisms can be extrapolated to the natural environment is key towards making better projections on the impacts of global change on marine ecosystems. We simultaneously exposed larvae of the sea urchin Arbacia lixula to ocean acidification in laboratory and natural CO2 vents and assessed the arm growth response as a proxy of net calcification. Populations of embryos were simultaneously placed at both control and volcanic CO2 vent sites in Ischia (Italy), with a parallel group maintained in the laboratory in control and low pH treatments corresponding to the mean pH levels of the field sites. As expected, larvae grown at constant low pH (pHT 7.8) in the laboratory exhibited reduced arm growth, but counter to expectations, the larvae that developed at the low pH vent site (pHT 7.33–7.99) had the longest arms. The larvae at the control field site (pHT 7.87–7.99) grew at a similar rate to laboratory controls. Salinity, temperature, oxygen and flow regimes were comparable between control and vent sites; however, chlorophyll a levels and particulate organic carbon were higher at the vent site than at the control field site. Thus, increased food availability may have modulated the effects of low pH, creating an opposite calcification response in the laboratory and the field. Divergent responses of the same larval populations developing in laboratory and field environments show the importance of considering larval phenotypic plasticity and complex interactions between decreased pH, food availability and larval responses.

Continue reading ‘Responses of sea urchin larvae to field and laboratory acidification’

Are control of extracellular acid-base balance and regulation of skeleton genes linked to resistance to ocean acidification in adult sea urchins?


• Arbacia lixula and Paracentrotus lividus were differently affected by low pH exposure.

• P. lividus skeleton integrity was not affected by low pH.

• Arbacia lixula exposed to low pH near CO2 vent showed decreased skeletal integrity.

• pH exposure leads to changes in biomineralization-related genes expression.

• Acid-base regulation capacity is linked with a better tolerance to low pH.

Continue reading ‘Are control of extracellular acid-base balance and regulation of skeleton genes linked to resistance to ocean acidification in adult sea urchins?’

A unique temperate rocky coastal hydrothermal vent system (Whakaari–White Island, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand): constraints for ocean acidification studies

In situ effects of ocean acidification are increasingly studied at submarine CO2 vents. Here we present a preliminary investigation into the water chemistry and biology of cool temperate CO2 vents near Whakaari–White Island, New Zealand. Water samples were collected inside three vent shafts, within vents at a distance of 2 m from the shaft and at control sites. Vent samples contained both seawater pH on the total scale (pHT) and carbonate saturation states that were severely reduced, creating conditions as predicted for beyond the year 2100. Vent samples showed lower salinities, higher temperatures and greater nutrient concentrations. Sulfide levels were elevated and mercury levels were at concentrations considered toxic at all vent and control sites, but stable organic and inorganic ligands were present, as deduced from Cu speciation data, potentially mediating harmful effects on local organisms. The biological investigations focused on phytoplankton, zooplankton and macroalgae. Interestingly, we found lower abundances but higher diversity of phytoplankton and zooplankton at sites in the direct vicinity of Whakaari. Follow-up studies will need a combination of methods and approaches to attribute observations to specific drivers. The Whakaari vents represent a unique ecosystem with considerable biogeochemical complexity, which, like many other vent systems globally, require care in their use as a model of ‘future oceans’.

Continue reading ‘A unique temperate rocky coastal hydrothermal vent system (Whakaari–White Island, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand): constraints for ocean acidification studies’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book