Posts Tagged 'vents'

Low recruitment due to altered settlement substrata as primary constraint for coral communities under ocean acidification

The future of coral reefs under increasing CO2 depends on their capacity to recover from disturbances. To predict the recovery potential of coral communities that are fully acclimatized to elevated CO2, we compared the relative success of coral recruitment and later life stages at two volcanic CO2 seeps and adjacent control sites in Papua New Guinea. Our field experiments showed that the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on coral recruitment rates were up to an order of magnitude greater than the effects on the survival and growth of established corals. Settlement rates, recruit and juvenile densities were best predicted by the presence of crustose coralline algae, as opposed to the direct effects of seawater CO2. Offspring from high CO2 acclimatized parents had similarly impaired settlement rates as offspring from control parents. For most coral taxa, field data showed no evidence of cumulative and compounding detrimental effects of high CO2 on successive life stages, and three taxa showed improved adult performance at high CO2 that compensated for their low recruitment rates. Our data suggest that severely declining capacity for reefs to recover, due to altered settlement substrata and reduced coral recruitment, is likely to become a dominant mechanism of how OA will alter coral reefs.

Continue reading ‘Low recruitment due to altered settlement substrata as primary constraint for coral communities under ocean acidification’

The sibling polychaetes Platynereis dumerilii and Platynereis massiliensis in the Mediterranean Sea: are phylogeographic patterns related to exposure to ocean acidification?

High pCO2 environments, such as volcanic carbon dioxide (CO2) vents, which mimic predicted near-future scenarios of ocean acidification (OA), offer an opportunity to examine effects of low pH conditions on marine biodiversity and adaptation/acclimatization of marine organisms to such conditions. Based on previous field studies in these systems, it is predicted that the stress owing to increasing CO2 concentrations favours the colonization by invertebrate species with a brooding habit. The goal of this study was to investigate the relative occurrence of the two sibling species Platynereis dumerilii (Audouin & Milne-Edwards, 1834) (free spawner) and Platynereis massiliensis (Moquin-Tandon, 1869) (egg brooder) in two shallow CO2 vents off Ischia and Vulcano islands (Italy, Tyrrhenian Sea), and in various areas with ambient pH conditions, where they represent one of the dominant genera. Phylogeographic analyses were integrated with reproductive biology and life-history observations on some selected populations thriving in the vent areas. This approach revealed the presence of four distinct Platynereis clades. Whereas two clades primarily inhabit CO2 vents and are presumably all brooders, the other two clades dominate the non-acidified sites and appear to be epitokous free spawners. We postulate that one of the brooding, vent-inhabiting clades represents P. massiliensis and one of the free spawning, non-vent-inhabiting clades represents P. dumerilii, although confirmation of the species status with sequence data from the respective-type localities would be desirable.

Continue reading ‘The sibling polychaetes Platynereis dumerilii and Platynereis massiliensis in the Mediterranean Sea: are phylogeographic patterns related to exposure to ocean acidification?’

The influence of high pCO2 on otolith shape, chemical and carbon isotope composition of six coastal fish species in a Mediterranean shallow CO2 vent

Naturally acidified environments, such as CO2 vents, are important sites to evaluate the potential effects of increased ocean acidification on marine ecosystems and biota. Here we assessed the effect of high CO2/low pH on otolith shape and chemical composition of six coastal fish species (Chromis chromis, Coris julis, Diplodus vulgaris, Gobius bucchichi, Sarpa salpa, Symphodus ocellatus) in a Mediterranean shallow CO2 vent. Taking into consideration the major and trace elements found near the vent and the gradient of dissolved inorganic carbon, we compared the otolith chemical signatures of fish exposed long-term to elevated CO2 emissions and reduced pH (mean pH 7.8) against fish living in two control sites (mean pH 8.2). A number of element:Ca ratios (Na:Ca, Mg:Ca, Mn:Ca, Cu:Ca, Zn:Ca, Sr:Ca, Ba:Ca and Pb:Ca), along with isotope ratios, were measured in otoliths (δ13C and δ18O) and water (δ13CDIC) samples. Additionally, we performed otolith outline shape and morphometric analysis to evaluate the effect of high CO2/low pH. We observed species-specific responses with regards to both shape and chemical signatures. Significant differences among sites were found in otolith shape (elliptical Fourier descriptors) of G. bucchichi and D. vulgaris. Elemental and isotopic signatures were also significantly different in these site attached species, though not for the other four. Overall, the carbon isotopic composition seems a good proxy to follow pH gradient in naturally acidified area. Ultimately, besides improving our knowledge of the effects of high CO2/low pH on otoliths, the present results contribute to our understanding on their use as natural tags.

Continue reading ‘The influence of high pCO2 on otolith shape, chemical and carbon isotope composition of six coastal fish species in a Mediterranean shallow CO2 vent’

Minor impacts of reduced pH on bacterial biofilms on settlement tiles along natural pH gradients at two CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea

Bacterial biofilms provide cues for the settlement of marine invertebrates such as coral larvae, and are therefore important for the resilience and recovery of coral reefs. This study aimed to better understand how ocean acidification may affect the community composition and diversity of bacterial biofilms on surfaces under naturally reduced pH conditions. Settlement tiles were deployed at coral reefs in Papua New Guinea along pH gradients created by two CO2 seeps. Biofilms on upper and lower tiles surfaces were sampled 5 and 13 months after deployment. Automated Ribosomal Intergenic Spacer Analysis was used to characterize 240 separate bacterial communities, complemented by amplicon sequencing of the bacterial 16S rRNA gene of 16 samples. Bacterial biofilms consisted predominantly of Alpha-, Gamma-, and Delta-proteobacteria, as well as Cyanobacteria, Flavobacteriia, and Cytophagia, whereas taxa that induce settlement of invertebrate larvae only accounted for a small fraction of the community. Bacterial biofilm composition was heterogeneous, with on average only ∼25% of operational taxonomic units shared between samples. Among the observed environmental parameters, pH was only weakly related to community composition (R2 ∼ 1%), and was unrelated to community richness and evenness. In contrast, biofilms strongly differed between upper and lower tile surfaces (contrasting in light exposure and grazing intensity). There also appeared to be a strong interaction between bacterial biofilm composition and the macroscopic components of the tile community. Our results suggest that on mature settlement surfaces in situ, pH does not have a strong impact on the composition of bacterial biofilms. Other abiotic and biotic factors such as light exposure and interactions with other organisms may be more important in shaping bacterial biofilms on mature surfaces than changes in seawater pH.

Continue reading ‘Minor impacts of reduced pH on bacterial biofilms on settlement tiles along natural pH gradients at two CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea’

Ocean acidification as a driver of community simplification via the collapse of higher-order and rise of lower-order consumers

Increasing oceanic uptake of CO2 is predicted to drive ecological change as both a resource (i.e. CO2 enrichment on primary producers) and stressor (i.e. lower pH on consumers). We use the natural ecological complexity of a CO2 vent (i.e. a seagrass system) to assess the potential validity of conceptual models developed from laboratory and mesocosm research. Our observations suggest that the stressor-effect of CO2enrichment combined with its resource-effect drives simplified food web structure of lower trophic diversity and shorter length. The transfer of CO2 enrichment from plants to herbivores through consumption (apparent resource-effect) was not compensated by predation, because carnivores failed to contain herbivore outbreaks. Instead, these higher-order consumers collapsed (apparent stressor-effect on carnivores) suggesting limited trophic propagation to predator populations. The dominance of primary producers and their lower-order consumers along with the loss of carnivores reflects the duality of intensifying ocean acidification acting both as resource-effect (i.e. bottom-up control) and stressor-effect (i.e. top-down control) to simplify community and trophic structure and function. This shifting balance between the propagation of resource enrichment and its consumption across trophic levels provides new insights into how the trophic dynamics might stabilize against or propagate future environmental change.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification as a driver of community simplification via the collapse of higher-order and rise of lower-order consumers’

Carbon and nitrogen allocation strategy in Posidonia oceanica is altered by seawater acidification

Rising atmospheric CO2 causes ocean acidification that represents one of the major ecological threats for marine biota. We tested the hypothesis that long-term exposure to increased CO2 level and acidification in a natural CO2 vent system alters carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) metabolism in Posidonia oceanica L. (Delile), affecting its resilience, or capability to restore the physiological homeostasis, and the nutritional quality of organic matter available for grazers. Seawater acidification decreased the C to N ratio in P. oceanica tissues and increased grazing rate, shoot density, leaf proteins and asparagine accumulation in rhizomes, while the maximum photochemical efficiency of photosystem II was unaffected. The 13C-dilution in both structural and non-structural C metabolites in the acidified site indicated quali-quantitative changes of C source and/or increased isotopic fractionation during C uptake and carboxylation associated with the higher CO2 level. The decreased C:N ratio in the acidified site suggests an increased N availability, leading to a greater storage of 15N-enriched compounds in rhizomes. The amount of the more dynamic C storage form, sucrose, decreased in rhizomes of the acidified site in response to the enhanced energy demand due to higher shoot recruitment and N compound synthesis, without affecting starch reserves. The ability to modulate the balance between stable and dynamic C reserves could represent a key ecophysiological mechanism for P. oceanica resilience under environmental perturbation. Finally, alteration in C and N dynamics promoted a positive contribution of this seagrass to the local food web.

Continue reading ‘Carbon and nitrogen allocation strategy in Posidonia oceanica is altered by seawater acidification’

Physiological and biochemical analyses shed light on the response of Sargassum vulgare to ocean acidification at different time scales

Studies regarding macroalgal responses to ocean acidification (OA) are mostly limited to short-term experiments in controlled conditions, which hamper the possibility to scale up the observations to long-term effects in the natural environment. To gain a broader perspective, we utilized volcanic CO2 vents as a “natural laboratory” to study OA effects on Sargassum vulgare at different time scales. We measured photosynthetic rates, oxidative stress levels, antioxidant contents, antioxidant enzyme activities, and activities of oxidative metabolic enzymes in S. vulgare growing at a natural acidified site (pH 6.7) compared to samples from a site with current pH (pH 8.2), used as a control one. These variables were also tested in plants transplanted from the control to the acidified site and vice-versa. After short-term exposure, photosynthetic rates and energy metabolism were increased in S. vulgare together with oxidative damage. However, in natural populations under long-term conditions photosynthetic rates were similar, the activity of oxidative metabolic enzymes was maintained, and no sign of oxidative damages was observed. The differences in the response of the macroalga indicate that the natural population at the acidified site is adapted to live at the lowered pH. The results suggest that this macroalga can adopt biochemical and physiological strategies to grow in future acidified oceans.

Continue reading ‘Physiological and biochemical analyses shed light on the response of Sargassum vulgare to ocean acidification at different time scales’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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