Posts Tagged 'vents'

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’

Pontellid copepods, Labidocera spp., affected by ocean acidification: A field study at natural CO2 seeps

CO2 seeps in coral reefs were used as natural laboratories to study the impacts of ocean acidification on the pontellid copepod, Labidocera spp. Pontellid abundances were reduced by ∼70% under high-CO2 conditions. Biological parameters and substratum preferences of the copepods were explored to determine the underlying causes of such reduced abundances. Stage- and sex-specific copepod lengths, feeding ability, and egg development were unaffected by ocean acidification, thus changes in these physiological parameters were not the driving factor for reduced abundances under high-CO2 exposure. Labidocera spp. are demersal copepods, hence they live amongst reef substrata during the day and emerge into the water column at night. Deployments of emergence traps showed that their preferred reef substrata at control sites were coral rubble, macro algae, and turf algae. However, under high-CO2 conditions they no longer had an association with any specific substrata. Results from this study indicate that even though the biology of a copepod might be unaffected by high-CO2, Labidocera spp. are highly vulnerable to ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Pontellid copepods, Labidocera spp., affected by ocean acidification: A field study at natural CO2 seeps’

Structural and functional organization of fish assemblages in a Mediterranean shallow CO2 vent

The “business-as-usual emission scenario” simulated by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) suggests that atmospheric CO2 levels could approach 800 ppm by the end of the century. Corresponding biogeochemical models indicate that surface ocean water pH will drop from a pre-industrial value of about 8.2 to 7.8 within 2100 (Feely et al., 2010). This phenomenon known as “Ocean Acidification” (OA) is caused by the increasing CO2 emissions due to anthropic activities, with a current consequence decrease of about 0.1 unit of pH (Caldeira & Wickett 2003) that is having effects on seawater carbonate chemistry and on marine ecosystems. Many short-term laboratory experiments have shown the effects of OA on marine calcareous organisms (Doney et al., 2009), but also on not-calcifying ones. For instance, experiments on fish have revealed effects on physiological and behavioral aspects (Dixson et al., 2010; Munday et al., 2009), but many other aspects are still unknown (Ishimatsu et al., 2008). On the other hand, field experiments have been conducted in naturally acidified marine ecosystems, known as CO2 vents, which are currently investigated to study the long-term effects of OA on species, communities and ecological processes (Hall-Spencer et al. 2008).

Shallow CO₂ vents are widespread in Mediterranean (Dando et al., 1999) and represent a sort of natural mesocosms, where marked pH gradients are present at small spatial scales. The aim of this PhD project is to assess the effect of high pCO2/low pH on the structural and functional organization of fish assemblages in a Mediterranean shallow CO₂ vent (Aeolian Archipelago, NE Sicily). In particular, we compare the responses of a chronic exposed fish assemblage living near the primary vent (mean pH = 7.8; hereafter “Low pH”) with other two fish assemblages living at normal pH (mean pH = 8.2; hereafter “Control 1” and “Control 2”) in Vulcano and Lipari Islands. We hypothesized that the organization of fish assemblage at the low pH site is different from that in controls. To test our hypothesis we use several descriptors and different methodologies. First, we compared fish community structure by using Underwater Visual Census technique to assess species richness and abundance (frequency of occurrence). Then we carried out samplings to evaluate trophic organization of fish assemblages (we used stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen to analyze food web and trophic levels), bioaccumulation and biomagnification of trace elements (concentration and bio-availability of several trace elements, also toxic ones, may increase due to direct input from the vent and to peculiar pH and Eh conditions), and the characteristics of carbonate structures like otoliths (to assess the effect of acidification on these structures by morphological analysis). Otoliths are also used as natural tags to study fish “site fidelity” of this particular site through microchemistry analysis of trace elements and isotopic composition.

This study provided a complete and exhaustive frame of fish assemblages structure and trophic organization at different pH levels. As scant data are available in the literature on this topic, the results of this research provide information about the ecological effects of long-term exposure to high CO2 levels on fish, a key biological component whose monitoring is relevant not only from the ecological side, but also for the economic one and for the implications on human health. Moreover, this study confirms the importance to use the naturally acidified environments to test ecological hypotheses on the effects of OA on communities and ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Structural and functional organization of fish assemblages in a Mediterranean shallow CO2 vent’

Inorganic carbon physiology underpins macroalgal responses to elevated CO2

Beneficial effects of CO2 on photosynthetic organisms will be a key driver of ecosystem change under ocean acidification. Predicting the responses of macroalgal species to ocean acidification is complex, but we demonstrate that the response of assemblages to elevated CO2 are correlated with inorganic carbon physiology. We assessed abundance patterns and a proxy for CO2:HCO3− use (δ13C values) of macroalgae along a gradient of CO2 at a volcanic seep, and examined how shifts in species abundance at other Mediterranean seeps are related to macroalgal inorganic carbon physiology. Five macroalgal species capable of using both HCO3− and CO2 had greater CO2 use as concentrations increased. These species (and one unable to use HCO3−) increased in abundance with elevated CO2 whereas obligate calcifying species, and non-calcareous macroalgae whose CO2 use did not increase consistently with concentration, declined in abundance. Physiological groupings provide a mechanistic understanding that will aid us in determining which species will benefit from ocean acidification and why.

Continue reading ‘Inorganic carbon physiology underpins macroalgal responses to elevated CO2’

Tropical coral reef coral patterns in Indonesian shallow water areas close to underwater volcanic vents at Minahasa Seashore, and Mahengetang and Gunung Api Islands

Coral community patterns on some Indonesian reefs influenced by CO2 from underwater volcanic vents and nutrients from eutrophication pressures were examined. The overall aim of the study was to provide an insight into the significance of future ocean acidification compared to eutrophication pressures on tropical coral communities. Coral cover and seawater characteristics at acidified sites (with varied levels of eutrophication), i.e., moderate acidification (pH: 7.87 ± 0.04), low acidification (pH: 8.01 ± 0.04) and reference (pH: 8.2 ± 0.02), were observed at reefs associated with Minahasa Seashore, and Mahengetang and Gunung Api Islands. Results showed that coral community patterns varied among locations and acidified sites, e.g., domination of families such as Alcyoniidae, Acroporidae, Poritidae and Heliporidae, and with different levels of abiotic cover. Surprisingly, pH was not detected as the major determining factor. This finding probably relates to tropical seawater temperatures being high enough to still allow for aragonite deposition even at pH values down to 7.8. Nutrients (phosphate and dissolved inorganic nitrogen) were shown to be the main determining factors that influenced community patterns on the observed coral reefs. Overall, the results indicate that tropical coral reef community patterns will continue to vary as pH decreases to the predicted oceanic value of pH 7.8 over the next 100 years, and bio-geo-ecological characteristics and anthropogenic pressures will be the major factors determining Indonesian tropical coral community structure, compared to pH.

Continue reading ‘Tropical coral reef coral patterns in Indonesian shallow water areas close to underwater volcanic vents at Minahasa Seashore, and Mahengetang and Gunung Api Islands’

Altered epiphyte community and sea urchin diet in Posidonia oceanica meadows in the vicinity of submarine volcanic CO2 vents

Ocean acidification (OA) predicted for 2100 is expected to shift seagrass epiphyte communities towards the dominance of more tolerant non-calcifying taxa. However, little is known about the indirect effects of such changes on food provision to key seagrass consumers. We found that epiphyte communities of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica in two naturally acidified sites (i.e. north and south sides of a volcanic CO2 vent) and in a control site away from the vent at the Ischia Island (NW Mediterranean Sea) significantly differed in composition and abundance. Such differences involved a higher abundance of non-calcareous crustose brown algae and a decline of calcifying polychaetes in both acidified sites. A lower epiphytic abundance of crustose coralline algae occurred only in the south side of the vents, thus suggesting that OA may alter epiphyte assemblages in different ways due to interaction with local factors such as differential fish herbivory or hydrodynamics. The OA effects on food items (seagrass, epiphytes, and algae) indirectly propagated into food provision to the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus, as reflected by a reduced P. oceanica exploitation (i.e. less seagrass and calcareous epiphytes in the diet) in favour of non-calcareous green algae in both vent sites. In contrast, we detected no difference close and outside the vents neither in the composition of sea urchin diet nor in the total abundance of calcareous versus non-calcareous taxa. More research, under realistic scenarios of predicted pH reduction (i.e. ≤ 0.32 units of pH by 2100), is still necessary to better understand cascading effects of this altered urchin exploitation of food resources under acidified conditions on ecosystem diversity and function.

Continue reading ‘Altered epiphyte community and sea urchin diet in Posidonia oceanica meadows in the vicinity of submarine volcanic CO2 vents’

Functional genomic analysis of corals from natural CO2-seeps reveal core molecular responses involved in acclimatization to ocean acidification

Little is known about the potential for acclimatization or adaptation of corals to ocean acidification and even less about the molecular mechanisms underpinning these processes. Here we examine global gene expression patterns in corals and their intracellular algal symbionts from two replicate population pairs in Papua New Guinea that have undergone long-term acclimatization to natural variation in pCO2. In the coral host, only 61 genes were differentially expressed in response to pCO2 environment, but the pattern of change was highly consistent between replicate populations, likely reflecting the core expression homeostasis response to ocean acidification. Functional annotations highlight lipid metabolism and a change in the stress response capacity of corals as a key part of this process. Specifically, constitutive downregulation of molecular chaperones was observed, which may impact response to combined climate-change related stressors. Elevated CO2 has been hypothesized to benefit photosynthetic organisms but expression changes of in hospite Symbiodinium in response to acidification were greater and less consistent among reef populations. This population-specific response suggests hosts may need to adapt not only to an acidified environment, but also to changes in their Symbiodinium populations that may not be consistent among environments. This process adds another challenging dimension to the physiological process of coping with climate change.

Continue reading ‘Functional genomic analysis of corals from natural CO2-seeps reveal core molecular responses involved in acclimatization to ocean acidification’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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