Posts Tagged 'zooplankton'

Early life stages of Calanus pacificus are neither exposed nor sensitive to low pH waters

We characterized the vertical distribution of Calanus pacificus eggs and larvae and the carbonate chemistry that they are exposed to in Puget Sound, WA. We found that, under stratified conditions, more than 90% of eggs and nauplii stages 1–4 were distributed above the pycnocline, in seawater with pH higher than 7.7. In addition, eggs and larvae from 101 females were reared for 5 days under a range of pH conditions (7.2–8.0) to investigate how pH sensitivity varies among individuals. We observed a slight increase in naupliar survival at pH 7.3 in Individual Brood experiments, while in Mixed Brood experiments, exposure to pH 7.3 led to a small decline in hatching success. In a Split Brood experiment, inter-individual variability among different females’ broods masked pH effects. These results indicate that C. pacificus early life stages are generally tolerant to short-term direct effects of ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Early life stages of Calanus pacificus are neither exposed nor sensitive to low pH waters’

Season affects strength and direction of the interactive impacts of ocean warming and biotic stress in a coastal seaweed ecosystem

The plea for using more “realistic,” community‐level, investigations to assess the ecological impacts of global change has recently intensified. Such experiments are typically more complex, longer, more expensive, and harder to interpret than simple organism‐level benchtop experiments. Are they worth the extra effort? Using outdoor mesocosms, we investigated the effects of ocean warming (OW) and acidification (OA), their combination (OAW), and their natural fluctuations on coastal communities of the western Baltic Sea during all four seasons. These communities are dominated by the perennial and canopy‐forming macrophyte Fucus vesiculosus—an important ecosystem engineer Baltic‐wide. We, additionally, assessed the direct response of organisms to temperature and pH in benchtop experiments, and examined how well organism‐level responses can predict community‐level responses to the dominant driver, OW. OW affected the mesocosm communities substantially stronger than acidification. OW provoked structural and functional shifts in the community that differed in strength and direction among seasons. The organism‐level response to OW matched well the community‐level response of a given species only under warm and cold thermal stress, that is, in summer and winter. In other seasons, shifts in biotic interactions masked the direct OW effects. The combination of direct OW effects and OW‐driven shifts of biotic interactions is likely to jeopardize the future of the habitat‐forming macroalga F. vesiculosus in the Baltic Sea. Furthermore, we conclude that seasonal mesocosm experiments are essential for our understanding of global change impact because they take into account the important fluctuations of abiotic and biotic pressures.

Continue reading ‘Season affects strength and direction of the interactive impacts of ocean warming and biotic stress in a coastal seaweed ecosystem’

The planktonic stages of the salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) are tolerant of end-of-century pCO2 concentrations

The copepod Lepeophtheirus salmonis is an obligate ectoparasite of salmonids. Salmon lice are major pests in salmon aquaculture and due to its economic impact Lepeophtheirus salmonis is one of the most well studied species of marine parasite. However, there is limited understanding of how increased concentration of pCO2 associated with ocean acidification will impact host-parasite relationships. We investigated the effects of increased pCO2 on growth and metabolic rates in the planktonic stages, rearing L. salmonis from eggs to 12 days post hatch copepodids under three treatment levels: Control (416 µatm), Mid (747 µatm), and High (942 µatm). The pCO2 treatment had a significant effect on oxygen consumption rate with the High treatment animals exhibiting the greatest respiration. The treatments did not have a significant effect on the other biological endpoints measured (carbon, nitrogen, lipid volume, and fatty acid content). The results indicate that L. salmonis have mechanisms to compensate for increased concentration of pCO2and that populations will be tolerant of projected future ocean acidification scenarios. The work reported here also describes catabolism during the lecithotrophic development of L. salmonis, information that is not currently available to parameterize models of dispersal and viability of the planktonic free-living stages.

Continue reading ‘The planktonic stages of the salmon louse (Lepeophtheirus salmonis) are tolerant of end-of-century pCO2 concentrations’

Assessing annual variability in the shell thickness of the pteropod Heliconoides inflatus in the Cariaco Basin using micro-CT scanning

Pteropods have been nicknamed the canary in the coal mine for ocean acidification because they are predicted to be among the first organisms to be affected by future changes in ocean chemistry. This is due to their fragile, aragonitic shells and high abundances in polar and sub-polar regions where the impacts of ocean acidification will manifest first. For pteropods to be used most effectively as indicators of ocean acidification, their natural variability in the modern ocean needs to be quantified and understood. Here, we measured the shell condition (i.e., the degree to which a shell has dissolved) and shell characteristics, including size, number of whorls, shell thickness, and shell volume (i.e., amount of shell material) of nearly fifty specimens of the pteropod species Heliconoides inflatus from a sediment trap in the Cariaco Basin, Venezuela sampled over an 11-month period. The water in the Cariaco Basin is supersaturated with respect to aragonite year-round, and hydrographic and chemical properties vary seasonally due to the movement of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Shell condition was assessed using with two methods: the Limacina Dissolution Index (LDX) and the opacity method. The opacity method captured changes in shell condition only in the early stages of dissolution, whereas the LDX recorded dissolution changes over a much larger range. Shell condition did not deteriorate with the length of time in the sediment trap. Instead, the most altered shells occurred in samples collected in September and October when water temperatures were warmest, and the amount of organic matter degradation in the water column was likely to have been the greatest. Shells of H. inflatus varied in size, number of whorls, and thickness throughout the year. The number of whorls did not correlate with shell diameter, suggesting that shell growth is plastic. H. inflatus formed shells that were 40 % thicker and 20 % larger in diameter when nutrient concentrations were high during times of upwelling, compared to specimens sampled from the oligotrophic rainy season. This study produces a baseline dataset of the variability in shell characteristics of H. inflatus in the Cariaco Basin and establishes a methodology for generating similar baseline records for pteropod populations globally.

Continue reading ‘Assessing annual variability in the shell thickness of the pteropod Heliconoides inflatus in the Cariaco Basin using micro-CT scanning’

Comparison of two carbon-nitrogen regulatory models calibrated with mesocosm data


• OBM is more skilful than CN-REcoM when calibrated and validated with mesocosm data.

• OBM suggests that ocean acidification (OA) may stimulate carbon fixation rates in algae.

• Also, OA may elevate metabolic stress in phytoplankton, according to OBM.

• CN-REcoM imposes weak constraints on parameter values, hence solutions are flexible.

• As OBM is constrained by the physiological trade-offs, solutions are rigid and robust.


Marine phytoplankton can regulate their stoichiometric composition in response to variations in the availability of nutrients, light and the pH of seawater. Varying elemental composition of photoautotrophs affects several important ecological and biogeochemical processes, e.g., primary and export production, nutrient cycling, calcification, and grazing. Here we compare two plankton ecosystem models that consider regulatory mechanisms of cellular carbon and nitrogen, driving the physiological acclimation of photoautotrophs. The Carbon:Nitrogen Regulated Ecosystem Model (CN-REcoM) and the optimality-based model (OBM) differ in their representation of phytoplankton dynamics, i.e. nutrient acquisition, synthesis of chlorophyll a, and growth. All other model compartments (zooplankton, detritus, dissolved inorganic and organic matter) and processes (grazing, aggregation, remineralisation) remain identical in both models.

We assess the skills of the two models against data from an ocean acidification mesocosm experiment with three CO2 treatments. Neither model accounts for any carbon dioxide (CO2) effects explicitly. Instead, we assimilate data of the different CO2 treatments separately into the models. Thereby we aim at identifying optimal model parameter values that might correlate with differences in CO2 conditions. For the OBM, optimal parameter estimates of Qmin (subsistence N:C ratio) and V (maximum potential photosynthesis rate of photoautotrophs) turned out to be higher for mesocosms exposed to high CO2 compared to those with low CO2 concentrations. By contrast, a similar correlation is not observed for the CN-REcoM. A possible physiological interpretation of higher estimates of Qmin and V according to the OBM is that phytoplankton may experience environmental stress under more acidic conditions, and hence must invest more energy/resources for maintaining basic cellular functions. Our data assimilation reveals that the parameters of the OBM are better constrained by the data than those of the CN-REcoM. Furthermore, the OBM is better able than CN-REcoM to reproduce data that were not used for parameter optimization.

Continue reading ‘Comparison of two carbon-nitrogen regulatory models calibrated with mesocosm data’

The potential impact of underwater exhausted CO2 from innovative ships on invertebrate communities

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered ships equipped with an underwater exhaust system to reduce the ship’s water resistance could form a future generation of energy-efficient ships. The potential consequences of the underwater exhaust gas to the local ecosystems are still unknown. Especially, the CO2 levels may locally exceed estimated future global levels. The present study exposes marine communities to a wide range of CO2 dosages, resulting in pH 8.6–5.8 that was remained for 49 days. We found that the zooplankton and benthic community were adversely affected by high CO2 exposure levels. In detail, (1) between pH 6.6 and 7.1 polychaete worms became the dominating group of the benthic community and their larvae dominated the zooplankton group. (2) Due to the reduced grazing pressure and the flux of nutrients from decaying organic material planktonic microalgae (phytoplankton) stared blooming at the highest exposure level. The periphyton (fouling microalgae) community was not able to take advantage under these conditions. (3) Marine snails’ (periwinkle) shell damage and high mortality were observed at pH < 6.6. However, the growth of the surviving periwinkles was not directly related to pH, but was positively correlated with the availability of periphyton and negatively correlated with the polychaete worm density that most likely also used the periphyton as food source. Our result indicates that the impact of underwater exhaust gasses depends on various factors including local biological and abiotic conditions, which will be included in future research.

Continue reading ‘The potential impact of underwater exhausted CO2 from innovative ships on invertebrate communities’

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’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book