Posts Tagged 'zooplankton'

Southern Ocean pteropods at risk from ocean warming and acidification

Early life stages of marine calcifiers are particularly vulnerable to climate change. In the Southern Ocean aragonite undersaturation events and areas of rapid warming already occur and are predicted to increase in extent. Here, we present the first study to successfully hatch the polar pteropod Limacina helicina antarctica and observe the potential impact of exposure to increased temperature and aragonite undersaturation resulting from ocean acidification (OA) on the early life stage survival and shell morphology. High larval mortality (up to 39%) was observed in individuals exposed to perturbed conditions. Warming and OA induced extensive shell malformation and dissolution, respectively, increasing shell fragility. Furthermore, shell growth decreased, with variation between treatments and exposure time. Our results demonstrate that short-term exposure through passing through hotspots of OA and warming poses a serious threat to pteropod recruitment and long-term population viability.

Continue reading ‘Southern Ocean pteropods at risk from ocean warming and acidification’

Effects of pH and temperature on egg hatching success of the marine planktonic copepod, Calanus finmarchicus

Calanus finmarchicus is a predominant planktonic copepod in the northern North Atlantic Ocean, where it is a fundamental link in the transfer of energy from phytoplankton to fish. Here, we investigate whether ocean acidification at present-day and future levels will cause a significant decrease in the egg hatching success (HS) of C. finmarchicus in the Gulf of Maine. Eggs spawned by female C. finmarchicus collected from the coastal Gulf of Maine were incubated in seawater acidified by addition of CO2 to selected pH levels at 3.5 °C (in a single experiment), 6 °C and 14–15 °C (in multiple experiments). HS was unaffected by pH between 6.58 and 8.0 at 3.5 and 6 °C, and between 7.1 and 8.0 when incubated at 15 °C. A significant interactive effect between temperature and pH on HS was found using a two-way ANOVA of the data from experiments at 6 °C and 14–15 °C, temperatures that are experienced in summer in the Gulf of Maine. HS of eggs spawned from C. finmarchicus females immediately after capture from a coastal station was significantly reduced at pH ≤ 7.0 when incubated at 14–15 °C, although HS of eggs collected from well-fed females in the laboratory in water from the Damariscotta Estuary was not significantly reduced at pH levels as low as 6.6 at 15 °C. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that parental history and possibly maternal provisioning can influence capability of eggs to adjust to lower pH environments. While an interaction between pH and temperatures experienced by C. finmarchicus at the southern edge of its biogeographic range was observed, the pH at which this interaction occurred is substantially lower than pH levels predicted for the surface ocean over the surface ocean.

Continue reading ‘Effects of pH and temperature on egg hatching success of the marine planktonic copepod, Calanus finmarchicus’

The fatty acid content of plankton is changing in subtropical coastal waters as a result of OA: results from a mesocosm study


• First mesocosm experiment to investigate OA impacts on fatty acids profiles of plankton in subtropical coastal waters.
• Contents of total FA, PUFA, and MUFA of phytoplankton increased at late exponential phase under high pCO2 condition.
• Mesozooplankton grazing rate decreased, while DHA uptake rate increased under high pCO2 condition.


Ocean Acidification (OA) effects on marine plankton are most often considered in terms of inorganic carbon chemistry, but decreasing pH may influence other aspects of cellular metabolism. Here we present the effects of OA on the fatty acid (FA) content and composition of an artificial phytoplankton community (Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Thalassiosira weissflogii, and Emiliania huxleyi) in a fully replicated, ∼4 m3 mesocosm study in subtropical coastal waters (Wuyuan Bay, China, 24.52°N, 117.18°E) at present day (400 μatm) and elevated (1000 μatm) pCO2 concentrations. Phytoplankton growth occurred in three phases during the 33-day experiment: an initial exponential growth leading to senescence and a subsequent decline phase. Phytoplankton sampled from these mesocosms were fed to mesozooplankton collected by net haul from Wuyuan Bay. Concentrations of saturated fatty acids (SFA) in both phytoplankton and mesozooplankton remained high under acidified and non-acidified conditions. However, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) increased significantly more under elevated pCO2 during the late exponential phase (Day 13), indicating increased nutritional value for zooplankton and higher trophic levels. Indeed, uptake rates of the essential FA docosahexaenoic acid (C20:5n3, DHA) increased in mesozooplankton under acidified conditions. However, mesozooplankton grazing rates decreased overall with elevated pCO2. Our findings show that these selected phytoplankton species have a relatively high tolerance to acidification in terms of FA production, and local mesozooplankton in these subtropical coastal waters can maintain their FA composition under end of century ocean acidification conditions.

Continue reading ‘The fatty acid content of plankton is changing in subtropical coastal waters as a result of OA: results from a mesocosm study’

Transcriptomic response of the Antarctic pteropod Limacina helicina antarctica to ocean acidification

Ocean acidification (OA), a change in ocean chemistry due to the absorption of atmospheric CO2 into surface oceans, challenges biogenic calcification in many marine organisms. Ocean acidification is expected to rapidly progress in polar seas, with regions of the Southern Ocean expected to experience severe OA within decades. Biologically, the consequences of OA challenge calcification processes and impose an energetic cost.

In order to better characterize the response of a polar calcifier to conditions of OA, we assessed differential gene expression in the Antarctic pteropod, Limacina helicina antarctica. Experimental levels of pCO2 were chosen to create both contemporary pH conditions, and to mimic future pH expected in OA scenarios. Significant changes in the transcriptome were observed when juvenile L. h. antarctica were acclimated for 21 days to low-pH (7.71), mid-pH (7.9) or high-pH (8.13) conditions. Differential gene expression analysis of individuals maintained in the low-pH treatment identified down-regulation of genes involved in cytoskeletal structure, lipid transport, and metabolism. High pH exposure led to increased expression and enrichment for genes involved in shell formation, calcium ion binding, and DNA binding. Significant differential gene expression was observed in four major cellular and physiological processes: shell formation, the cellular stress response, metabolism, and neural function. Across these functional groups, exposure to conditions that mimic ocean acidification led to rapid suppression of gene expression.

Results of this study demonstrated that the transcriptome of the juvenile pteropod, L. h. antarctica, was dynamic and changed in response to different levels of pCO2. In a global change context, exposure of L. h. antarctica to the low pH, high pCO2 OA conditions resulted in a suppression of transcripts for genes involved in key physiological processes: calcification, metabolism, and the cellular stress response. The transcriptomic response at both acute and longer-term acclimation time frames indicated that contemporary L. h. antarctica may not have the physiological plasticity necessary for adaptation to OA conditions expected in future decades. Lastly, the differential gene expression results further support the role of shelled pteropods such as L. h. antarctica as sentinel organisms for the impacts of ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Transcriptomic response of the Antarctic pteropod Limacina helicina antarctica to ocean acidification’

Pteropods are excellent recorders of surface temperature and carbonate ion concentration

Pteropods are among the first responders to ocean acidification and warming, but have not yet been widely explored as carriers of marine paleoenvironmental signals. In order to characterize the stable isotopic composition of aragonitic pteropod shells and their variation in response to climate change parameters, such as seawater temperature, pteropod shells (Heliconoides inflatus) were collected along a latitudinal transect in the Atlantic Ocean (31° N to 38° S). Comparison of shell oxygen isotopic composition to depth changes in the calculated aragonite equilibrium oxygen isotope values implies shallow calcification depths for H. inflatus (75 m). This species is therefore a good potential proxy carrier for past variations in surface ocean properties. Furthermore, we identified pteropod shells to be excellent recorders of climate change, as carbonate ion concentration and temperature in the upper water column have dominant influences on pteropod shell carbon and oxygen isotopic composition. These results, in combination with a broad distribution and high abundance, make the pteropod species studied here, H. inflatus, a promising new proxy carrier in paleoceanography.

Continue reading ‘Pteropods are excellent recorders of surface temperature and carbonate ion concentration’

Ocean acidification causes no detectable effect on swimming activity and body size in a common copepod

Ocean acidification can impair an animal’s physiological performance and energetically demanding activities such as swimming. Behavioural abnormalities and changed activity in response to ocean acidification are reported in fish and crustacean species. We studied swimming activity in the calanoid copepod Pseudocalanus acuspes in response to near-future ocean acidification. Water and copepods were sampled from ten mesocosms deployed on the Swedish west coast. The experiments were conducted on animals reared in the mesocosms for 2 months during spring. Copepods were filmed after long-term (chronic) high-CO2, and after 20 h acute exposure to CO2. There was no significant effect of CO2 on copepods in chronic high-CO2, nor significant effect after the 20 h acute exposure. In addition, we measured prosome length from a large number of adult copepods, but no effect of acidification on body size was found. In this study, P. acuspes did not show sensitivity to near-future pCO2 levels. Even if a number of papers suggest that copepods seem robust to future ocean acidification, interaction between multiple stress factors, such as elevated temperature, hypoxia and salinity changes may impair a copepod’s ability to resist lowered pH.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification causes no detectable effect on swimming activity and body size in a common copepod’

Ocean acidification alters zooplankton communities and increases top-down pressure of a cubozoan predator

The composition of local ecological communities is determined by the members of the regional community that are able to survive the abiotic and biotic conditions of a local ecosystem. Anthropogenic activities since the industrial revolution have increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations, which have in turn decreased ocean pH and altered carbonate ion concentrations: so called ocean acidification (OA). Single-species experiments have shown how OA can dramatically affect zooplankton development, physiology and skeletal mineralization status, potentially reducing their defensive function and altering their predatory and antipredatory behaviors. This means that increased OA may indirectly alter the biotic conditions by modifying trophic interactions. We investigated how OA affects the impact of a cubozoan predator on their zooplankton prey, predominantly Copepoda, Pleocyemata, Dendrobranchiata, and Amphipoda. Experimental conditions were set at either current (pCO2 370 μatm) or end-of-the-century OA (pCO2 1,100 μatm) scenarios, crossed in an orthogonal experimental design with the presence/absence of the cubozoan predator Carybdea rastoni. The combined effects of exposure to OA and predation by C. rastoni caused greater shifts in community structure, and greater reductions in the abundance of key taxa than would be predicted from combining the effect of each stressor in isolation. Specifically, we show that in the combined presence of OA and a cubozoan predator, populations of the most abundant member of the zooplankton community (calanoid copepods) were reduced 27% more than it would be predicted based on the effects of these stressors in isolation, suggesting that OA increases the susceptibility of plankton to predation. Our results indicate that the ecological consequences of OA may be greater than predicted from single-species experiments, and highlight the need to understand future marine global change from a community perspective.

Continue reading ‘Ocean acidification alters zooplankton communities and increases top-down pressure of a cubozoan predator’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book