Anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions induce ocean acidification, thereby reducing carbonate ion concentration, which may affect the ability of calcifying organisms to build shells. Pteropods, the main planktonic producers of aragonite in the worlds’ oceans, may be particularly vulnerable to changes in sea water chemistry. The negative effects are expected to be most severe at high-latitudes, where natural carbonate ion concentrations are low. In this study we investigated the combined effects of ocean acidification and freshening on Limacina retroversa, the dominant pteropod in sub polar areas. Living L.retroversa, collected in Northern Norwegian Sea, were exposed to four different pH values ranging from the pre-industrial level to the forecasted end of century ocean acidification scenario. Since over the past half-century the Norwegian Sea has experienced a progressive freshening with time, each pH level was combined with a salinity gradient in two factorial, randomized experiments investigating shell degradation, swimming behavior and survival. In addition, to investigate shell degradation without any physiologic influence, one perturbation experiments using only shells of dead pteropods was performed.
Lower pH reduced shell mass whereas shell dissolution increased with pCO2. Interestingly, shells of dead organisms had a higher degree of dissolution than shells of living individuals. Mortality of Limacina retroversa was strongly affected only when both pH and salinity reduced simultaneously. The combined effects of lower salinity and lower pH also affected negatively the ability of pteropods to swim upwards. Results suggest that the energy cost of maintaining ion balance and avoiding sinking (in low salinity scenario) combined with the extra energy cost necessary to counteract shell dissolution (in high pCO2 scenario), exceed the available energy budget of this organism causing the pteropods to change swimming behavior and begin to collapse. Since L.retroversa play an important role in the transport of carbonates to the deep oceans these findings have significant implications for the mechanisms influencing the inorganic carbon cycle in the sub-polar area.
Manno C., Morata N. & Primicerio R., in press. Limacina retroversa’s response to combined effects of ocean acidification and sea water freshening. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. doi:10.1016/j.ecss.2012.07.019. Article (subscription required).