Marine algae exhibit different responses to ocean acidification, suggesting that a decrease in pH does not always favour marine photosynthetic organisms. In order to understand the effect of acidification on algal community development, early colonization stages were investigated using carbon dioxide vents around the Castello Aragonese (Ischia, Italy) as a natural laboratory. Settlement tiles were placed in zones with different pH (normal, medium and low), and species composition and coverage measured after 2, 3 and 4 months of deployment. The number of species decreased by 4 and 18 % at medium and low pH zones, respectively (P < 0.05). The structure of the algal assemblage differed between pH zones during the 4 months of the experiment, due to the addition and/or replacement of new species. This leads to a change in the succession of morphological forms as soft crustose algae replaced calcareous species, and turf species were dominant in cover; more complex thalli started to occur only at medium pH. These results support previous findings that ocean acidification will induce changes in benthic algal communities.
Posts Tagged 'Mediterranean'
Tags: abundance, algae, biological response, community composition, field, Mediterranean
Respiration of Mediterranean cold-water corals is not affected by ocean acidification as projected for the end of the centuryPublished 2 May 2013 Science Leave a Comment
Tags: adaptation, biological response, corals, laboratory, Mediterranean, respiration
The rise of CO2 has been identified as a major threat to life in the ocean. About one-third of the anthropogenic CO2 produced in the last 200 yr has been taken up by the ocean, leading to ocean acidification. Surface seawater pH is projected to decrease by about 0.4 unit between the pre-industrial revolution and 2100. The branching cold-water corals Madrepora oculata and Lophelia pertusa are important, habitat-forming species in the deep Mediterranean Sea. Although previous research has investigated the abundance and distribution of these species, little is known regarding their ecophysiology and potential responses to global environmental change. A previous study indicated that the rate of calcification of these two species remained constant up to 1000 μatm CO2 a value that is at the upper end of changes projected to occur by 2100. We examined whether the ability to maintain calcification rates in the face of rising pCO2 affected the energetic requirements of these corals. Over the course of three months, rates of respiration were measured at a pCO2 ranging between 350 and 1100 μatm to distinguish between short-term response and longer-term acclimation. Respiration rates ranged from 0.074 to 0.266 μmol O2 (g skeletal dry weight)−1 h−1 and 0.095 to 0.725 μmol O2 (g skeletal dry weight)−1 h−1 for L. and M. oculata, respectively, and were independent of pCO2. Respiration increased with time likely due to regular feeding which may have provided an increased energy supply to sustain coral metabolism. Future studies are needed to confirm whether the insensitivity of respiration to increasing pCO2 is a general feature of deep-sea corals in other regions.
Tags: adaptation, biological response, calcification, corals, laboratory, Mediterranean
Ocean acidification caused by anthropogenic uptake of CO2 is perceived to be a major threat to calcifying organisms. Cold-water corals were thought to be strongly affected by a decrease in ocean pH due to their abundance in deep and cold waters which, in contrast to tropical coral reef waters, will soon become corrosive to calcium carbonate. Calcification rates of two Mediterranean cold-water coral species, Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata, were measured under variable partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) that ranged between 380 µatm for present-day conditions and 930 µatm for the end of the century. The present study addressed both short- and long-term responses by repeatedly determining calcification rates on the same specimens over a period of 9 months. Besides studying the direct, short-term response to elevated pCO2 levels, the study aimed to elucidate the potential for acclimation of calcification of cold-water corals to ocean acidification. Net calcification of both species was unaffected by the levels of pCO2 investigated and revealed no short-term shock and, therefore, no long-term acclimation in calcification to changes in the carbonate chemistry. There was an effect of time during repeated experiments with increasing net calcification rates for both species, however, as this pattern was found in all treatments, there is no indication that acclimation of calcification to ocean acidification occurred. The use of controls (initial and ambient net calcification rates) indicated that this increase was not caused by acclimation in calcification response to higher pCO2. An extrapolation of these data suggests that calcification of these two cold-water corals will not be affected by the pCO2 level projected at the end of the century.
Tags: algae, biological response, community composition, echinoderms, laboratory, Mediterranean, morphology
Temperate marine rocky habitats may be alternatively characterized by well vegetated macroalgal assemblages or barren grounds, as a consequence of direct and indirect human impacts (e.g. overfishing) and grazing pressure by herbivorous organisms. In future scenarios of ocean acidification, calcifying organisms are expected to be less competitive: among these two key elements of the rocky subtidal food web, coralline algae and sea urchins. In order to highlight how the effects of increased pCO2 on individual calcifying species will be exacerbated by interactions with other trophic levels, we performed an experiment simultaneously testing ocean acidification effects on primary producers (calcifying and non-calcifying algae) and their grazers (sea urchins). Artificial communities, composed by juveniles of the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus and calcifying (Corallina elongata) and non-calcifying (Cystoseira amentacea var stricta, Dictyota dichotoma) macroalgae, were subjected to pCO2 levels of 390, 550, 750 and 1000 µatm in the laboratory. Our study highlighted a direct pCO2 effect on coralline algae and on sea urchin defense from predation (test robustness). There was no direct effect on the non-calcifying macroalgae. More interestingly, we highlighted diet-mediated effects on test robustness and on the Aristotle’s lantern size. In a future scenario of ocean acidification a decrease of sea urchins’ density is expected, due to lower defense from predation, as a direct consequence of pH decrease, and to a reduced availability of calcifying macroalgae, important component of urchins’ diet. The effects of ocean acidification may therefore be contrasting on well vegetated macroalgal assemblages and barren grounds: in the absence of other human impacts, a decrease of biodiversity can be predicted in vegetated macroalgal assemblages, whereas a lower density of sea urchin could help the recovery of shallow subtidal rocky areas affected by overfishing from barren grounds to assemblages dominated by fleshy macroalgae.
Tags: biological response, corals, growth, laboratory, Mediterranean, mesocosms, morphology
The red coral Corallium rubrum is a habitat-forming species with a prominent and structural role in mesophotic habitats, which sustains biodiversity hotspots. This precious coral is threatened by both over-exploitation and temperature driven mass mortality events. We report here that biocalcification, growth rates and polyps’ (feeding) activity of Corallium rubrum are significantly reduced at pCO2 scenarios predicted for the end of this century (0.2 pH decrease). Since C. rubrum is a long-living species (>200 years), our results suggest that ocean acidification predicted for 2100 will significantly increases the risk of extinction of present populations. Given the functional role of these corals in the mesophotic zone, we predict that ocean acidification might have cascading effects on the functioning of these habitats worldwide.
Geochemical survey of Levante Bay, Vulcano Island (Italy), a natural laboratory for the study of ocean acidificationPublished 11 March 2013 Science Leave a Comment
Tags: chemistry, field, Mediterranean, methods
Shallow submarine gas vents in Levante Bay, Vulcano Island (Italy), emit around 3.6t CO2 per day providing a natural laboratory for the study of biogeochemical processes related to seabed CO2 leaks and ocean acidification. The main physico-chemical parameters (T, pH and Eh) were measured at more than 70 stations with 40 seawater samples were collected for chemical analyses. The main gas vent area had high concentrations of dissolved hydrothermal gases, low pH and negative redox values all of which returned to normal seawater values at distances of about 400 m from the main vents. Much of the bay around the vents is corrosive to calcium carbonate; the north shore has a gradient in seawater carbonate chemistry that is well suited to studies of the effects of long-term increases in CO2 levels. This shoreline lacks toxic compounds (such as H2S) and has a gradient in carbonate saturation states.
The community of Cystoseira brachycarpa J. Agardh emend. Giaccone (Fucales, Phaeophyceae) in a shallow hydrothermal vent area of the Aeolian Islands (Tyrrhenian Sea, Italy)Published 4 March 2013 Science Leave a Comment
Tags: abundance, algae, biological response, community composition, field, Mediterranean, reproduction
A Cystoseira brachycarpa community from a vent area off Panarea Island (Italy) was investigated in two sites at different pH values. At low pH, species richness and coverage were low and the community displayed a reduced reproductive capacity. Conversely, at normal pH, dense canopies of fertile C. brachycarpa were found.
Distribution of sea urchins living near shallow water CO2 vents is dependent upon species acid–base and ion-regulatory abilitiesPublished 20 February 2013 Science Leave a Comment
Tags: abundance, biological response, echinoderms, field, laboratory, Mediterranean, physiology
To reduce the negative effect of climate change on Biodiversity, the use of geological CO2 sequestration has been proposed; however leakage from underwater storages may represent a risk to marine life. As extracellular homeostasis is important in determining species’ ability to cope with elevated CO2, we investigated the acid–base and ion regulatory responses, as well as the density, of sea urchins living around CO2 vents at Vulcano, Italy. We conducted in situ transplantation and field-based laboratory exposures to different pCO2/pH regimes. Our results confirm that sea urchins have some ability to regulate their extracellular fluid under elevated pCO2. Furthermore, we show that even in closely-related taxa divergent physiological capabilities underlie differences in taxa distribution around the CO2 vent. It is concluded that species distribution under the sort of elevated CO2 conditions occurring with leakages from geological storages and future ocean acidification scenarios, may partly be determined by quite subtle physiological differentiation.
Detrimental effects of ocean acidification on the economically important Mediterranean red coral (Corallium rubrum)Published 18 February 2013 Science Leave a Comment
Tags: biological response, calcification, corals, laboratory, Mediterranean, morphology, physiology
The mean predicted decrease of 0.3 to 0.4 pH units in the global surface ocean by the end of the century has prompted urgent research to assess the potential effects of ocean acidification on the marine environment, with strong emphasis on calcifying organisms. Among them, the Mediterranean red coral (Corallium rubrum) is expected to be particularly susceptible to acidification effects, due to the elevated solubility of its Mg-calcite skeleton. This, together with the large overexploitation of this species, depicts a bleak future for this organism over the next decades. In this study, we evaluated the effects of low pH on this species from aquaria experiments. Several colonies of C. rubrum were long-term maintained for 314 days in aquaria at two different pH levels (8.10 and 7.81, pHT). Calcification rate, spicule morphology, major biochemical constituents (protein, carbohydrates and lipids) and fatty acids composition were measured periodically. Exposure to lower pH conditions caused a significant decrease in the skeletal growth rate in comparison to the control treatment. Similarly, the spicule morphology clearly differed between both treatments at the end of the experiment, with aberrant shapes being observed only under the acidified conditions. On the other hand, while total organic matter was significantly higher under low pH conditions, no significant differences were detected between treatments regarding total carbohydrate, lipid, protein and fatty acid composition. However, the lower variability found among samples maintained in acidified conditions relative to controls, suggests a possible effect of pH decrease on the metabolism of the colonies. Our results show, for the first time, evidence of detrimental ocean acidification effects on this valuable and endangered coral species.
One-year experiment on the physiological response of the Mediterranean crustose coralline alga, Lithophyllum cabiochae, to elevated pCO2 and temperaturePublished 15 February 2013 Science 1 Comment
Tags: algae, biological response, calcification, laboratory, Mediterranean, multiple factors, photosynthesis, respiration, temperature
The response of respiration, photosynthesis, and calcification to elevated pCO2 and temperature was investigated in isolation and in combination in the Mediterranean crustose coralline alga Lithophyllum cabiochae. Algae were maintained in aquaria during 1 year at near-ambient conditions of irradiance, at ambient or elevated temperature (+3°C), and at ambient (ca. 400 μatm) or elevated pCO2 (ca. 700 μatm). Respiration, photosynthesis, and net calcification showed a strong seasonal pattern following the seasonal variations of temperature and irradiance, with higher rates in summer than in winter. Respiration was unaffected by pCO2 but showed a general trend of increase at elevated temperature at all seasons, except in summer under elevated pCO2. Conversely, photosynthesis was strongly affected by pCO2 with a decline under elevated pCO2 in summer, autumn, and winter. In particular, photosynthetic efficiency was reduced under elevated pCO2. Net calcification showed different responses depending on the season. In summer, net calcification increased with rising temperature under ambient pCO2 but decreased with rising temperature under elevated pCO2. Surprisingly, the highest rates in summer were found under elevated pCO2 and ambient temperature. In autumn, winter, and spring, net calcification exhibited a positive or no response at elevated temperature but was unaffected by pCO2. The rate of calcification of L. cabiochae was thus maintained or even enhanced under increased pCO2. However, there is likely a trade-off with other physiological processes. For example, photosynthesis declines in response to increased pCO2 under ambient irradiance. The present study reports only on the physiological response of healthy specimens to ocean warming and acidification, however, these environmental changes may affect the vulnerability of coralline algae to other stresses such as pathogens and necroses that can cause major dissolution, which would have critical consequence for the sustainability of coralligenous habitats and the budgets of carbon and calcium carbonate in coastal Mediterranean ecosystems.