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      Effect of Ocean Acidification and pH Fluctuations on the Growth and Development of Coralline Algal Recruits, and an Associated Benthic Algal Assemblage

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          Coralline algae are susceptible to the changes in the seawater carbonate system associated with ocean acidification (OA). However, the coastal environments in which corallines grow are subject to large daily pH fluctuations which may affect their responses to OA. Here, we followed the growth and development of the juvenile coralline alga Arthrocardia corymbosa, which had recruited into experimental conditions during a prior experiment, using a novel OA laboratory culture system to simulate the pH fluctuations observed within a kelp forest. Microscopic life history stages are considered more susceptible to environmental stress than adult stages; we compared the responses of newly recruited A. corymbosa to static and fluctuating seawater pH with those of their field-collected parents. Recruits were cultivated for 16 weeks under static pH 8.05 and 7.65, representing ambient and 4× preindustrial pCO 2 concentrations, respectively, and two fluctuating pH treatments of daily

          (daytime pH = 8.45, night-time pH = 7.65) and daily
          (daytime pH = 8.05, night-time pH = 7.25). Positive growth rates of new recruits were recorded in all treatments, and were highest under static pH 8.05 and lowest under fluctuating pH 7.65. This pattern was similar to the adults’ response, except that adults had zero growth under fluctuating pH 7.65. The % dry weight of MgCO 3 in calcite of the juveniles was reduced from 10% at pH 8.05 to 8% at pH 7.65, but there was no effect of pH fluctuation. A wide range of fleshy macroalgae and at least 6 species of benthic diatoms recruited across all experimental treatments, from cryptic spores associated with the adult A. corymbosa. There was no effect of experimental treatment on the growth of the benthic diatoms. On the community level, pH-sensitive species may survive lower pH in the presence of diatoms and fleshy macroalgae, whose high metabolic activity may raise the pH of the local microhabitat.

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          Most cited references 17

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          Volcanic carbon dioxide vents show ecosystem effects of ocean acidification.

          The atmospheric partial pressure of carbon dioxide (p(CO(2))) will almost certainly be double that of pre-industrial levels by 2100 and will be considerably higher than at any time during the past few million years. The oceans are a principal sink for anthropogenic CO(2) where it is estimated to have caused a 30% increase in the concentration of H(+) in ocean surface waters since the early 1900s and may lead to a drop in seawater pH of up to 0.5 units by 2100 (refs 2, 3). Our understanding of how increased ocean acidity may affect marine ecosystems is at present very limited as almost all studies have been in vitro, short-term, rapid perturbation experiments on isolated elements of the ecosystem. Here we show the effects of acidification on benthic ecosystems at shallow coastal sites where volcanic CO(2) vents lower the pH of the water column. Along gradients of normal pH (8.1-8.2) to lowered pH (mean 7.8-7.9, minimum 7.4-7.5), typical rocky shore communities with abundant calcareous organisms shifted to communities lacking scleractinian corals with significant reductions in sea urchin and coralline algal abundance. To our knowledge, this is the first ecosystem-scale validation of predictions that these important groups of organisms are susceptible to elevated amounts of p(CO(2)). Sea-grass production was highest in an area at mean pH 7.6 (1,827 (mu)atm p(CO(2))) where coralline algal biomass was significantly reduced and gastropod shells were dissolving due to periods of carbonate sub-saturation. The species populating the vent sites comprise a suite of organisms that are resilient to naturally high concentrations of p(CO(2)) and indicate that ocean acidification may benefit highly invasive non-native algal species. Our results provide the first in situ insights into how shallow water marine communities might change when susceptible organisms are removed owing to ocean acidification.
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            High-Frequency Dynamics of Ocean pH: A Multi-Ecosystem Comparison

            The effect of Ocean Acidification (OA) on marine biota is quasi-predictable at best. While perturbation studies, in the form of incubations under elevated pCO2, reveal sensitivities and responses of individual species, one missing link in the OA story results from a chronic lack of pH data specific to a given species' natural habitat. Here, we present a compilation of continuous, high-resolution time series of upper ocean pH, collected using autonomous sensors, over a variety of ecosystems ranging from polar to tropical, open-ocean to coastal, kelp forest to coral reef. These observations reveal a continuum of month-long pH variability with standard deviations from 0.004 to 0.277 and ranges spanning 0.024 to 1.430 pH units. The nature of the observed variability was also highly site-dependent, with characteristic diel, semi-diurnal, and stochastic patterns of varying amplitudes. These biome-specific pH signatures disclose current levels of exposure to both high and low dissolved CO2, often demonstrating that resident organisms are already experiencing pH regimes that are not predicted until 2100. Our data provide a first step toward crystallizing the biophysical link between environmental history of pH exposure and physiological resilience of marine organisms to fluctuations in seawater CO2. Knowledge of this spatial and temporal variation in seawater chemistry allows us to improve the design of OA experiments: we can test organisms with a priori expectations of their tolerance guardrails, based on their natural range of exposure. Such hypothesis-testing will provide a deeper understanding of the effects of OA. Both intuitively simple to understand and powerfully informative, these and similar comparative time series can help guide management efforts to identify areas of marine habitat that can serve as refugia to acidification as well as areas that are particularly vulnerable to future ocean change.
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              CO2 concentrating mechanisms in algae: mechanisms, environmental modulation, and evolution.

              The evolution of organisms capable of oxygenic photosynthesis paralleled a long-term reduction in atmospheric CO2 and the increase in O2. Consequently, the competition between O2 and CO2 for the active sites of RUBISCO became more and more restrictive to the rate of photosynthesis. In coping with this situation, many algae and some higher plants acquired mechanisms that use energy to increase the CO2 concentrations (CO2 concentrating mechanisms, CCMs) in the proximity of RUBISCO. A number of CCM variants are now found among the different groups of algae. Modulating the CCMs may be crucial in the energetic and nutritional budgets of a cell, and a multitude of environmental factors can exert regulatory effects on the expression of the CCM components. We discuss the diversity of CCMs, their evolutionary origins, and the role of the environment in CCM modulation.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                15 October 2015
                : 10
                : 10
                [1 ]Department of Botany, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
                [2 ]Department of Chemistry, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
                [3 ]Department of Marine Science, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
                [4 ]Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
                The Evergreen State College, UNITED STATES
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: CLH CEC CMM MYR. Performed the experiments: MYR CEC YF. Analyzed the data: MYR CEC YF AMS CMM CLH. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: AMS CMM CLH. Wrote the paper: MYR CLH. Revision of the manuscript: CEC CMM YF.


                Current address: Norwegian Institute for Bioeconomy Research, Bodø, Norway


                Current address: School of Earth and Environment & ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Western Australia, Australia


                Current address: College of Marine and Environmental Sciences, Tianjin University of Science and Technology, Tianjin, 300457, PR China


                Current address: School of Science and Technology, University of New England, Armidale, Australia


                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 1, Pages: 19
                Financial support was provided by the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund (UOO0914) ( and the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science & Technology (UOOX0802) ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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