Climate Change, Ocean Acidification, and Ocean Warming
Global warming is heating the Antarctic circumpolar deep water (CDW), which comes into direct contact with the diverse and abundant macrobenthic communities thriving on the continental shelf of the Weddell Sea (WS). A set of 16 current meters deployed along more than 3000 km coastline revealed that tidal currents drive CDW intrusions onto the WS continental shelf and they can increase the temperature near the seabed by ~2.7 °C. The ongoing ocean warming trend may expose macrobenthic assemblages to ambient temperatures >2 °C by the end of the century with dramatic consequences for communities which have evolved during millions of years in near geophysical isolation under rather constant environmental conditions with temperatures <0 °C. These stenothermal communities have long generation times (therefore, reduced opportunity to mutate) and require hundreds of years for adaptation.
Results from 135 benthic stations along the study area showed that macrobenthic communities in the southeastern section of the WS are the most vulnerable to the increase of temperature near the seabed given their high component of sessile organisms. Besides a dramatic marine biodiversity loss, the eventual demise of these communities, which provide habitat structure for a large number of species that can build up >87 g C m−2, will cause the liberation of thousands of tons of carbon to the environment. Macrobenthic communities colonizing the recently opened shelf in the Larsen A and B bays may not have the chance to reach the type of mature assemblage inhabiting the eastern WS shelf. The highest temperatures derived from CDW intrusions were recorded in the Filchner-Ronne region, suggesting that the consequences of the thermal impact could develop faster here than in the rest of the WS. Thus, these macrobenthic communities may show the effects of warming earlier than those thriving in other regions of the WS shelf. Global warming seriously threats the abundant and highly diverse macrobenthic communities of the Antarctic continental shelf.
Phenological shifts, by initiating reproductive events earlier, in response to advanced seasonal warming is one of the most striking effects currently observed in wild populations. For sea turtles, phenological adjustment to warming conditions could be the most effective short-term adaptation option against climate change. We calculated future phenological changes required in seven important loggerhead (Caretta caretta) nesting populations to continue achieving a high hatching success and a sex ratio that lies within current ranges. Considering temperature-mediated phenological changes, we found that most populations (six out of seven) will not be able to keep pace with a warming climate. Under an optimistic climate warming scenario (RCP4.5), these populations will face a climatic debt, that is, a difference between required and expected phenological changes, and warming will substantially reduce hatching success and induce a feminization of hatchlings, which may jeopardize their reproductive sustainability. Our approach offers the possibility to quantify the efficiency of phenological shifts in oviparous reptiles by considering physiological, developmental and phenological processes.
The community of species, human institutions, and human activities at a given location have been shaped by historical conditions (both mean and variability) at that location. Anthropogenic climate change is now adding strong trends on top of existing natural variability. These trends elevate the frequency of “surprises”—conditions that are unexpected based on recent history. Here, we show that the frequency of surprising ocean temperatures has increased even faster than expected based on recent temperature trends. Using a simple model of human adaptation, we show that these surprises will increasingly challenge natural modes of adaptation that rely on historical experience. We also show that warming rates are likely to shift natural communities toward generalist species, reducing their productivity and diversity. Our work demonstrates increasing benefits for individuals and institutions from betting that trends will continue, but this strategy represents a radical shift that will be difficult for many to make.
There is growing evidence indicating that variability and extremes in conditions in the marine environment are as (or more) important as changes in the mean for determining threats to biodiversity, impacts on ecosystem services, and consequences for human systems (1⇓⇓–4). With respect to ocean temperature, long-term persistent warming has been accompanied by an increased frequency of discrete periods of extreme regional ocean warming (marine heatwaves) (5). This poses a threat to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including impacts on foundation species (corals, seagrasses, and kelps) (1, 4). The potential of human and natural systems to adapt to such changes remains unclear. In PNAS, Pershing et al. (6) show that an increasing frequency of extreme heat events—or “surprises”—is challenging autonomous modes of adaptation that rely on historical experience. The authors contrast reactive adaptation that is guided by experiences of past events with proactive adaptation based on forward-looking decision making. They use ocean ecosystems as a case study and, based on mathematical models, consider how temperature trends and the frequency of surprise (high) temperature events could impact natural and human communities under different adaptation strategies.
Ocean acidification and ocean warming (OAW) are simultaneously occurring and could pose ecological challenges to marine life, particularly early life stages of fish that, although they are internal calcifiers, may have poorly developed acid-base regulation. This study assessed the effect of projected OAW on key fitness traits (growth, development and swimming ability) in European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) larvae and juveniles. Starting at 2 days post-hatch (dph), larvae were exposed to one of three levels of PCO2 (650, 1150, 1700 μatm; pH 8.0, 7.8, 7.6) at either a cold (15°C) or warm (20°C) temperature. Growth rate, development stage and critical swimming speed (Ucrit) were repeatedly measured as sea bass grew from 0.6 to ~10.0 (cold) or ~14.0 (warm) cm body length. Exposure to different levels of PCO2 had no significant effect on growth, development or Ucrit of larvae and juveniles. At the warmer temperature, larvae displayed faster growth and deeper bodies. Notochord flexion occurred at 0.8 and 1.2 cm and metamorphosis was completed at an age of ~45 and ~60 days post-hatch for sea bass in the warm and cold treatments, respectively. Swimming performance increased rapidly with larval development but better swimmers were observed in the cold treatment, reflecting a potential trade-off between fast grow and swimming ability. A comparison of the results of this and other studies on marine fish indicates that the effects of OAW on the growth, development and swimming ability of early life stages are species-specific and that generalizing the impacts of climate-driven warming or ocean acidification is not warranted.
Carbon offsetting—receiving credit for reducing, avoiding, or sequestering carbon—has become part of the portfolio of solutions to mitigate carbon emissions, and thus climate change, through policy and voluntary markets, primarily by land-based re- or afforestation and preservation [1, 2]. However, land is limiting, creating interest in a rapidly growing aquatic farming sector of seaweed aquaculture [3–5]. Synthesizing data from scientific literature, we assess the extent and cost of scaling seaweed aquaculture to provide sufficient CO2eq sequestration for several climate change mitigation scenarios, with a focus on the food sector—a major source of greenhouse gases . Given known ecological constraints (nutrients and temperature), we found a substantial suitable area (ca. 48 million km2 ) for seaweed farming, which is largely unfarmed. Within its own industry, seaweed could create a carbon-neutral aquaculture sector with just 14% (mean = 25%) of current seaweed production (0.001% of suitable area). At a much larger scale, we find seaweed culturing extremely unlikely to offset global agriculture, in part due to production growth and cost constraints. Yet offsetting agriculture appears more feasible at a regional level, especially areas with strong climate policy, such as California (0.065% of suitable area). Importantly, seaweed farming can provide other benefits to coastlines affected by eutrophic, hypoxic, and/or acidic conditions [7, 8], creating opportunities for seaweed farming to act as ‘‘charismatic carbon’’ that serves multiple purposes. Seaweed offsetting is not the sole solution to climate change, but it provides an invaluable new tool for a more sustainable future.
We recently demonstrated the rapid adaptation of Red Sea phytoplankton to ocean warming, with associated constraints on physiological performance. However, the possible tradeoff between thermal adaptation and the organism's tolerance to other environmental drivers in a warmer future remains understudied. Here, we designed an evolutionary selection environment where the Red Sea diatom Chaetoceros tenuissimus was adapted to ambient (26°C) and warming (30°C) temperature scenarios for over 2,000 generations. These strains were subsequently exposed to a range of copper (Cu) dose over three assay temperatures (26, 30, and 35°C), to assess whether adaptation to experimental warming is accompanied by a reformed tolerance to toxic pollutants. Most previous studies on Cu toxicity in marine phytoplankton were conducted within a smaller range of temperature (20–25°C), indicating the need for further assessments to reveal the potential complex interactive effects between pollutants and more significant warming in the future. The acute Cu toxicity was estimated in terms of reduction in cell abundance (cells mL−1), growth rate (μ) and PSII photosynthetic efficiency (Fv/Fm), with 48 h median effective concentration values (EC50) ranging from 2.22 to 20.19 μg L−1. We found a statistically significant interaction between assay temperature, selection temperature, and Cu doses in all the criteria tested. However, under the extreme warming scenario (35°C), the Cu sensitivity was significantly reduced, indicating cumulative antagonistic effects between these factors. Adaptation of phytoplankton to higher temperatures may help maintain their heavy metal tolerance, although a shift in temperature during the tests clearly altered their sensitivities. We conclude that selection for warming had made cells more resistant to Cu at the selection temperature in comparison to ambient-adapted population tested at 26°C. However, in warming-adapted cells, this response was traded off against cupper resistance at 26°C.
Rising atmospheric CO2 is causing a progressive decrease of seawater pH, termed ocean acidification. Predicting its impact on marine invertebrate reproduction is essential to anticipate the consequences of future climate change on species fitness and survival. Ocean acidification may affect reproductive success either in terms of gamete or progeny quality threating species survival. Despite an increasing number of studies focusing on the effects of ocean acidification on the early life history of marine organisms, very few have investigated the effects on invertebrate gamete quality. In this study, we set up two experimental approaches simulating the ocean conditions predicted for the end of this century, in situ transplant experiments at a naturally acidified volcanic vent area along the Ischia island coast and microcosm experiments, to evaluate the short-term effects of the predicted near-future levels of ocean acidification on sperm quality of the ascidian Ciona robusta after parental exposure. In the first days of exposure to acidified conditions, we detected alteration of sperm motility, morphology and physiology, followed by a rapid recovery of physiological conditions that provide a new evidence of resilience of ascidian spermatozoa in response to ocean acidification. Overall, the short-term tolerance to adverse conditions opens a new scenario on the marine species capacity to continue to reproduce and persist in changing oceans.
Climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of marine heatwaves. A recent extreme warming event (2014–2016) of unprecedented magnitude and duration in the California Current System allowed us to evaluate the response of the kelp forest community near its southern (warm) distribution limit. We obtained sea surface temperatures for the northern Pacific of Baja California, Mexico, and collected kelp forest community data at three islands, before and after the warming event. The warming was the most intense and persistent event observed to date, with low-pass anomalies 1°C warmer than the previous extremes during the 1982–1984 and 1997–1998 El Niños. The period between 2014 and 2017 accounted for ∼50% of marine heatwaves days in the past 37 years, with the highest maximum temperature intensities peaking at 5.9°C above average temperatures for the period. We found significant declines in the number of Macrocystis pyrifera individuals, except at the northernmost island, and corresponding declines in the number of fronds per kelp individual. We also found significant changes in the community structure associated with the kelp beds: half of the fish and invertebrate species disappeared after the marine heatwaves, species with warmer affinities appeared or increased their abundance, and introduced algae, previously absent, appeared at all islands. Changes in subcanopy and understory algal assemblages were also evident; however, the response varied among islands. These results suggest that the effect of global warming can be more apparent in sensitive species, such as sessile invertebrates, and that warming-related impacts have the potential to facilitate the establishment of tropical and invasive species.