Impacts of ocean acidification on key benthic ecosystems, communities, habitats, species and life cycles

Lead Research Organisation: Plymouth Marine Laboratory
Department Name: Plymouth Marine Lab

Abstract

The average acidity (pH) of the world's oceans has been stable for the last 25 million years. However, the oceans are now absorbing so much man made CO2 from the atmosphere that measurable changes in seawater pH and carbonate chemistry can be seen. It is predicted that this could affect the basic biological functions of many marine organisms. This in turn could have implications for the survival of populations and communities, as well as the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem function. In the seas around the UK, the habitats that make up the seafloor, along with the animals associated with them, play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and productive marine ecosystem. This is important considering 40% of the world's population lives within 100 km of the coast and many of these people depend on coastal systems for food, economic prosperity and well-being. Given that coastal habitats also harbour incredibly high levels of biodiversity, any environmental change that affects these important ecosystems could have substantial environmental and economical impacts. During several recent international meetings scientific experts have concluded that new research is urgently needed. In particular we need long-term studies that determine: which organisms are likely to be tolerant to high CO2 and which are vulnerable; whether organisms will have time to adapt or acclimatise to this rapid environmental change; and how the interactions between individuals that determine ecosystem structure will be affected. This current lack of understanding is a major problem as ocean acidification is a rapidly evolving management issue and, with an insufficient knowledge base, policy makers and managers are struggling to formulate effective strategies to sustain and protect the marine environment in the face of ocean acidification. This consortium brings together 25 key researchers from 12 UK organisations to begin to provide the knowledge and understanding so desperately needed. These researchers share a unified vision to quantify, predict and communicate the impact of ocean acidification on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in coastal habitats. They will use laboratory experiments to determine the ways in which ocean acidification will change key physiological processes, organism behaviour, animal interactions, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. The understanding gained will be used to build and run conceptual, statistical and numerical models which will predict the impact of future ocean pH scenarios on the biodiversity and function of coastal ecosystems. The consortium will also act as a focal point for UK ocean acidification research promoting communication between many different interested parties; UK and international scientists, policy makers, environmental managers, fisherman, conservationists, the media, students and the general public.

Publications

10 25 50

publication icon
Hennige S (2014) Short-term metabolic and growth responses of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa to ocean acidification in Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography

publication icon
Hennige SJ (2015) Hidden impacts of ocean acidification to live and dead coral framework. in Proceedings. Biological sciences

 
Description A mesocosm experiment investigating the impact of multiple stressors (CO2, temperature and eutrophication) on biofilm formation and community composition revealed higher abundance of cyanobacteria within the CO2 treatments, and a possible shift from filamentous to single-celled types within the high temperature/high CO2 treatments.
Exploitation Route A manuscript has been submitted to the Philosphical Transactions of the Royal Society special issue on Ocean Acidification
Sectors Environment

 
Description We have used an inter-disciplinary ensemble of novel experimental and modelling techniques to investigate the impacts of 14-month exposure to ocean acidification and warming (OAW) scenarios on the physiology, activity, trophic interactions, population dynamics and dispersal parameters of marine species. We then used these data to parameterise a dynamic bioclimatic envelope model, to investigate the consequences of OAW on the distribution of species in the wider NE Atlantic region by 2100. Our results suggest that OAW will lead to substantial, non-additive and complex changes in community dynamics of NE Atlantic systems within the next 100 years. However, this study highlights the challenge of predicting ecosystem level climate change impacts based on experimental studies that consider only single responses of individual species in isolation. Large-scale distributional changes will occur as a result of multi-stressor patterns and resources changing locally across the landscape, in a heterogeneous way. Projection of ecosystem-level consequences of climate change therefore requires a better integration of both macro-scale and local-scale information, about biotic and abiotic drivers, and species ecology. Overall, our inter-disciplinary approach can provide policy makers with holistic information on the effects of OAW, based not only on individual level effects, but on broader ecosystem and biodiversity considerations. This work is one of the first attempts to truly scale up the results of long-term, experimental, species level investigations of the impacts of climate related stressors associated with green-house gas emissions on marine species, to predict land-scape level impacts. We used a truly integrated analysis covering physiology , many aspects of the ecology of an important rocky shore species, biogeochemical modelling, IPPC scenarios and mechanistic niche modelling. This work sets the base for a true linkage between experiments, modelling and society, as the outputs of this study are already being used for economic work which link the observed impacts on marine species to important economic sectors like fisheries, and employment in general.
First Year Of Impact 2004
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Contributed to International Energy Agency's Greenhouse Gas Research & Development Report
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Advice was provided via a presentation to, and debate within, the network (International Energy Agency's Greenhouse Gas R&D program's Risk Management Network and Environmental Research Network Combined Meeting, 29th September - 1st October, 2015) on the need to consider the existence of brine formation fluids and potential seeps above Carbon Capture and Storage injection sites, given measured impacts of brines of marine seabed wildlife and geographical distribution of storage capacity worldwide. Advice follows on from experimental work undertaken as part of various projects led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory into potential environmental guidelines for the ocean-based Carbon Capture and Storage industry. This advice was taken into the meeting report, witch is disseminated to network partners, including industry and regulatory bodies. The network recognised that this aspect has been neglected in the environmental guidelines involving risk assessment in this industry, and that this requires rectification.
URL http://www.ieaghg.org/docs/General_Docs/Publications/Annual_Review_2015_Low_Res.pdf
 
Description Participating in a DEFRA subgroup on Ocean Acidification monitoring
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description citation in Foresight future of the sea
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/future-of-the-sea--2
 
Description citation in POST brief: UK Fisheries Management
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/POST-PN-0572
 
Description Effects of ocean acidification on the calcified structures of benthic organisms
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation Latsis Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Switzerland
Start 11/2013 
End 09/2014
 
Description Impacts of ocean acidification on coastal Mediterranean benthic ecosystems
Amount £39,700 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/H01747X/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2012 
End 12/2014
 
Title Marine Optical pH Profiler (MOPP) 
Description Application of planar optode technology to facilitate pH profiling in marine ocean acidification and carbon and capture research. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Ability to profile at any depth within sediments (significant improvement in relation to microprofiling which is typically restricted to the first few cm below the sediment water interface). In addition the application supports fast data acquisition (online) enabling tracking of the same exact position of the sediment over time, which help resolve impacts caused by external stressors (e.g. manipulations of ocean acidification) from the natural spatial and temporal variability of pH in marine sediments. This characteristic supports the use of the application in replicated setups, typically required in ocean acidification and carbon capture and storage research to resolve the impact of experimentally manipulated treatments. 
 
Title CTD data from JCO73 
Description Dataset of the CTD data from the UKOA cruise JC073 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Papers published on the Hebrides terrace seamount, Logachev area and other cold-water coral locations. 
URL https://www.bodc.ac.uk/data/published_data_library/catalogue/10.5285/e11247b8-e8b6-670c-e043-5386abc...
 
Title CTD data from James Cook Research Cruise JC073 
Description Data from the CTD for the cruise JC073 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Publication of Findlay et al. 2013 GBC; Findlay et al. 2014 Scientific Reports; Henry et al. 2014 Scientific Reports. 
URL https://www.bodc.ac.uk/data/published_data_library/catalogue/10.5285/e11247b8-e8b6-670c-e043-5386abc...
 
Title Carbaonte data from JC073 
Description Dataset of total alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon, together with inorganic nutrients measured during the JC073 cruise as part of the UKOA consortium. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Papers on the carbonate chemistry of areas surrounding cold-water coral reefs in the NE Atlantic 
URL https://www.bodc.ac.uk/data/published_data_library/catalogue/10.5285/e11247b8-e8b5-670c-e043-5386abc...
 
Title Carbon and nutrients concentrations associated with RRS James Cook cruise JC073 
Description Carbon and nutrient data from the cruise JC073 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2014 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Publication submission by Joe Stewart at NOC, Southampton. 
URL https://www.bodc.ac.uk/data/published_data_library/catalogue/10.5285/e11247b8-e8b5-670c-e043-5386abc...
 
Title Investigation of the impact of elevated CO2 and temperature on microbial community composition within a muddy sediment mesocosm 
Description A custom-built flume (mesocosm) facility was used to manipulate CO2 and temperature in order to test the impacts of seawater acidification and warming on microbial taxonomic marker and nitrogen cycling-gene abundances in both muddy and sandy coastal sediments. Experimental treatment levels contained representatives of present day CO2 and temperature levels and of those expected by 2100 under a 'business-as-usual' scenario (IPCC, 2007), with an emphasis on the interactive effects of reduced pH and increased sea water temperature on benthic microorganisms. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Publication: Currie et al. (2017) Frontiers in Microbiology 
URL https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bioproject/378259
 
Title L4 Carbonate database 
Description 2010 to 2014 total inorganic carbon and total alkalinity data taken from station L4 at the Western Channel Observatory during weekly sampling campaigns. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2015 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Report being written on a synthesis of ocean acidification data for UK waters to fulfil DEFRA requirements. 
URL https://www.bodc.ac.uk/data/published_data_library/catalogue/10.5285/1ec0cae5-071d-16e1-e053-6c86abc...
 
Title Model of benthic sensitivity to high CO2 
Description Marine systems may experience high levels of CO2 either as a result of Ocean Acidification or via leakage from geologically stored CO2. Ongoing research under both the OA and CCS research streams have allowed us to develop a prototype model that describes the response of both tolerant and sensitive benthic fauna as well as the recovery potential. The model is conceived as a sub-model of the ERSEM marine system model and is therefore able to place impacts in the context of resource levels, resource competition and predator - prey interactions. The model is currently being used to investigate CCS leakage scenarios and will shortly be applied to climate change / OA runs. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The model has yet to be published but is contributing to reports relating to best practices for CCS, currently in preparation 
 
Title Quantifying the impact of ocean acidification on biofilms from rocky habitats 
Description Settlement panels that incorporate gas permeable membranes were designed to study the impact of increased CO2 on biofilm formation and succession in the field. Each panel consisted of a 3 mm thick PVC backing panel, 5 mm gas space, 5 mm reinforced silicone polymer membrane and a 3 mm thick PVC gasket to seal the layers of the unit. The exact pressure required to produce a drop of 0.3 pH units was carefully calibrated in laboratory experiments under varying hydrodynamic regimes. The panels were immersed in a fully marine tidal embayment at a depth of 1 meter and randomly assigned one of three treatments: ambient pH (not supplied with gas), ambient pH (supplied with ambient atmospheric air) and 0.3 pH units below ambient (supplied with CO2 at pressure). At 2, 4, 6, 8 and 12 weeks after deployment, 5 replicate panels of each treatment type were randomly selected and the microbial component analysed. Measurements of biofilm wet weight, biofilm coverage and 16S rDNA gene copies mm-2 were all made. For biofilm coverage, the proportion of the surface area covered by bacteria and by other organisms was determined with microscope image analysis, using an Image ProPlus imaging system (Media Cybernatics) attached to a Reichert Jung Polyvar microscope and a Optronics Magna Fire SP camera. For DNA extraction, biofilm material was scraped from the settlement panel using a sterile scalpel, placed into a sterile microtube and weighed. The MoBio PowerBiofilm™ DNA Isolation Kit (Carlsbad, USA) was used to extract DNA according to the manufacturer's instructions. For each biofilm sample, 10 ng DNA was used to determine the abundance of bacterial 16S rRNA genes using the primers Bact1369F (CGGTGAATACGTTCYCGG) and Prok1492R (GGWTACCTTGTTACGACTT) (Suzuki et al. 2000). An ABI 7000 sequence detection system (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, USA) and QuantiFast SYBR Green PCR Kit (Qiagen) was used. Reactions contained 300 nM of Bact1369F and 900 nM of Prok1492R and PCR conditions were 5 minutes at 95°C followed by 40 cycles of 95°C for 15 seconds and 60°C for 1 minute. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Publication pending 
URL https://www.bodc.ac.uk/data/published_data_library/catalogue/10.5285/5D531F60-A905-4DAE-E053-6C86ABC...
 
Title UK Ocean Acidification flume mesocosm data quantifying the response of sediment microbial communities and N-cycling functional guilds to high CO2 
Description A custom-built flume (mesocosm) facility was used to manipulate CO2 and temperature in order to test the impacts of seawater acidification and warming on microbial taxonomic marker and nitrogen cycling-gene abundances in both muddy and sandy coastal sediments. Experimental treatment levels contained representatives of present day CO2 and temperature levels and of those expected by 2100 under a 'business-as-usual' scenario (IPCC, 2007), with an emphasis on the interactive effects of reduced pH and increased sea water temperature on benthic microorganisms. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Publications (Currie et al. 2017 Frontiers in Microbiology) 
URL https://www.bodc.ac.uk/data/published_data_library/catalogue/10.5285/559dfa45-285a-4323-e053-6c86abc...
 
Title UKOA Benthic Consortium, PML intertidal mesocosm experimental environment dataset 
Description Dataset of experimental water monitoring parameters during the 12 month CO2-temperature experiment at PML 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Publication of Queiros, AM et al (2014). Scaling up experimental ocean acidification and warming research: from individuals to the ecosystem. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12675 
URL https://www.bodc.ac.uk/data/published_data_library/catalogue/10.5285/e11247b8-e8b4-670c-e043-5386abc...
 
Description AcidiCO2ceans, funded by the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, Greece 
Organisation Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR)
Country Greece 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Gastropod shells of individuals maintained in the UKOA 14 month benthic mesocosm experiments. Analysis of shell damage using image analysis and geomorphometric analysis.
Collaborator Contribution Consumables and staff time associated with the acquisition of micro computer aided tomography scans of gastropod exposed to a 14 month warming and acidification mesocosm experiment.
Impact MRes Marine Biology thesis, Saskia Ruhl (2013-2014) Plymouth University: Impacts of ocean acidification and warming on shell ontogeny, biomineralization and microstructure in juvenile Nucella lapillus (L.). Supervised by Ana M Queiros and Piero Calosi. The thesis is currently in preparation to submission in the ICES JOurnal of Marine Science under the title "Impacts of ocean acidification and warming on shell ontogeny, plasticity and microstructure in juvenile Nucella lapillus (L.)". Videos of the 3D scans have been produced for educational purposes, highlighting the impacts of ocean acidification on marine life.
Start Year 2012
 
Description Identifying Global Trends and Hotspots in Ocean Acidification Impacts on Marine Ecosystems 
Organisation Global Ocean Acidification - Observing Network (GOA-ON)
Country Global 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I am leading a report / manuscript describing the biological observations required to monitor the impacts of ocean acidification at a global level.
Collaborator Contribution The partners are contributing ideas and text to this report.
Impact A draft manuscript is being developed.
Start Year 2016
 
Description At sea with the UKOA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Ocean Challenge Article on the UKOA research cruises, including the Benthic cruise: "Changing Oceans Expedition: cold-water coral"

None
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Interview on Ocean Acidification for BBC Radio World Service (22nd October). 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Steve Widdicombe did an interview on Ocean Acidification for BBC Radio World Service (22nd October).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Interviewed for IBTimes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interviewed for IBTimes (online news) on new paper that came out in February on biodiversity and climate change and fisheries. Was also interviewed for the same reason by German public radio-station Deutschlandfunk.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/six-biodiversity-hotspots-claimed-be-brink-ecosystem-collapse-1608040
 
Description News article on PML website Dog whelks affected by biological "inflation" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact News article on website to promote and raise awareness of a new study which suggested that progressive ocean warming and acidification under three possible CO2 emissions scenarios for the end of the century will cause increased biological costs in a key UK coastline predator, the dog whelk, with the potential to have a negative impact upon coastal biodiversity as a whole.

This news article will have increased the potential reach for the results of this study, which in turn will feed into climate change knowledge because the study provides a more complete assessment of how climate change impacts may propagate through communities, as opposed to individual species research (it considers the impacts of stressors on species of interest, but also on the environment and communities around them e.g. on food resources). The dog whelk (Nucella lapillus) is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan long list of species of conservation concern and is important in maintaining the coastal ecosystem balance, particularly in relation to mussels, barnacles and intertidal seaweeds, so the article helped to promote this vital research to PML's followers and stakeholders.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.pml.ac.uk/News/Dog_whelks
 
Description Public seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Invited public lecturer at the Royal Society of Chemistry in London 1st October 2015, to speak about ocean acidification and engage with the general public about this topic. The lecture was entitled "Ocean acidification: de-gassing the myths" and lasted approximately 45 minutes with 15 minutes of question and discussion afterwards. The lecture is available online.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.rsc.org/ConferencesAndEvents/RSCEvents/chemistry-centre/ocean-acidification.asp