The Hydrological Switch: A Novel Mechanism Explains Eutrophication and Acidification of Estuaries

Paul Montagna, TAMUCC

Humans have had a significant influence on estuaries through land use change and increased use of fertilizers, causing proliferation of algal blooms, hypoxia, and presence of harmful microbes. Now, acidification due to myriad processes has been identified as a potential threat to many estuaries. In Texas estuaries for example, short-term acidification as a result of episodic hypoxia is a well-documented phenomenon. Unfortunately, a longer-term trend toward chronic acidification (decreasing alkalinity, pH) has now been observed. The alkalinity decrease is likely caused by a reduction in riverine alkalinity export due to precipitation declines under drought conditions and freshwater diversions for human consumption.

Based on our existing long-term data, we hypothesize that hydrology acts as a switch, where increased river flows cause hypoxia and short-term acidification due to increased loads of organic matter, whereas prolonged low flows cause long-term acidification due to reduced loads of riverine alkalinity and calcification. In urbanized, wastewater-influenced systems, we hypothesize that reduced flows out of the watershed may lead to long-term acidification and chronic hypoxia due to reduced loads of riverine alkalinity and presence of low pH, high nutrient/organic matter wastewater.

To test our hypotheses, field and modeling studies are proposed to examine the relationships between estuarine acidification and other stressors (i.e., reduced freshwater inflow, hypoxia, and nutrient loading). Analysis of changes in ecosystem health and model calibration will be conducted based on long-term data. Mechanistic linkages between acidification, eutrophication and flow will be quantified through a field campaign. Chemical markers of organic matter sources fueling hypoxia will be determined. Future ecological states of the estuaries will be predicted using ecosystem models that account for projected changes in aforementioned parameters and ocean conditions based on IPCC estimates. The combination of prediction and consequence will be useful to multiple stakeholder groups.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Categories: Projects

Integrated Modeling of Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia to Support Ecosystem Prediction and Environmental Management in the California Current System

James McWilliams, UCLA/IGPP

The California Current System (CCS) is one of the most biologically productive regions of the world ocean, but seasonal upwelling of low oxygen and low-pH waters makes it particularly vulnerable to even small additional reductions in O2 and/or pH, which have both been observed in recent decades. Three prominent coastal phenomena have been implicated in precisely these changes: 1) large scale acidification and deoxygenation of the ocean associated with climate warming, 2) natural climate variability, and 3) anthropogenic pollution of coastal waters, especially from nutrient discharge and deposition.  The relative importance of these drivers has not been systematically evaluated, and yet is critical information in any cost-effective strategy to manage coastal resources at local scales.  Disentangling the magnitude and interaction of these different ecosystem stresses requites an integrated systems modeling approach that is carefully validated against available datasets.

The goals of this project are three-fold: 1) develop an ocean hypoxia and acidifcation (OHA) model of the CCS (Baja California to British Columbia), comprising the circulation, biogeochemical cycles, and lower-trophic ecosystem of the CCS, with regional downscaling in the Southern California Bight, Central Coast, and the Oregon Coast; 2) use the model to understand the relative contributions of natural climate variability, anthropogenically induced climate change, and anthropogenic inputs on the status and trends of OHA in the CCS; and 3) transmit these findings to coastal zone mangers and help them explore the implications for marine resource management and pollution control.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Categories: Projects

Flexing mussels: Does Mytilus edulis have the capacity to overcome effects of Ocean Acidification?

Dianna K Padilla, Stony Brook University

We are likely to see "winners", those species or individuals that are most resilient in the face of climate change, and "losers" those species or individuals that are least capable of robust performance under stressful conditions.  At present, we cannot predict winners and losers, and do not know whether responses to environmental stress are primarily driven by phenotypic plasticity, broad performance under different environmental conditions, or if there are genetic or epigenetic factors that can result in cross-generational directional changes in populations, resulting in more resilience under stressful conditions of OA.   This project has two objectives: 

1)  To test for cross-generational adaptation to the impacts of increasing ocean acidification on blue mussels, either through phenotypic acclimation or through heritable changes. 

2)  To determine if there are tradeoffs in growth and development across life stages in response to stress induced by ocean acidification in blue mussels.\

The results of our experiments can then be used to develop management practices for wild populations and more robust aquaculture practices for blue mussels. From an aquaculture perspective, if animals from certain source populations are more resilient to OA stress, those locations could be targeted for collection of wild seed that will produce resilient mussels in aquaculture leases.  Furthermore, the environmental characteristics of these advantageous site(s) could then be characterized to predict other sites that may also produce resilient mussels.  Overall, the data obtained from this proposed work could be used to enhance mussel culture, an economically important activity of growing importance in our region.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Categories: Projects

Sensitivity of larval and juvenile sand lance Ammodytes dubius on Stellwagen Bank to predicted ocean warming, acidification, and deoxygenation

Hannes Baumann, University of Connecticut

This proposal will quantify the sensitivity of a key forage fish in the Northwest Atlantic to the individual and combined effects of the major factors comprising the ocean climate change syndrome: warming, acidification, and deoxygenation. We will rear embryos of Northern sand lance Ammodytes dubius, obtained by strip-spawning wild adults from the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary (SBNMS) through larval and early juvenile stages in a purpose- built factorial system at different factorial combinations of temperature, CO2 and oxygen.

Our first objective is to quantify individual and combined effects of temperature × CO2 (year 1) and temperature × CO2 × DO (year 2) on A. dubius growth and survival. We hypothesize that warming in combination with high CO2 (low pH)  will have additive or synergistically negative effects, whereas the addition of low DO as a third stressor will have stark, synergistically negative effects on all traits. Our second objective is to characterize the swimming behavior of A. dubius larvae that have been reared under combinations of elevated temperature × CO2. We hypothesize that combined stressors will have synergistically negative effects on the development of larval sensory systems, which express themselves and can thus be quantified as changes in larval swimming behavior. Our third objective is to take advantage of the rare winter sampling activities for this project to quantify CO2, pH, and DO variability in benthic waters on Stellwagen Bank through bottle collections and short-term sensor deployments. We hypothesize that bottom water pH and DO levels during the sand lance spawning season might be routinely lower than levels in surface waters.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Categories: Projects

Probing molecular determinants of bivalve resilience to ocean acidification

Bassem Allam, Stony Brook University

The overall aim of this proposal is to identify molecular mechanisms and markers that segregate "Winners" from "Losers" in three regionally-important bivalve species. The proposed research will identify molecular markers and mechanisms associated with resilience to acidification in some of the most important bivalve species along the east coasts: the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica), the hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria), and the blue mussel Mytilus edulis. Furthermore, identified genetic markers will be validated with the aim of providing the aquaculture industry with tools needed to produce superior crops.

We have three specific objectives:   

(1) To identify molecular processes involved in bivalve resilience to ocean acidification and to characterize genetic markers associated with resilience 

 (2) To  validate  the  ability  of  identified  markers  to  predict resilience towards acidification  

(3)   To determine the physiological cost of resilience   

This research has major implications for basic and applied science. It will determine molecular and physiological mechanisms and pathways involved in bivalve natural resilience to acidification and identify molecular features associated with resilience. This information is greatly needed for the management of wild fisheries and for the development of resilient varieties of aquacultured stocks. Resilient broodstocks will provide the industry with superior germline to face current and projected episodes of acidification in local waters.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Categories: Projects