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Guest, JR, Edmunds PJ, Gates RD, Kuffner IB, Andersson AJ, Barnes BB, Chollett I, Courtney TA, Elahi R, Gross K, Lenz EA, Mitarai S, Mumby PJ, Nelson HR, Parker BA, Putnam HM, Rogers CS, Toth LT.  2018.  A framework for identifying and characterising coral reef "oases" against a backdrop of degradation. Journal of Applied Ecology. 55:2865-2875.   10.1111/1365-2664.13179   AbstractWebsite

1. Human activities have led to widespread ecological decline; however, the severity of degradation is spatially heterogeneous due to some locations resisting, escaping, or rebounding from disturbances. 2. We developed a framework for identifying oases within coral reef regions using long-term monitoring data. We calculated standardised estimates of coral cover (z-scores) to distinguish sites that deviated positively from regional means. We also used the coefficient of variation (CV) of coral cover to quantify how oases varied temporally, and to distinguish among types of oases. We estimated "coral calcification capacity" (CCC), a measure of the coral community's ability to produce calcium carbonate structures and tested for an association between this metric and z-scores of coral cover. 3. We illustrated our z-score approach within a modelling framework by extracting z-scores and CVs from simulated data based on four generalized trajectories of coral cover. We then applied the approach to time-series data from long-term reef monitoring programmes in four focal regions in the Pacific (the main Hawaiian Islands and Mo'orea, French Polynesia) and western Atlantic (the Florida Keys and St. John, US Virgin Islands). Among the 123 sites analysed, 38 had positive z-scores for median coral cover and were categorised as oases. 4. Synthesis and applications. Our framework provides ecosystem managers with a valuable tool for conservation by identifying "oases" within degraded areas. By evaluating trajectories of change in state (e.g., coral cover) among oases, our approach may help in identifying the mechanisms responsible for spatial variability in ecosystem condition. Increased mechanistic understanding can guide whether management of a particular location should emphasise protection, mitigation or restoration. Analysis of the empirical data suggest that the majority of our coral reef oases originated by either escaping or resisting disturbances, although some sites showed a high capacity for recovery, while others were candidates for restoration. Finally, our measure of reef condition (i.e., median z-scores of coral cover) correlated positively with coral calcification capacity suggesting that our approach identified oases that are also exceptional for one critical component of ecological function.

Sato, KN, Andersson AJ, Day JMD, Taylor JRA, Frank MB, Jung JY, McKittrick J, Levin LA.  2018.  Response of sea urchin fitness traits to environmental gradients across the Southern California oxygen minimum zone. Frontiers in Marine Science. 5   10.3389/fmars.2018.00258   AbstractWebsite

Marine calcifiers are considered to be among the most vulnerable taxa to climate-forced environmental changes occurring on continental margins with effects hypothesized to occur on microstructural, biomechanical, and geochemical properties of carbonate structures. Natural gradients in temperature, salinity, oxygen, and pH on an upwelling margin combined with the broad depth distribution (100-1,100 m) of the pink fragile sea urchin, Strongylocentrotus (formerly Allocentrotus) fragilis, along the southern California shelf and slope provide an ideal system to evaluate potential effects of multiple climate variables on carbonate structures in situ. We measured, for the first time, trait variability across four distinct depth zones using natural gradients as analogues for species-specific implications of oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) expansion, deoxygenation and ocean acidification. Although S. fragilis may likely be tolerant of future oxygen and pH decreases predicted during the twenty-first century, we determine from adults collected across multiple depth zones that urchin size and potential reproductive fitness (gonad index) are drastically reduced in the OMZ core (450-900 m) compared to adjacent zones. Increases in porosity and mean pore size coupled with decreases in mechanical nanohardness and stiffness of the calcitic endoskeleton in individuals collected from lower pH(Total) (7.57-7.59) and lower dissolved oxygen (13-42 mu mol kg(-1)) environments suggest that S. fragilis may be potentially vulnerable to crushing predators if these conditions become more widespread in the future. In addition, elemental composition indicates that S. fragilis has a skeleton composed of the low Mg-calcite mineral phase of calcium carbonate (mean Mg/Ca = 0.02 mol mol(-1)), with Mg/Ca values measured in the lower end of values reported for sea urchins known to date. Together these findings suggest that ongoing declines in oxygen and pH will likely affect the ecology and fitness of a dominant echinoid on the California margin.

Cyronak, T, Andersson AJ, D'Angelo S, Bresnahan P, Davidson C, Griffin A, Kindeberg T, Pennise J, Takeshita Y, White M.  2018.  Short-term spatial and temporal carbonate chemistry variability in two contrasting seagrass meadows: Implications for pH buffering capacities. Estuaries and Coasts. 41:1282-1296.   10.1007/s12237-017-0356-5   AbstractWebsite

It has been hypothesized that highly productive coastal ecosystems, such as seagrass meadows, could lead to the establishment of ocean acidification (OA) refugia, or areas of elevated pH and aragonite saturation state (Omega(a)) compared to source seawater. However, seagrass ecosystems experience extreme variability in carbonate chemistry across short temporal and small spatial scales, which could impact the pH buffering capacity of these potential refugia. Herein, short-term (hourly to diel) and small-scale (across 0.01-0.14 km(2)) spatiotemporal carbonate chemistry variability was assessed within two seagrass meadows in order to determine their short-term potential to elevate seawater pH relative to source seawater. Two locations at similar latitudes were chosen in order to compare systems dominated by coarse calcium carbonate (Bailey's Bay, Bermuda) and muddy silicate (Mission Bay, CA, USA) sediments. In both systems, spatial variability of pH across the seagrass meadow at any given time was often greater than diel variability (e.g., the average range over 24 h) at any one site, with greater spatial variability occurring at low tide in Mission Bay. Mission Bay (spatial Delta pH = 0.08 +/- 0.08; diel Delta pH = 0.12 +/- 0.01; mean +/- SD) had a greater average range in both temporal and spatial seawater chemistry than Bailey's Bay (spatial Delta pH = 0.02 +/- 0.01; diel Delta pH = 0.03 +/- 0.00; mean +/- SD). These differences were most likely due to a combination of slower currents, a larger tidal range, and more favorable weather conditions for photosynthesis (e.g., sunny with no rain) in Mission Bay. In both systems, there was a substantial amount of time (usually at night) when seawater pH within the seagrass beds was lower relative to the source seawater. Future studies aimed at assessing the potential of seagrass ecosystems to act as OA refugia for marine organisms need to account for the small-scale, high-frequency carbonate chemistry variability in both space and time, as this variability will impact where and when OA will be buffered or intensified.

Paulsen, ML, Andersson AJ, Aluwihare L, Cyronak T, D'Angelo S, Davidson C, Elwany H, Giddings SN, Page HN, Porrachia M, Schroeter S.  2018.  Temporal changes in seawater carbonate chemistry and carbon export from a Southern California estuary. Estuaries and Coasts. 41:1050-1068.   10.1007/s12237-017-0345-8   AbstractWebsite

Estuaries are important subcomponents of the coastal ocean, but knowledge about the temporal and spatial variability of their carbonate chemistry, as well as their contribution to coastal and global carbon fluxes, are limited. In the present study, we measured the temporal and spatial variability of biogeochemical parameters in a saltmarsh estuary in Southern California, the San Dieguito Lagoon (SDL). We also estimated the flux of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and total organic carbon (TOC) to the adjacent coastal ocean over diel and seasonal timescales. The combined net flux of DIC and TOC (FDIC + TOC) to the ocean during outgoing tides ranged from - 1.8 +/- 0.5 x 10(3) to 9.5 +/- 0.7 x 10(3) mol C h(-1) during baseline conditions. Based on these fluxes, a rough estimate of the net annual export of DIC and TOC totaled 10 +/- 4 x 10(6) mol C year(-1). Following a major rain event (36 mm rain in 3 days), FDIC + TOC increased and reached values as high as 29.0 +/- 0.7 x 10(3) mol C h(-1). Assuming a hypothetical scenario of three similar storm events in a year, our annual net flux estimate more than doubled to 25 +/- 4 x 10(6) mol C year(-1). These findings highlight the importance of assessing coastal carbon fluxes on different timescales and incorporating event scale variations in these assessments. Furthermore, for most of the observations elevated levels of total alkalinity (TA) and pH were observed at the estuary mouth relative to the coastal ocean. This suggests that SDL partly buffers against acidification of adjacent coastal surface waters, although the spatial extent of this buffering is likely small.

Takeshita, Y, Cyronak T, Martz TR, Kindeberg T, Andersson AJ.  2018.  Coral reef carbonate chemistry variability at different functional scales. Frontiers in Marine Science. 5   10.3389/fmars.2018.00175   AbstractWebsite

There is a growing recognition for the need to understand how seawater carbonate chemistry over coral reef environments will change in a high-CO2 world to better assess the impacts of ocean acidification on these valuable ecosystems. Coral reefs modify overlying water column chemistry through biogeochemical processes such as net community organic carbon production (NCR) and calcification (NCC). However, the relative importance and influence of these processes on seawater carbonate chemistry vary across multiple functional scales (defined here as space, time, and benthic community composition), and have not been fully constrained. Here, we use Bermuda as a case study to assess (1) spatiotemporal variability in physical and chemical parameters along a depth gradient at a rim reef location, (2) the spatial variability of total alkalinity (TA) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) over distinct benthic habitats to infer NCC:NCP ratios [< several km(2); rim reef vs. seagrass and calcium carbonate (CaCO3) sediments] on diel timescales, and (3) compare how TA-DIC relationships and NCC:NCP vary as we expand functional scales from local habitats to the entire reef platform (10's of km(2)) on seasonal to interannual timescales. Our results demonstrate that TA-DIC relationships were strongly driven by local benthic metabolism and community composition over diel cycles. However, as the spatial scale expanded to the reef platform, the TA-DIC relationship reflected processes that were integrated over larger spatiotemporal scales, with effects of NCC becoming increasingly more important over NCR. This study demonstrates the importance of considering drivers across multiple functional scales to constrain carbonate chemistry variability over coral reefs.