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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.

Dunn, DC, Vandover CL, Etter RJ, Smith CR, Levin LA, Morato T, Colaco A, Dale AC, Gebruk AV, Gjerde KM, Halpin PN, Howell KL, Johnson D, Perez JAA, Ribeiro MC, Stuckas H, Weaver P, Participants SW.  2018.  A strategy for the conservation of biodiversity on mid-ocean ridges from deep-sea mining. Science Advances. 4   10.1126/sciadv.aar4313   AbstractWebsite

Mineral exploitation has spread from land to shallow coastal waters and is now planned for the offshore, deep seabed. Large seafloor areas are being approved for exploration for seafloor mineral deposits, creating an urgent need for regional environmental management plans. Networks of areas where mining and mining impacts are prohibited are key elements of these plans. We adapt marine reserve design principles to the distinctive biophysical environment of mid-ocean ridges, offer a framework for design and evaluation of these networks to support conservation of benthic ecosystems on mid-ocean ridges, and introduce projected climate-induced changes in the deep sea to the evaluation of reserve design. We enumerate a suite of metrics to measure network performance against conservation targets and network design criteria promulgated by the Convention on Biological Diversity. We apply these metrics to network scenarios on the northern and equatorial Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where contractors are exploring for seafloor massive sulfide (SMS) deposits. A latitudinally distributed network of areas performs well at (i) capturing ecologically important areas and 30 to 50% of the spreading ridge areas, (ii) replicating representative areas, (iii) maintaining along-ridge population connectivity, and (iv) protecting areas potentially less affected by climate-related changes. Critically, the network design is adaptive, allowing for refinement based on new knowledge and the location of mining sites, provided that design principles and conservation targets are maintained. This framework can be applied along the global mid-ocean ridge system as a precautionary measure to protect biodiversity and ecosystem function from impacts of SMS mining.

Sato, KN, Powell J, Rudie D, Levin LA.  2018.  Evaluating the promise and pitfalls of a potential climate change-tolerant sea urchin fishery in southern California. Ices Journal of Marine Science. 75:1029-1041.   10.1093/icesjms/fsx225   AbstractWebsite

Marine fishery stakeholders are beginning to consider and implement adaptation strategies in the face of growing consumer demand and potential deleterious climate change impacts such as ocean warming, ocean acidification, and deoxygenation. This study investigates the potential for development of a novel climate change-tolerant sea urchin fishery in southern California based on Strongylocentrotus fragilis (pink sea urchin), a deep-sea species whose peak density was found to coincide with a current trap-based spot prawn fishery (Pandalus platyceros) in the 200-300-m depth range. Here we outline potential criteria for a climate change-tolerant fishery by examining the distribution, life-history attributes, and marketable qualities of S. fragilis in southern California. We provide evidence of seasonality of gonad production and demonstrate that peak gonad production occurs in the winter season. S. fragilis likely spawns in the spring season as evidenced by consistent minimum gonad indices in the spring/summer seasons across 4 years of sampling (2012-2016). The resiliency of S. fragilis to predicted future increases in acidity and decreases in oxygen was supported by high species abundance, albeit reduced relative growth rate estimates at water depths (485-510 m) subject to low oxygen (11.7-16.9 mmol kg similar to 1) and pHTotal (< 7.44), which may provide assurances to stakeholders and managers regarding the suitability of this species for commercial exploitation. Some food quality properties of the S. fragilis roe (e. g. colour, texture) were comparable with those of the commercially exploited shallow-water red sea urchin (Mesocentrotus franciscanus), while other qualities (e. g. 80% reduced gonad size by weight) limit the potential future marketability of S. fragilis. This case study highlights the potential future challenges and drawbacks of climate-tolerant fishery development in an attempt to inform future urchin fishery stakeholders.

Navarro, MO, Bockmon EE, Frieder CA, Gonzalez JP, Levin LA.  2014.  Environmental pH, O-2 and capsular effects on the geochemical composition of statoliths of embryonic squid Doryteuthis opalescens. Water. 6:2233-2254.   10.3390/w6082233   AbstractWebsite

Spawning market squid lay embryo capsules on the seafloor of the continental shelf of the California Current System (CCS), where ocean acidification, deoxygenation and intensified upwelling lower the pH and [O-2]. Squid statolith geochemistry has been shown to reflect the squid's environment (e. g., seawater temperature and elemental concentration). We used real-world environmental levels of pH and [O-2] observed on squid-embryo beds to test in the laboratory whether or not squid statolith geochemistry reflects environmental pH and [O-2]. We asked whether pH and [O-2] levels might affect the incorporation of element ratios (B:Ca, Mg:Ca, Sr:Ca, Ba:Ca, Pb:Ca, U:Ca) into squid embryonic statoliths as (1) individual elements and/or (2) multivariate elemental signatures, and consider future applications as proxies for pH and [O-2] exposure. Embryo exposure to high and low pH and [O-2] alone and together during development over four weeks only moderately affected elemental concentrations of the statoliths, and uranium was an important element driving these differences. Uranium: Ca was eight-times higher in statoliths exposed to low pHT (7.57-7.58) and low [O-2] (79-82 mu than those exposed to higher ambient pHT (7.92-7.94) and [O-2] (241-243 mu In a separate experiment, exposure to low pHT (7.55-7.56) or low [O-2] (83-86 mu yielded elevated U:Ca and Sr:Ca in the low [O-2] treatment only. We found capsular effects on multiple elements in statoliths of all treatments. The multivariate elemental signatures of embryonic statoliths were distinct among capsules, but did not reflect environmental factors (pH and/or [O-2]). We show that statoliths of squid embryos developing inside capsules have the potential to reflect environmental pH and [O-2], but that these "signals" are generated in concert with the physiological effects of the capsules and embryos themselves.