How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

Click to locate material archived on our website by topic

Fertilization in Coastal Marine Invertebrates in a CO2-Enriched and Warmer World
Byrne, M., Soars, N.A., Ho, M.A., Wong, E., McElroy, D., Selvakumaraswamy, P., Dworjanyn, S.A. and Davis A.R. 2010. Fertilization in a suite of coastal marine invertebrates from SE Australia is robust to near-future ocean warming and acidification. Marine Biology 157: 2061-2069.

The authors write that "reproduction in most benthic marine invertebrates involves free spawning of gametes and fertilization in the water column followed by a dispersive larval state," and that "due to their sensitivity to environmental perturbation, marine gametes have long been used as a model system for environmental monitoring of toxicants (Dinnel et al., 1987; Ringwood, 1992; Bay et al., 1993; Carr et al., 2006; Byrne et al, 2008; Byrne, 2010)." Therefore, the degree of fidelity of the reproductive process in these creatures should serve as a sensitive indicator of life-threatening phenomena that may be caused by what the world's climate alarmists consider to be the "twin evils" of ocean acidification and warming.

What was done
In exploring this important subject, Byrne et al. examined the interactive effects of near-future (ca. AD 2070-2100) ocean warming (temperature increases of 2-6°C) and ocean acidification (pH reductions of 0.2-0.6) on fertilization in four intertidal and shallow subtidal echinoids (Heliocidaris erythrogramma, Heliocidaris Tuberculata, Tripneustes gratilla, Centrostephanus rodgersii), an asteroid (Patiriella regularis) and an abalone (Haliotis coccoradiata), working with batches of eggs they collected from multiple females that were fertilized by sperm obtained from multiple males, all of which entities were maintained and employed in all combinations of three temperature and three pH treatments.

What was learned
Simply put -- and briefly articulated -- in the words of the eight researchers, "there was no significant effect of warming and acidification on the percentage of fertilization."

What it means
In light of their comprehensive negative findings, Byrne et al. say their results indicate that "fertilization in these species is robust to temperature and pH/PCO2 fluctuation," while opining that their findings "may reflect adaptation to the marked fluctuation in temperature and pH that characterizes their shallow water coastal habitats," which interpretation further suggests that other marine fauna in still other circumstances may likewise be capable of adapting to any warming and acidification that might possibly develop throughout the world's oceans during the remaining decades of the 21st century.

Bay, S., Burgess, R. and Nacci, D. 1993. Status and applications of echinoid (Phylum Echinodermata) toxicity test methods. In: Wayne, G, Hughes, J.S. and Lewis, M.A. (Eds.) Environmental Toxicology and Risk Assessment, ASTM STP 1179. American Society of Testing and Materials, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, pp. 281-302.

Byrne, M. 2010. Impact of climate change stressors on marine invertebrate life histories with a focus on the Mollusca and Echinodermata. In: Yu, Y. and Henderson-Sellers, A. (Eds.) Climate Alert: Climate Change Monitoring and Strategy. University of Sydney Press, Sydney, Australia, pp. 142-185.

Byrne, M., Oakes, D.J., Pollak, J.K. and Laginestra, E. 2008. Toxicity of landfill leachate to sea urchin development with a focus on ammonia. Cell Biology and Toxicology 24: 503-512.

Carr, R.S., Biedenbach, J.M. and Nipper, M. 2006. Influence of potentially confounding factors on sea urchin porewater toxicity tests. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 51: 573-579.

Dinnel, P.A., Link, J.M. and Stober, Q.J. 1987. Improved methodology for a sea-urchin sperm cell bioassay for marine waters. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 16: 23-32.

Ringwood, A.H. 1992. Comparative sensitivity of gametes and early developmental stages of a sea urchin species (Echinometra mathaei) and a bivalve species (Isognomon californicum) during metal exposures. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 22: 288-295.

Reviewed 19 January 2011