Articles | Volume 6, issue 10
Biogeosciences, 6, 2015–2024, 2009

Special issue: The ocean in the high-CO2 world II

Biogeosciences, 6, 2015–2024, 2009

  06 Oct 2009

06 Oct 2009

The influence of hypercapnia and the infaunal brittlestar Amphiura filiformis on sediment nutrient flux – will ocean acidification affect nutrient exchange?

H. L. Wood1,*, S. Widdicombe1, and J. I. Spicer2 H. L. Wood et al.
  • 1Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, West Hoe, Plymouth, PL1 3DH, UK
  • 2Marine Biology & Ecology Research Centre, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
  • *currently at: Department of Marine Ecology – Kristineberg, University of Gothenburg, Kristineberg 566, 450 34 Fiskebäckskil, Sweden

Abstract. Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and the concomitant increased uptake of this by the oceans is resulting in hypercapnia-related reduction of ocean pH. Research focussed on the direct effects of these physicochemical changes on marine invertebrates has begun to improve our understanding of impacts at the level of individual physiologies. However, CO2-related impairment of organisms' contribution to ecological or ecosystem processes has barely been addressed. The burrowing ophiuroid Amphiura filiformis, which has a physiology that makes it susceptible to reduced pH, plays a key role in sediment nutrient cycling by mixing and irrigating the sediment, a process known as bioturbation. Here we investigate the role of A. filiformis in modifying nutrient flux rates across the sediment-water boundary and the impact of CO2- related acidification on this process. A 40 day exposure study was conducted under predicted pH scenarios from the years 2100 (pH 7.7) and 2300 (pH 7.3), plus an additional treatment of pH 6.8. This study demonstrated strong relationships between A. filiformis density and cycling of some nutrients; activity increases the sediment uptake of phosphate and the release of nitrite and nitrate. No relationship between A. filiformis density and the flux of ammonium or silicate were observed. Results also indicated that, within the timescale of this experiment, effects at the individual bioturbator level appear not to translate into reduced ecosystem influence. However, long term survival of key bioturbating species is far from assured and changes in both bioturbation and microbial processes could alter key biogeochemical processes in future, more acidic oceans.

Final-revised paper