Ocean Acidification can Mediate Biodiversity Shifts by changing Biogenic Habitat

by Elizabeth Rodarte

Ocean acidification is the process in which the pH of the world’s oceans decreases due to the production of atmospheric CO2. The increase of CO2 and decrease in pH leads to changes in calcification, growth, and abundance of species such as coral reefs, mussels, seagrass, and macroalgae. Habitats experience the indirect effects of such CO2 increases. They must remain resistant to sudden changes in pH and CO2 in order to benefit the organisms they support. By modeling the effects of lowering pH in habitats with corals, mussels, seagrass, and microalgae, we can determine the costs to these species. Coral reefs and mussels are calcifying organisms that are negatively affected by the pH which limits survival and stunts, or even stops, growth and development. Lower pH decreases the species complexity of corals and mussels and ultimately the species richness in habitats. Mytilus mussels, for example, require specific pH to function. The species of mussels, other than Mytilus, that survive decreases in pH lack “structural complexity” to support dense surrounding vegetation. Therefore, the loss of Mytilus mussels due to ocean acidification allows for a more stable yet less diverse habitat. Continue reading

High and Distinct Range-Edge Genetic Diversity despite local Bottlenecks


by Cameron Lukos

The genetic consequences of being at the edge of species ranges has been the subject of much debate. Populations that occur at low latitude ranges are expected to retain high unique genetic diversity. Less favorable environments that limit population size at the range edges may have caused genetic erosion that has a stronger effect than past events. This study by Assis et al. (2013) provided a test of whether the population declines at the peripheral range might be shown in decreasing diversity and increasing population isolation and differentiation. The authors compared population genetic differentiation and diversity with trends in abundance along a latitudinal gradient to the furthest extents of the range of a sea kelp, Saccorhiza polyschides. Assis et al. also looked at recent bottleneck events to determine whether the recent recoded distributional shifts had a negative impact on the population size. They found that there was decreasing population density and increasing spatial fragmentation and local extinction at the southern edge. The genetic data revealed two distinct groups and a central mixed group. As the authors had predicted there was higher differentiation and evidence of bottleneck at the southern edge but instead of a decrease there was an increase in genetic diversity suggesting that extinction and recolonization had not reduced diversity and that this may be evidence of a process of shifting genetic baselines. Continue reading