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  • Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) are a keystone species in the Southern Ocean, but little is known about how they will respond to climate change. Ocean acidification, caused by sequestration of carbon dioxide into ocean surface waters (pCO2), is known to alter the lipid biochemistry of some organisms. This can have cascading effects up the food chain. In a year-long laboratory experiment adult krill were exposed to ambient seawater pCO2 levels (400 μatm), elevated pCO2 levels that mimicked near-future ocean acidification (1000, 1500 and 2000 μatm) and an extreme pCO2 level (4000 μatm). The laboratory light regime mimicked the seasonal Southern Ocean photoperiod and krill received a constant food supply. Total lipid mass (mg g -1 DM) of adult krill was unaffected by near-future levels of seawater pCO2. Fatty acid composition (%) and fatty acid ratios associated with immune responses and cell membrane fluidity were also unaffected by near-future pCO2, apart from an increase in 18:3n-3/18:2n-6 ratios in krill in 1500 μatm pCO2 in winter and spring. Extreme pCO2 had no effect on krill lipid biochemistry during summer. During winter and spring, krill in extreme pCO2 had elevated levels of omega-6 fatty acids (up to 1.2% increase in 18:2n-6, up to 0.8% increase in 20:4n-6 and lower 18:3n-3/18:2n-6 and 20:5n-3/20:4n-6 ratios), and showed evidence of increased membrane fluidity (up to three-fold increase in phospholipid/sterol ratios). These results indicate that the lipid biochemistry of adult krill is robust to near-future ocean acidification.

  • Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) have a keystone role in the Southern Ocean, as the primary prey of Antarctic predators. Any decreases in krill abundance could result in a major ecological regime shift, but there is currently limited information on how climate change may affect krill. Increasing anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are causing ocean acidification, as absorption of atmospheric CO2 in seawater alters ocean chemistry. Ocean acidification increases mortality and negatively affects physiological functioning in some marine invertebrates, and is predicted to occur most rapidly at high latitudes. Here we show that, in the laboratory, adult krill are able to survive, grow, store fat, mature, and maintain respiration rates when exposed to near-future ocean acidification (1000 – 2000 μatm pCO2) for one year. Despite differences in seawater pCO2 incubation conditions, adult krill are able to actively maintain the acid-base balance of their body fluids in near-future pCO2, which enhances their resilience to ocean acidification.

  • Most research investigating how ocean warming and acidification will impact marine species has focused on visually dominant species, such as kelps and corals, while ignoring visually cryptic species such as crustose coralline algae (CCA). CCA are important keystone species that provide settlement cues for invertebrate larvae and can be highly sensitive to global ocean change. However, few studies have assessed how CCA respond to low emission scenarios or conditions. In a laboratory experiment, we examined the responses of temperate CCA assemblages to combined warming and acidification projected under low, medium, and high emissions. Net calcification and net photosynthesis significantly declined in all emissions scenarios, while significant reductions in relative growth rates and increases in percentage bleaching were observed in the highest emission scenario. The negative responses of CCA to both low and medium emissions suggest that they may be adversely impacted by combined warming and acidification by 2030 if current emissions are sustained. This will have far reaching consequences for commercially important invertebrates that rely on them to induce settlement of larvae. These findings highlight the need to take rapid action to preserve these critical keystone species and the valuable services they provide.

  • Marine heatwaves are extreme events that can have profound and lasting impacts on marine species. Field observations have shown seaweeds to be highly susceptible to marine heatwaves, but the physiological drivers of this susceptibility are poorly understood. Furthermore, the effects of marine heatwaves in conjunction with ocean warming and acidification are yet to be investigated. To address this knowledge gap, we conducted a laboratory culture experiment in which we tested the growth and physiological responses of Phyllospora comosa juveniles from the southern extent of its range (43 - 31° S) to marine heatwaves, ocean warming and acidification. We used a "collapsed factorial design" in which marine heatwaves were superimposed on current (today's pH and temperature) and future (pH and temperature projected by 2100) ocean conditions. Responses were tested both during the heatwaves, and after a seven-day recovery period. Heatwaves reduced net photosynthetic rates in both current and future conditions, while respiration rates were elevated under heatwaves in the current conditions only. Following the recovery period, there was little evidence of heatwaves having lasting negative effects on growth, photosynthesis or respiration. Exposure to heatwaves, future ocean conditions or both caused an increase in the degree of saturation of fatty acids. This adjustment may have counteracted negative effects of elevated temperatures by decreasing membrane fluidity, which increases at higher temperatures. Furthermore, P. comosa appeared to down-regulate the energetically expensive carbon-concentrating mechanism (CCM) in the future conditions with a reduction in δ13 C values detected in these treatments. Any saved energy arising from this down-regulation was not invested in growth and was likely invested in the adjustment of fatty acid composition. This adjustment is a mechanism by which P. comosa and other seaweeds may tolerate the negative effects of ocean warming and marine heatwaves through benefits arising from ocean acidification.