837 research outputs found

    Thermal plasticity is independent of environmental history in an intertidal seaweed

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    Organisms inhabiting the intertidal zone have been used to study natural ecophysiological responses and adaptations to thermal stress because these organisms are routinely exposed to high‐temperature conditions for hours at a time. While intertidal organisms may be inherently better at withstanding temperature stress due to regular exposure and acclimation, they could be more vulnerable to temperature stress, already living near the edge of their thermal limits. Strong gradients in thermal stress across the intertidal zone present an opportunity to test whether thermal tolerance is a plastic or canalized trait in intertidal organisms. Here, we studied the intertidal pool‐dwelling calcified alga, Ellisolandia elongata, under near‐future temperature regimes, and the dependence of its thermal acclimatization response on environmental history. Two timescales of environmental history were tested during this experiment. The intertidal pool of origin was representative of long‐term environmental history over the alga's life (including settlement and development), while the pool it was transplanted into accounted for recent environmental history (acclimation over many months). Unexpectedly, neither long‐term nor short‐term environmental history, nor ambient conditions, affected photosynthetic rates in E. elongata. Individuals were plastic in their photosynthetic response to laboratory temperature treatments (mean 13.2°C, 15.7°C, and 17.7°C). Further, replicate ramets from the same individual were not always consistent in their photosynthetic performance from one experimental time point to another or between treatments and exhibited no clear trend in variability over experimental time. High variability in climate change responses between individuals may indicate the potential for resilience to future conditions and, thus, may play a compensatory role at the population or species level over time

    Predicting ecosystem shifts requires new approaches that integrate the effects of climate change across entire systems.

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    Most studies that forecast the ecological consequences of climate change target a single species and a single life stage. Depending on climatic impacts on other life stages and on interacting species, however, the results from simple experiments may not translate into accurate predictions of future ecological change. Research needs to move beyond simple experimental studies and environmental envelope projections for single species towards identifying where ecosystem change is likely to occur and the drivers for this change. For this to happen, we advocate research directions that (i) identify the critical species within the target ecosystem, and the life stage(s) most susceptible to changing conditions and (ii) the key interactions between these species and components of their broader ecosystem. A combined approach using macroecology, experimentally derived data and modelling that incorporates energy budgets in life cycle models may identify critical abiotic conditions that disproportionately alter important ecological processes under forecasted climates

    Missing links in the study of solute and particle exchange between the sea floor and water column

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    Exchanges of solutes and solids between the sea floor and water column are a vital component of ecosystem functioning in marine habitats around the globe. This review explores particle and solute exchange processes, the different mechanisms through which they interact at the ecosystem level, as well as their interdependencies. Solute and particle exchange processes are highly dependent on the characteristics of the environment within which they takes place. Exchange is driven directly by a number of factors, such as currents, granulometry, nutrient, and matter inputs, as well as living organisms. In turn, the occurrence of exchanges can influence adjacent environments and organisms. Major gaps in the present knowledge include the temporal and spatial variation in many of the processes driving benthic/pelagic exchange processes and the variability in the relative importance of individual processes caused by this variation. Furthermore, the accurate assessment of some anthropogenic impacts is deemed questionable due to a lack of baseline data and long-term effects of anthropogenic actions are often unknown. It is suggested that future research should be transdisciplinary and at ecosystem level wherever possible and that baseline surveys should be implemented and long-term observatories established to fill the current knowledge gaps

    Evaluation of estuarine biotic indices to assess macro-benthic structure and functioning following nutrient remediation actions: A case study on the Eden estuary Scotland

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    © 2018 Despite a wealth of methods currently proposed by the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) to assess macro-benthic integrity, determining good ecological status (GES) and assessing ecosystem recovery following anthropogenic degradation is still one of the biggest challenges in marine ecology research. In this study, our aim was to test a number of commonly used structural (e.g. Shannon–Wiener, Average Taxonomic Diversity ([Formula presented]), M-AMBI) and functional indicators (e.g. BTA, BPc) currently used in benthic research and monitoring programmes on the Eden estuary (Scotland). Historically the estuary has a legacy of high nutrient conditions and was designated as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) in 2003, whence major management measures were implemented in order to ameliorate the risk of eutrophication symptoms. We therefore collected data on intertidal macro-benthic communities over a sixteen year interval, covering a pre-management (1999) and post-management (2015) period to assess the effectiveness of the intended restoration efforts. In the post-management period, the results suggested an improvement in the structure and functioning of the estuary as a whole, but macro-benthic assemblages responded to restoration variably along the estuarine gradient. The greatest improvements were noticed in the upper and central sites of the estuary with functional traits analysis suggesting an increased ability of these sites to provide ecosystem services associated with the benthic environment such as carbon and organic matter cycling. Generally, almost all of the structural and functional indicators detected the prevailing environmental conditions (with the exception of (Pielou's index and Average Taxonomic Diversity ([Formula presented])), highlighting the appropriateness of such methods to be used in monitoring the recovery of transitional systems. This research also provides a robust baseline to monitor further management actions in the Eden estuary and provides evidence that notable reductions in nitrate concentrations resulting from NVZ designations may result in significant improvements to benthic structure and functioning

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

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    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, CO<sub>2</sub>-related impairment of organisms' contribution to ecological or ecosystem processes has barely been addressed. The burrowing ophiuroid <i>Amphiura filiformis</i>, 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 <i>A. filiformis</i> in modifying nutrient flux rates across the sediment-water boundary and the impact of CO<sub>2</sub>- 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 <i>A. filiformis</i> density and cycling of some nutrients; <iA. filiformis</i> activity increases the sediment uptake of phosphate and the release of nitrite and nitrate. No relationship between <i>A. filiformis</i> 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

    NeuroMask: Explaining Predictions of Deep Neural Networks through Mask Learning

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    Deep Neural Networks (DNNs) deliver state-of-the-art performance in many image recognition and understanding applications. However, despite their outstanding performance, these models are black-boxes and it is hard to understand how they make their decisions. Over the past few years, researchers have studied the problem of providing explanations of why DNNs predicted their results. However, existing techniques are either obtrusive, requiring changes in model training, or suffer from low output quality. In this paper, we present a novel method, NeuroMask, for generating an interpretable explanation of classification model results. When applied to image classification models, NeuroMask identifies the image parts that are most important to classifier results by applying a mask that hides/reveals different parts of the image, before feeding it back into the model. The mask values are tuned by minimizing a properly designed cost function that preserves the classification result and encourages producing an interpretable mask. Experiments using state-of-art Convolutional Neural Networks for image recognition on different datasets (CIFAR-10 and ImageNet) show that NeuroMask successfully localizes the parts of the input image which are most relevant to the DNN decision. By showing a visual quality comparison between NeuroMask explanations and those of other methods, we find NeuroMask to be both accurate and interpretable

    Comparing the network structure and resilience of two benthic estuarine systems following the implementation of nutrient mitigation actions

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    The structure and resilience of benthic communities in coastal and estuarine ecosystems can be strongly affected by human mediated disturbances, such as nutrient enrichment, often leading to changes in a food webs function. In this study, we used the Ecopath model (EwE) to examine two case studies where deliberate management actions aimed at reducing nutrient pollution and restoring ecosystems resulted in ecological recovery. Five mass-balanced models were developed to represent pre and post-management changes in the benthic food web properties of the Tamar (1990, 1992, 2005) and Eden (1999, 2015) estuarine systems (UK). The network functions of interest were measures related to the cycling of carbon, nutrients and the productivity of the systems. Specific attention was given to the trophic structure and cycling pathways within the two ecosystems. The network attribute of ascendency was also examined as a proxy for resilience and used to define safe system-level operating boundaries. The results of the resilience metrics ascendancy (A) and its derivatives capacity (C) and overhead (O) indicate that both systems were more resilient and had higher resistance to potential stressors under low nutrient conditions. The less perturbed networks also cycled material more efficiently, according to Finns cycling index (CI), and longer cycling path lengths were indications of less stressed systems. Relative Ascendency (A/C) also proved useful for comparing estuarine systems of different sizes, suggesting the Tamar and Eden systems network structures have remained within their pre-defined “safe operating zones”. Overall, this analysis presents justification that efforts to reduce nutrient inputs into the Tamar and Eden estuaries have had a positive effect on the trophic networks of each system. Moreover, the consensuses of the network indicators in both systems suggest ecological network analysis (ENA) to be a suitable methodology to compare the recovery patterns of ecosystems of different sizes and complexity

    Long-term exposure to elevated pCO2 more than warming modifies juvenile shell growth patterns in a temperate gastropod

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    Co-occurring global change drivers, such as ocean warming and acidification, can have large impacts on the behaviour, physiology, and health of marine organisms. However, whilst early-life stages are thought to be most sensitive to these impacts, little is known about the individual level processes by which such impacts take place. Here, using mesocosm experiments simulating ocean warming (OW) and ocean acidification (OA) conditions expected for the NE Atlantic region by 2100 using a variety of treatments of elevated pCO2 and temperature. We investigated their impacts on bio-mineralization, microstructure, and ontogeny of Nucella lapillus (L.) juveniles, a common gastropod predator that exerts important top-down controls on biodiversity patterns in temperate rocky shores. The shell of juveniles hatched in mesocosms during a 14 month long experiment were analysed using micro-CT scanning, 3D geometric morphometrics, and scanning-electron microscopy. Elevated temperature and age determined shell density, length, width, thickness, elemental chemistry, shape, and shell surface damages. However, co-occurring elevated pCO2 modified the impacts of elevated temperature, in line with expected changes in carbonate chemistry driven by temperature. Young N. lapillus from acidified treatments had weaker shells and were therefore expected to be more vulnerable to predation and environmental pressures such as wave action. However, in some instances, the effects of both higher CO2 content and elevated temperature appeared to have reversed as the individuals aged. This study suggests that compensatory development may therefore occur, and that expected increases in juvenile mortality under OA and OW may be counteracted, to some degree, by high plasticity in shell formation in this species. This feature may prove advantageous for N. lapillus community dynamics in near-future conditions
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