MEPS 379:59-75 (2009)  -  doi:10.3354/meps07894

Effects of CO2 induced seawater acidification on infaunal diversity and sediment nutrient fluxes

S. Widdicombe1,*, S. L. Dashfield1, C. L. McNeill1, H. R. Needham1, A. Beesley1, A. McEvoy1, S. Øxnevad2, K. R. Clarke1, J. A. Berge2

1Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, West Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, UK
2Norwegian Institute for Water Research, Gaustadalléen 21, NO-0349 Oslo, Norway

ABSTRACT: A mesocosm experiment was conducted to quantify the effects of short- (2 wk) and long-term (20 wk) exposure to acidified seawater on the structure and diversity of macrofaunal and nematode assemblages in 2 different sediment types. The impact of acidified seawater on sediment nutrient fluxes was also determined. Using carbon dioxide (CO2) gas, seawater was acidified to pH 7.3 (mimicking ocean acidification), 6.5 or 5.6 (mimicking leakage from a sub-seabed CO2 store site). Control treatments were maintained in natural seawater (pH ≈ 8.0). Exposure to acidified seawater significantly altered community structure and reduced diversity for both macrofaunal and nematode assemblages. However, the impact on nematodes was less severe than that on macrofauna. While the communities in both sediment types were significantly affected by changes in seawater pH, impacts on sandy sediment fauna were greater than those on muddy sediment fauna. Sandy sediments also showed the greatest effects with respect to nutrient fluxes. In sand, the efflux of nitrite, nitrate and silicate decreased in response to increased acidification while the efflux of ammonium increased. In mud, acidification increased the efflux of ammonium but had no effect on the other nutrients. We conclude that both leakage from carbon storage and ocean acidification could cause significant changes in the structure and diversity of coastal sediment communities. Lowered seawater pH could also affect nutrient cycling directly by altering bacterial communities and indirectly through impacts on the abundance and activity of key bioturbators.

KEY WORDS: Biodiversity · Macrofauna · Meiofauna · Ocean acidification · Nutrient flux · Carbon storage

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Cite this article as: Widdicombe S, Dashfield SL, McNeill CL, Needham HR and others (2009) Effects of CO2 induced seawater acidification on infaunal diversity and sediment nutrient fluxes. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 379:59-75

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