Abstract: Numerous hypotheses have been posited to explain the observed variation in plant defense strategies against herbivory. Under resource-rich environments, plants are predicted to increase their tolerance (limiting resource model; LRM) and, while the resource availability hypothesis (RAH) predicts a decrease in constitutive resistance in plant species growing in resource-rich environments, at the intraspecific level, plants are predicted to follow an opposite pattern (intraspecific RAH). Furthermore, the effect of multiple factors in modulating plant defense strategies has been scarcely explored and is more difficult to predict. Our aim was to understand how plant defense traits respond to herbivory, resource availability and their interactions, and to assess the effects on plant palatability. To this end, we performed an in situ factorial experiment at two sites simulating three herbivory levels and two nutrient availability conditions with the seagrass Posidonia oceanica. Additionally, we performed a series of feeding experiments with its two main herbivores. While plants decreased their constitutive resistance under nutrient fertilization (contrary to intraspecific RAH but in accordance to the RAH), and did not increase allocation to tolerance (likely due to resource limitation, LRM), simulated herbivory induced resistance traits. However, we found no interactive effects of nutrient fertilization and herbivory simulation on plant defense. Both herbivores responded similarly to changes in plant palatability, strongly preferring nutrient-enriched plants and non-clipped plants. This work highlights the need to better understand the drivers of plant defense intraspecific variability in response to resources, particularly in habitat-forming species where changes in plant traits and abundance will cascade onto associated species.
Abstract: Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) reach Antarctica through atmospheric transport, oceanic currents, and to minor extent, by migratory animals. The Southern Ocean is a net sink for many POPs, with a key contribution of the settling fluxes of POPs bound to organic matter (biological pump). However, little is known about POP transfer through the food web in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic waters, where krill is an important ecological node. In this study, we assessed the occurrence of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and furans (PCDD/Fs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) from the Bellingshausen, South Scotia and Weddell Seas around the Antarctic Peninsula. The concentrations of PCDD/Fs, PBDEs and PCBs in krill showed a large variability and the average were higher (generally within a factor 3) than those previously reported for eastern Antarctica. This result highlights regional differences related to atmospheric transport and deposition, and also probable regional sources due to human activities. Bioaccumulation and biomagnification factors for PCBs in krill were estimated using previously reported phytoplankton and seawater concentrations for this region. These suggested a near water-krill equilibrium for PCBs, which was not observed for water-phytoplankton partitioning. The estimated removal settling fluxes of PCBs due to the biological pump were several orders of magnitude higher than the estimated fluxes of PCBs transferred from phytoplankton to krill.
Abstract: Increases in seawater temperature are expected to have negative consequences for marine organisms. Beyond individual effects, species-specific differences in thermal tolerance are predicted to modify species interactions and increase the strength of top-down effects, particularly in plant-herbivore interactions. Shifts in trophic interactions will be especially important when affecting habitat-forming species such as seagrasses, as the consequences on their abundance will cascade throughout the food web. Seagrasses are a major component of coastal ecosystems offering important ecosystem services, but are threatened by multiple anthropogenic stressors, including warming. The mechanistic understanding of seagrass responses to warming at multiple scales of organization remains largely unexplored, especially in early-life stages such as seedlings. Yet, these early-life stages are critical for seagrass expansion processes and adaptation to climate change. In this study, we determined the effects of a 3 month experimental exposure to present and predicted mean summer SST of the Mediterranean Sea (25°C, 27°C, and 29°C) on the photophysiology, size, and ecology (i.e., plant-herbivore interactions) of seedlings of the seagrass Posidonia oceanica. Warming resulted in increased mortality, leaf necrosis, and respiration as well as lower carbohydrate reserves in the seed, the main storage organ in seed- lings. Aboveground biomass and root growth were also limited with warming, which could hamper seedling establishment success. Furthermore, warming increased the susceptibility to consumption by grazers, likely due to lower leaf fiber content and thickness. Our results indicate that warming will negatively affect seagrass seedlings through multiple direct and indirect pathways: increased stress, reduced establishment potential, lower storage of carbohydrate reserves, and increased susceptibly to consumption. This work provides a significant step forward in understanding the major mechanisms that will drive the capacity of seagrass seedlings to adapt and survive to warming, highlighting the potential additive effects that herbivory will have on ultimately determining seedling success.
Abstract: Under future increased CO2 concentrations, seagrasses are predicted to perform better as a result of increased photosynthesis, but the eects in carbon balance and growth are unclear and remain unexplored for early life stages such as seedlings, which allow plant dispersal and provide the potential for adaptation under changing environmental conditions. Furthermore, the outcome of the concomitant biochemical changes in plant-herbivore interactions has been poorly studied, yet may have important implications in plant communities. In this study we determined the eects of experimental exposure to current and future predicted CO2 concentrations on the physiology, size and defense strategies against herbivory in the earliest life stage of the Mediterranean seagrass Posidonia oceanica. The photosynthetic performance of seedlings, assessed by uorescence, improved under increased pCO2 conditions after 60 days, although these dierences disappeared after 90 days. Furthermore, these plants exhibited bigger seeds and higher carbon storage in belowground tissues, having thus more resources to tolerate and recover from stressors. Of the several herbivory resistance traits measured, plants under high pCO2 conditions had a lower leaf N content but higher sucrose. These seedlings were preferred by herbivorous sea urchins in feeding trials, which could potentially counteract some of the positive eects observed.
Abstract: Coastal communities are under threat from many and often co-occurring local (e.g., pollution, eutrophication) and global stressors (e.g., climate change), yet understanding the interactive and cumulative impacts of multiple stressors in ecosystem function is far from being accomplished. Ecological redundancy may be key for ecosystem resilience, but there are still many gaps in our understanding of interspecific differences within a functional group, particularly regarding response diversity, that is, whether members of a functional group respond equally or differently to anthropogenic stressors. Herbivores are critical in determining plant community structure and the transfer of energy up the food web. Human disturbances may alter the ecological role of herbivory by modifying the defense strategies of plants and thus the feeding patterns and performance of herbivores. We conducted a suite of experiments to examine the independent and interactive effects of anthropogenic (nutrient and CO2 additions) and natural (simulated herbivory) disturbances on a seagrass and its interaction with two common generalist consumers to understand how multiple disturbances can impact both a foundation species and a key ecological function (herbivory) and to assess the potential existence of response diversity to anthropogenic and natural changes in these systems. While all three disturbances modified seagrass defense traits, there were contrasting responses of herbivores to such plant changes. Both CO2 and nutrient additions influenced herbivore feeding behavior, yet while sea urchins preferred nutrient-enriched seagrass tissue (regardless of other experimental treatments), isopods were deterred by these same plant tissues. In contrast, carbon enrichment deterred sea urchins and attracted isopods, while simulated herbivory only influenced isopod feeding choice. These contrasting responses of herbivores to disturbance-induced changes in seagrass help to better understand the ecological functioning of seagrass ecosystems in the face of human disturbances and may have important implications regarding the resilience and conservation of these threatened ecosystems.
Abstract: The remote oceans are among the most pristine environments in the world, away from sources of anthropogenic persistent organic pollutants (POP), but nevertheless recipients of atmospheric deposition of POPs that have undergone long-range atmospheric transport (LRAT). In this work, the background occurrence of gas and aerosol phase polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/Fs) and dioxin like polychlorinated biphenyls (dl-PCB) is evaluated for the first time in the atmosphere of the tropical and subtropical Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans. Thirty-nine air samples were collected during the eight-month Malaspina circumnavigation cruise onboard the R/V Hespérides. The background levels of dioxins and dl-PCBs remained very low and in many cases very close to or below the limit of detection. Expectedly, the levels of PCBs were higher than dioxins, PCB#118 being the most abundant compound. In the particular case of dioxins, octachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (OCDD) was the most abundant PCDD/F congener. Distribution of dl-PCB is dominated by the gas phase, while for PCDD/F the aerosol phase concentrations were higher, particularly for the more hydrophobic congeners. The Atlantic Ocean presented on average the highest PCDD/F and dl-PCB concentrations, being lower in the southern hemisphere. The assessment of air mass back trajectories show a clear influence of continental source regions, and lower concentrations when the air mass has an oceanic origin. In addition, the samples affected by an oceanic air mass are characterized by a lower contribution of the less chlorinated dioxins in comparison with the furans, consistent with the reported higher reaction rate constants of dibenzo-p-dioxins with OH radicals than those of dibenzofurans. The total dry atmospheric deposition of aerosol-bound ∑PCDD/F and ∑dl-PCB to the global oceans was estimated to be 354 and 896 kg/year, respectively.