Researchers find one type of algae able to adapt to warming oceans

September 15, 2014 by Bob Yirka, Phys.org report
A scanning electron micrograph of three Emiliania huxleyi cells. Credit: Dr. Kai T Lohbeck (GEOMAR)

(Phys.org) —A team of German biology researchers has found that at least one type of algae appears able to adapt to rising ocean temperatures and the accompanying increased acidification. In their paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the team describes how they subjected algae specimens to warmer and/or more acidic water over a year's time and the changes in the algae that came about as a result.

In general, scientists don't expect many species to evolve to meet the challenge of a warming planet—the temperature rise is happening faster than most species could adapt to it, thus little work has been done to see which if any might be able to do so. In this new effort the team in Germany studied the tiny marine Emiliania huxleyi—a type of phytoplankton that grows in groups into large floating masses that serve as food to a wide variety of fish and other sea creatures. They were chosen because of their fast reproduction rate—up to 500 generations in a single year, or more than one a day, on average. This of course makes them more likely to be able to evolve to meet a rapidly changing environment.

The researchers started with many samples of the algae as they now exist, keeping them in flasks in their lab. As time passed, some were transferred to flasks containing warmer and/or more . Those that survived were put into even warmer or more acidic water. This continued for a year during which time the algae evolved to survive in their rapidly changing environment—which eventually included water temperatures as high as 80°F, representing the worst-case scenario for water ocean increases over the next century or so. The team reports that the individual algae became smaller, but they also grew faster, suggesting they might form even bigger or denser real world plumes.

A row of culture flasks in which algae, for example Emilinia huxleyi are cultivated in the laboratory. Credit: Dr. Kai T Lohbeck (GEOMAR)

The researchers acknowledge that their experiments were carried out in a rather sterile environment, sans predators, viruses and other dangers to their survival, thus the results are preliminary at best. But still, they do indicate that some species might survive the impending changes to the ocean, and some might even thrive, even as many, many others are likely to disappear because they aren't able to evolve as quickly.

Flasks in their custom-built climate cabinet. Credit: Dr. Kai T Lohbeck (GEOMAR)

Explore further: Not all phytoplankton in the ocean need to take their vitamins

More information: Adaptation of a globally important coccolithophore to ocean warming and acidification, Nature Climate Change (2014) DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2379

Abstract
Although ocean warming and acidification are recognized as two major anthropogenic perturbations of today's oceans we know very little about how marine phytoplankton may respond via evolutionary change. We tested for adaptation to ocean warming in combination with ocean acidification in the globally important phytoplankton species Emiliania huxleyi. Temperature adaptation occurred independently of ocean acidification levels. Growth rates were up to 16% higher in populations adapted for one year to warming when assayed at their upper thermal tolerance limit. Particulate inorganic (PIC) and organic (POC) carbon production was restored to values under present-day ocean conditions, owing to adaptive evolution, and were 101% and 55% higher under combined warming and acidification, respectively, than in non-adapted controls. Cells also evolved to a smaller size while they recovered their initial PIC:POC ratio even under elevated CO2. The observed changes in coccolithophore growth, calcite and biomass production, cell size and elemental composition demonstrate the importance of evolutionary processes for phytoplankton performance in a future ocean.

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29 comments

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Anda
5 / 5 (11) Sep 15, 2014
Life has survived major extinctions on Earth. Surely snowball Earth, Siberian traps, meteors, etc were worst scenarios than the actual one.
And most of the time the poles weren't covered with ice and the clima was warmer.
Life will survive on Earth I've no doubt, humans on the other hand...
antigoracle
1 / 5 (10) Sep 15, 2014
one type of algae appears able to adapt to rising ocean temperatures and the accompanying increased acidification

So, the real world can defy AGW Cult "science", where warmer water absorbs more CO2
Surly
4.4 / 5 (7) Sep 15, 2014
@antigoracle: The fact that solubility increases with heat doesn't contradict the fact that the greenhouse effect occurs.
gkam
3.8 / 5 (10) Sep 15, 2014
What is antigor talking about? What is reported is an organism which can produce up to 500 generations each year can perhaps adapt to Global Warming. The rest of us, no.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (7) Sep 15, 2014
Only one?

The rest of us, no

People live, primitively, in Northern Siberia, Alaska, Canada, Congo, Amazon and all places in between.
Who are 'the rest of us'?
tadchem
1 / 5 (3) Sep 15, 2014
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, *all* life currently on earth is descended from ancestors which were able to adapt successfully to climate changes (both warming and cooling) of the past. Change is the only constant, and adaptability is the only sustainable strategy.
tadchem
4.6 / 5 (5) Sep 15, 2014
@antigoracle: The fact that solubility increases with heat doesn't contradict the fact that the greenhouse effect occurs.

The solubility of a gas in water *decreases* with heat.
Mike_Massen
3.5 / 5 (8) Sep 16, 2014
tadchem might have too narrow a focus with
The solubility of a gas in water *decreases* with heat.
Sure however, CO2 is a 'bit of a problem' as it also has interactions as carbonic acid which means it increases acidification (ie increases the concentration of a proton donor) which affects solubility of carbonates. ie 'Some' of the CO2 which dissolves in water to form carbonic acid reacts and thus reduces its equilibrium concentration consequently potentially allowing more to be absorbed.

IOW:
If the gas had no (or comparatively negligible) interactions eg such as N2 then sure the core & periphery of your statement re solubility *decreases* is correct however, with CO2 the consequent interactions may indirectly result in more CO2 being able to be later/further absorbed. If it were basic physics of solubility then fine but, we have indirect consequent chemistry to deal with which I feel will overwhelm the basic physics of accepted solubility criteria.

(cough) typos excepted...
thermodynamics
5 / 5 (5) Sep 16, 2014
MM and Tadchem: Let me weigh in on this also. Tadchem is absolutely correct about most gases and their behavior with water. MM is also correct about what happens when things start reacting. However, there is a third issue. That third issue is the partial pressure of CO2 over the water. The partial pressure continues up as we burn fossil fuels. It is the partial pressure above the water (where the gases are near ideal) and the fugacity below the water.

http://en.wikiped...Fugacity

What that does is change the equilibrium of the gas and water.

So, you have two competing effects.

The first is the heating of the water which makes it less able to hold gases.

The second is the increase in partial pressure of CO2 which means the water can hold more gas.

This is then complicated by physical mixing at the surface and it is no longer like a lab experiment. Here is were a good physical chemist is in her element.
Mike_Massen
3.5 / 5 (8) Sep 16, 2014
thermodynamics with a damn good posting
MM and Tadchem:.. That third issue is the partial pressure of CO2 over the water. The partial pressure continues up as we burn fossil fuels. It is the partial pressure above the water (where the gases are near ideal) and the fugacity below the water.

http://en.wikiped...Fugacity
Eeks, at first I thought you were introducing me to a new swear word, what a fascinating issue I don't recall covering ~32 years ago !

thermodynamics added
This is then complicated by physical mixing at the surface and it is no longer like a lab experiment. Here is were a good physical chemist is in her element.
Which begs the question as to why Water_Prophet hasnt offered any comment on this or anything approaching what a physical chemist should know re his 'perfect model' (sigh)...

I wonder if Water_Prophet's claim to be a "P. Chemist" is just as nebulous as ryggesogn2's claim to have a physics degree or if they are indeed "kissing cousins" ;-)
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (7) Sep 16, 2014
The second is the increase in partial pressure of CO2

How much, in bars?
Mike_Massen
3.7 / 5 (9) Sep 16, 2014
ryggesogn2 with what MUST be a rhetorical question
How much, in bars?
For ryggesogn2, who claims to have a degree in Physics why do you even need to ask ?

Are you forgetting you claimed a degree in physics then, from the available data you SHOULD be able to work it out yourself but, I doubt its in the magnitude of bars - likely much lower.

So ryggesogn2 why do you AGAIN go to the trouble to craft questions which don't go anywhere regardless of any answer & why do you again go to the trouble to show us you have no ability to find questions in physics yourself ?

What is your hypothesis ryggesogn2 ?

Don't you recall ryggesogn2 I have asked this question of you before yet you have NEVER replied ?

Why are you ryggesogn2 again wasting everyone's time yet AGAIN - r u a robot ?
Porgie
1 / 5 (6) Sep 16, 2014
How can the adapt to warming oceans when the temperature has not increased in 20 years? I think some folks are trying to keep climate change alive when it is dying of natural causes.
howhot2
5 / 5 (4) Sep 16, 2014
From the article:
don't expect many species to evolve to meet the challenge of a warming planet—the temperature rise is happening faster than most species could adapt to it

Not only temperatures, but the acidic oceans from all of the carbonic acid created from CO2 + H2O -> H2CO3. If we let coal/oil/ and gas companies create run-away global warming, there maybe one algae that prospers, but it's not going to help mankind from it's own self created extinction.
ryggesogn2
1.7 / 5 (6) Sep 16, 2014
"Sea Urchins Adapting to Increased Oceanic Acidification "
http://www.nature...tion.htm
"What we do know is that things are going to look different, and we can't predict in any detail how they will look. Some organisms will survive or even thrive under the more acidic conditions while others will struggle to adapt, and may even go extinct."
http://ocean.si.e...fication
Vietvet
5 / 5 (6) Sep 16, 2014
@ryggy
"We can't know this for sure, but during the last great acidification event 55 million years ago, there were mass extinctions in some species including deep sea invertebrates. A more acidic ocean won't destroy all marine life in the sea, but the rise in seawater acidity of 30 percent that we have already seen is already affecting some ocean organisms."

The part you didn't include.
Mike_Massen
3.3 / 5 (7) Sep 17, 2014
Porgie muttered an old man type opinion blurt without thinking
How can the adapt to warming oceans when the temperature has not increased in 20 years?
There is evidence the oceans are warming.There is evidence of significant melting ice. You shoudl be aware of the facts the oceans have x1000 the heat capacity of the atmosphere, get some physics under your belt and separate media hype with basic Science & learn how to read reports from reputable sources.

Porgie just can't think straight
I think some folks are trying to keep climate change alive when it is dying of natural causes.
An attempted clever phrase doesn't do the debate justice, you fell flat on your face. Its not natural the significant rise of CO2, ocean acidification - see other posts ?

And eg.
http://www.woodfo...o2/every
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (5) Sep 17, 2014
during the last great acidification event 55 million years ago, there were mass extinctions in some species including deep sea invertebrates.


Yet the oceans still have life.
Who was burning coal 55 million years ago?
Mike_Massen
3.3 / 5 (7) Sep 17, 2014
ryggesogn2 at it again, dropping one liners
Yet the oceans still have life.
Who was burning coal 55 million years ago?
Spit it out man, what is your hypothesis ?

Science, speculation leads to a hypothesis, where is yours ?

You ryggesogn2, claim to have a physics degree yet you cannot communicate as such,
why is that ?

You KNOW:-
- long before humans existed there were massive meteorites & volcanos - ever heard of the supervolcano caldera at yellowstone ? There are others also
- Many humans are dependent on oceans for food which have been in equlibria re chemistry before rapid rise of industrial revolution, that is changing. The food chain is being affected, do you think the millions dependent on that food chain will be able to adapt well & at what COST over the next few decades ?

You could be much smarter ryggesogn2 than your current one liner garbs, do at least a little research first and then communicate with more words articulating a hypothesis.

Be Smarter !
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (6) Sep 17, 2014
The AGW hypotheses that we are all going to die if we don't stop burning coal and oil is based upon what?
Species die off in the past linked to ocean acid? Not all died off as we are here.
All sorts of more extreme climates have occurred on earth in the past, and we are here.
What AGW scary theory is worse than what has happened on earth in the past 3 billion years?

The food chain is being affected, do you think the millions dependent on that food chain will be able to adapt well & at what COST over the next few decades ?


Socialist AGWites are worried as they know their centrally planned socialist world can't adapt.
However, a limited govt, free market economic world can adapt quite rapidly.
Quite a conundrum for the AGW socialist.
sirfiroth
1 / 5 (5) Sep 18, 2014
Mike_Massen wrote:
There is evidence the oceans are warming


Care to provide empirical evidence to support that statement?

Recent energy balance of Earth, R. S. Knox and D. H. Douglass, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY..
www.pas.rochester...inal.pdf
Four out of five ARGO data studies now show Ocean Heat Content declining. "A recently published estimate of Earth's global warming trend is 0.63 ± 0.28 W/m2, is not representative of the recent (2003–2008) warming/cooling rate because of a "flattening" that occurred around 2001–2002. Using only 2003–2008 data from Argo floats, we find by four different algorithms that the recent trend ranges from –0.010 to –0.160 W/m2 with a typical error bar of ±0.2 W/m2. These results fail to support the existence of a frequently cited large positive computed radiative imbalance."
thermodynamics
5 / 5 (6) Sep 18, 2014
Mike_Massen wrote:
There is evidence the oceans are warming


Care to provide empirical evidence to support that statement?

Recent energy balance of Earth, R. S. Knox and D. H. Douglass, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY..
http://www.pas.ro...inal.pdf


Sirfiroth posts a link to a paper from 2010 that has received little fanfare. Why so little follow up? Because it is wrong.

http://phys.org/n...ean.html

http://phys.org/n...sed.html

http://phys.org/n...fic.html

Mike can probably come up with a few more, but I figured I would just do a simple search on PhysOrg. They reference the papers.
gkam
3.5 / 5 (8) Sep 18, 2014
Why do you even respond to the Deniers, and the Flat-Earth folk?

They still want to believe Saddam had "WMD", and it was not the oil, and that Dubya and Cheney were really brave to scream "Bring 'em on!" while cowering in some Undisclosed Location.

Facts of science cannot be accepted, such as the acidification of the oceans, which Rygg refuses to debate, out of FEAR.

Sorry to bring up politics, but it is the sole basis for their opposition to science.
gkam
3.5 / 5 (8) Sep 18, 2014
sirfiroth
1 / 5 (6) Sep 18, 2014
Mike and Thermodynamics

LOL, As with most articles appearing on (Physorg) ScienceX website, your posted articles proved to be of equally poor quality, unreliable as to data, interpretation, and citation of sources. Best described as a staggering concoction of confusion, speculation and sheer ignorance having no basis in empirical science!
Now all you can do is point to computer climate models showing observational evidence based science is wrong! Really? Sorry, I did not know scientific evidence had an expiration date! I don't suppose it would do any good to point out there is no empirical evidence to support your warming pseudo-science! So please feel free to provide that peer review paper, based on empirical evidence, showing CO2 to be causative of atmospheric warming? Then please provide the 'empirical evidence' showing any ocean acidification!
You might want to look at this temperature chart from Bolder Paleoclimatology Data Center
http://snag.gy/BztF1.jpg
Scroll to the end

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (6) Sep 18, 2014
acidification of the oceans

What's to debate?
Life adapts.

"If there is a harsher place to live than a hydrothermal vent, it hasn't been found yet. Pitch darkness, poison gas, heavy metals, extreme acidity, enormous pressure, water at turns frigid and searing—this seafloor environment seems more like something from deep space than from our own deep sea."
"Yet amazing communities of life exist at hydrothermal vents and the so-called "black smoker" chimneys that, given the right conditions, rise above them like erupting stalagmites. Blind shrimp, giant white crabs, and a variety of tubeworms are just some of the more than 300 species of vent life that biologists have identified since scientists first blundered upon this otherworldly community two decades ago. More than 95 percent of these species are new to science."
http://www.pbs.or...yss.html
howhot2
5 / 5 (5) Sep 20, 2014
@R2 says
What's to debate?
Life adapts.


Does it? Using @R2 logic; Don't give a cactus water, They will learn to pull water from the air.
Does it? Using @R2 logic; Don't give cattle grass. They will learn to eat dirt instead.

Does it? Using @R2 logic; Don't give fish water. They will learn to breath air.
Heat the planet 4C does it adapt? Does it?

By learn, I mean adapt, and adaption takes thousand upon thousand of year. Generations upon generations upon generations.

In other words @R2, Your just another POS with climate propaganda
Mike_Massen
3.3 / 5 (7) Sep 20, 2014
sirfiroth blundered with
Best described as a staggering concoction of confusion, speculation and sheer ignorance having no basis in empirical science!
My mother suffered alzheimers as did my grandmother, I have studied the condition in depth & arrived at a treatment currently under trial but, I may have missed any number of disparate items, so please be helpful & kind as a mature human colleague on a science forum to articulate the top 3 posts I have made here which qualify, in your wide experience, of:-

Confusion
Speculation
sheer ignorance
no basis in empiricism ?

Over to you sirfiroth & please have the integrity to focus on details not boring adjectives - ok ?

Your snag.gy link states claims as to its provenance, SURELY it would be smarter to link DIRECTLY to the actual authoritative sources with full context, if at least so you don't let yourself fall into so easy claims of misrepresentation.

ie. Why potentially obfuscate, its obviously smarter to link directly to article.
Sigh
5 / 5 (4) Sep 20, 2014
All sorts of more extreme climates have occurred on earth in the past, and we are here.
What AGW scary theory is worse than what has happened on earth in the past 3 billion years?

The people who worry about ocean acidification are concerned with impacts on human life. Humans haven't been around for 3 billion years, especially not in the present numbers.

However, a limited govt, free market economic world can adapt quite rapidly.

You think that is relevant to what species survived past climate extremes?

acidification of the oceans

What's to debate?
Life adapts.

"If there is a harsher place to live than a hydrothermal vent, it hasn't been found yet.

Apparently so. I look forward to seeing how the power of free markets and limited government makes it possible for you to survive relying only on hydrothermal vents.

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