Quantifying benthos evolutionary adaptation capacity to ocean warming and acidification

Type: 
Internship position (12 ECTS)
programme: 
EMBC+
Oceans and Lakes
The enhanced emission of greenhouse gasses (e.g. CO2) have raised global sea surface temperatures (SST) at approximately 0.13 °C per decade since the current period of climate warming started in the mid 1980s. Climate models suggest that patterns of mean and extreme SST will alter across the globe. In addition, ocean CO2 absorption alters sea water carbonate chemistry and pH, with temperate shallow marine ecosystems currently experiencing a one order of magnitude faster decrease in pH (i.e. ocean acidification) as compared to global estimates. This unprecedented fast rate of acidification likely has consequences for marine biodiversity as resident species of different taxonomic and functional groups have already been shown vulnerable to scenarios of ocean acidification as projected by climate change models to occur in the next century. Consequently, the investigation of the combined effects of concurrent ocean warming and acidification on the physiology, condition and survival of marine benthos has been put forth to improve our understanding of the mechanisms that underpin resilience of coastal soft-sediment ecosystems to climate change. In addition to the examination of such stressor effects on the performance of organisms, the likelihood to adapt to these stressors should be assessed. For example, phenotypic plasticity may facilitate the persistence of populations at the short term, i.e. the rate at which environmental changes currently take place, while evolutionary genetic adaptation will likely be required to persist at the long-term. During this internship you will experimentally investigate the potential for evolutionary adaptation of different species of benthic invertebrates (clams and polychaetes) by quantifying phenotypic variability and response to combined effects of ocean acidification and warming (i.e. high pCO2 conditions). Therefore adults will be incubated under high and ambient pCO2 conditions and genetic variation in tolerance of their offspring will be quantified in a full-factorial breeding design including multiple seawater temperature and pH levels. Furthermore, separate experiments will be conducted with individuals originating from populations that vary in their exposure to temperature variability and variability in seawater pH. This approach enables accounting for the potential of context-dependency in tolerance resulting from location-specific physiological acclimatization. It is hypothesized that populations that experience a higher variability in stressors may show higher phenotypic plasticity and thus have higher adaptive capacity to ocean warming and/or acidification.
Number of students: 
2
academic year: 
2016-2017
2017-2018
2018-2019
Contact person email: 
contact person first name: 
Carl
contact person last name: 
Van Colen
Reference Number: RP-47631