Experimental influence of pH on the early life-stages of sea urchins I: different rates of introduction give rise to different responses
Many early life-stage response studies to ocean acidification utilize gametes/offspring obtained from ambient-sourced parents, which are then directly introduced to experimentally altered seawater pH. This approach may produce a stress response potentially impacting development and survival. Hence, this study determined whether this approach is suitable by subjecting embryos/larvae to different rates of introduction to lowered seawater pH to assess larval success under acute and staggered experimental pH scenarios. Embryos and 4-armed larvae of the sea urchin Psammechinus miliaris were introduced to pH conditions, widely used in ocean acidification studies, from ambient conditions utilizing 380, 470, 560, 700 and 840 ppm CO2 changed at incremental steps at two rates: fast (every 3rd hour) or slow (every 48th hour). Direct transfers from ambient to low seawater pH gave rise to dramatic negative impacts (smaller size and low survival), but slower rates of introductions gave rise to lesser negative responses (low survival). There was no treatment effect on settled juveniles. Fast introductions utilized in many studies are likely not ideal approaches when assessing pre-settlement larval developmental responses. Therefore, careful consideration of the pattern of response is needed when studies report the responses of offspring, derived from ambient conditions, introduced directly to forecasted ocean acidification conditions.