Effects of multiple stressors on red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) fertilization success

Chair: Cliff Law

Charles A. Boch (1)*, Emil Aalto (2), Giulio De Leo (2), Steve Litvin (2), Chris Lovera (1), Fiorenza Micheli (2), Stephen Monismith (2), C. Brock Woodson (3), and Jim Barry (1)

1 Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, CA, 95039, USA
2 Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University, Pacific Grove, CA, 93950, USA
3 University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

Acidification, hypoxia, and ocean warming are escalating threats in the world’s coastal waters, with potentially severe consequences for marine life and ocean-based economies. In particular, eastern boundary current ecosystems, including the California Current Large Marine Ecosystem (CCLME), are experiencing large-scale declines in pH and dissolved oxygen (DO)—with the latter linked to changes in thermal stratification and shoaling of the oxygen minimum zone.

To examine the consequences of ocean acidification and other climate-related changes in oceanographic conditions on nearshore marine populations within the CCLME, we are assessing the potential effects of current and future upwelling-type conditions on the population dynamics of the red abalone (Haliotis rufescens), with a focus on sensitive early life history phases (e.g., fertilization, larval development, and juvenile growth and survival) expected to be important determinants of population dynamics. Here, we present the first experimental results on the impacts of combined exposures of low pH and low DO on abalone fertilization success.

Our results show that abalone fertilization success is significantly reduced when the gametes are exposed to a decrease in seawater pH from 8.0 to 7.2. Furthermore, low pH in combination with hypoxic exposure—e.g., a decrease in dissolved oxygen from 6 mg/L DO to 1-2 mg/L DO—does not further decrease fertilization rates, suggesting a lack of synergistic or additive effects of these multiple stressors on the reduction of fertilization success.

Although the focus of this study is to characterize the effects of multiple stressors on the early life history of abalone, the implications of these results are expected to be relevant for a variety of marine taxa with similar reproductive modes.