Many marine crustacean larvae develop in a relatively stable pelagic environment; therefore, they are likely to be sensitive to perturbations in their surrounding environmental conditions. Ocean Acidification (OA) is occurring on a globalised scale and may cause disruptions to crustacean larval survival. However, species and/or life history stages are not expected to respond uniformly to these near-future predicted changes. The performance of species that lack a compensatory capacity to cope with the changing conditions may potentially be detrimentally affected, which in turn may impact recruitment. In addition to this, little information exists surrounding the impacts of ocean acidification in conjunction with additional environmental stressors, such as salinity, temperature and food availability, which are predicted to covary with OA, upon brachyuran crustacean larvae.
This research focused on the effects of elevated CO2, in combination with other environmental stressors, upon rates of larval development, performance and survival of a brachyuran crustacean species common to Europe (Carcinus maenas) and two species of shrimp (Palaemon serratus and Palaemon varians). These species have varying physiological abilities to cope with salinity change and such attributes may influence their capacities to survive elevated CO2 in combination with other environmental changes.
Exposure of early larval stages to combinations of salinity, temperature and food limitation in C. maenas revealed that high temperature ameliorated the effect of low salinity on survival and developmental duration. Limited access to food also affected developmental duration, but exposure to elevated CO2 alone in a second experiment only affected survival, and low salinity alone had no effect.
Exposure of early juvenile stages of C. maenas to CO2 and salinity, revealed that developmental duration was significantly affected by elevated CO2 and/or salinity at varying levels, whereas, for survival, such influences were only observed in later juvenile stages. These results suggest the possibility of a physiologically sensitive bottleneck within the life cycle of C. maenas.Exposure of early larval stages of the estuarine species, P. varians, to CO2 and salinity had no effect on either survival or developmental duration. For the predominantly coastal species, P. serratus, developmental duration was negatively influenced by the interaction of elevated CO2 and low salinity, but there was limited observed effect on overall survival at the early stages studied.
Overall, evaluations of the effects of climate driven variables on physiological performance demonstrated that differences can occur among broods. In future, further studies are required to incorporate seasonal (and possibly spatial) variability in responses, due to maternal effects or phenotypic variation, as conclusions based on individuals collected over a short time frame are unlikely to fully represent population level responses.