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Liu D.,CAS Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research | Peng Y.,CAS Yantai Institute of Coastal Zone Research | Peng Y.,University of Chinese Academy of Sciences | Keesing J.K.,CSIRO | And 3 more authors.
Marine Ecology Progress Series

Small environmental disturbances accumulating over a long period of time may cause a regime shift in marine ecosystems, particularly in sensitive oligotrophic waters. Pearl oyster aquaculture, which has a 50 yr history in Australia, has been regarded as an anthropogenic activity with low environmental risk. To assess the long-term environmental effects of pearl oyster farming, sediment cores taken in Cygnet Bay, Western Australia, were used to reconstruct environmental processes covering an approximately 90 yr period. Biogeochemical parameters in sediment cores from inside and outside a pearl farming area displayed contrasting characteristics over time. Total organic carbon, total nitrogen, biogenic silica (BSi), and fine-grained sediment at the farming site displayed significant increases with the expansion of oyster stocking. In contrast, only small variations in response to climatic signals (rainfall and temperature) occurred over time in the cores outside the farm. The variation in the C:N ratio, δ13C and δ15N ranges over time suggested that increased organic matter was mainly contributed by autochthonous sources rather than terrestrial input. The sequential t-test for a regime shift detected approximately 2-to 3-fold increases in organic matter, 1-to 5-fold increases in silt proportion and 2-to 5-fold increases in BSi concentrations after pearl oyster farming, in contrast to the control site. The rapid development of modern long-line culture since the late 1980s is presumed to have been the dominant driver of environmental changes in sediments. The results provide insight into the magnitude of environmental change which can occur over decades as a result of even minimal anthropogenic activity. © 2016 Inter-Research. Source

Feng M.,CSIRO | Feng M.,Western Australian Marine Science Institution | Hendon H.H.,CAWCR | Xie S.-P.,University of California at San Diego | And 6 more authors.
Geophysical Research Letters

Ningaloo Niño refers to the episodic occurrence of anomalously warm ocean conditions along the subtropical coast of Western Australia (WA). Ningaloo Niño typically develops in austral spring, peaks in summer, and decays in autumn, and it often occurs in conjunction with La Niña conditions in the Pacific which promote poleward transport of warm tropical waters by the Leeuwin Current. Since the late 1990s, there has been a marked increase in the occurrence of Ningaloo Niño, which is likely related to the recent swing to the negative phase of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) and enhanced El Niño-Southern Oscillation variance since 1970s. The swing to the negative IPO sustains positive heat content anomalies and initiates more frequent cyclonic wind anomalies off the WA coast so favoring enhanced poleward heat transport by the Leeuwin Current. The anthropogenically forced global warming has made it easier for natural variability to drive extreme ocean temperatures in the region. Key Points There has been an increased frequency of Ningaloo Niño since late 1990s Negative IPO sustains positive heat content anomalies and strong Leeuwin Current Global warming and natural variability together drive extreme ocean temperatures ©2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Source

Yeo S.,Murdoch University | Yeo S.,Western Australian Marine Science Institution | Keesing J.K.,CSIRO | Keesing J.K.,Western Australian Marine Science Institution | And 2 more authors.
Invertebrate Reproduction and Development

The reproductive biology of the sand dollar Peronella lesueuri was studied between 2009 and 2011 in Cockburn Sound, a large coastal embayment in south-Western Australia. Individuals of P. lesueuri did not display sexual size-dimorphism, and the population was found to have a sex ratio of 1:1. Maturity occurred over the range of 80-115 mm with all sand dollars larger than 115 mm having distinct gonads. Monthly histological analysis of gonads and changes in oocyte proportions over time indicated that P. lesueuri has an annual reproductive cycle; gametogenesis occurs in spring and spawning in summer. Differences in the rate of gametogenesis between 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 may have been influenced by higher temperatures experienced in 2010/2011. P. lesueuri have large ova (mean = 210 μm), which suggests the species has lecithotrophic larval development. © 2015 Taylor & Francis. Source

McKinnon A.D.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | McKinnon A.D.,Western Australian Marine Science Institution | McKinnon A.D.,James Cook University | Doyle J.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | And 5 more authors.

The specific activity of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (spAARS), an index of growth rate, and of the electron transport system (spETS), an index of respiration, was measured in three size fractions (73-150 μm, >150 μm and >350 μm) of zooplankton during five cruises to tropical coastal waters of the Kimberley coast (North West Australia) and four cruises to waters of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR; North East Australia). The N-specific biomass of plankton was 3-4-fold higher in the Kimberley than on the GBR in all 3 size classes: Kimberley 1.27, 3.63, 1.94 mg m-3; GBR 0.36, 0.88 and 0.58 mg m-3 in the 73-150 μm, >150 μm and >350 μm size classes, respectively. Similarly, spAARS activity in the Kimberley was greater than that of the GBR: 88.4, 132.2, and 147.6 nmol PPi hr-1 mg protein -1 in the Kimberley compared with 71.7, 82.0 and 83.8 nmol PPi hr-1 mg protein -1 in the GBR, for the 73-150 μm, >150 μm and >350 μm size classes, respectively. Specific ETS activity showed similar differences in scale between the two coasts: 184.6, 148.8 and 92.2 μL O2 hr-1 mg protein-1 in the Kimberley, against 86.5, 88.3 and 71.3 μL O2 hr-1 mg protein-1 in the GBR. On the basis of these measurements, we calculated that >150 μm zooplankton grazing accounted for 7% of primary production in the Kimberley and 8% in GBR waters. Area-specific respiration by >73 μm zooplankton was 7-fold higher in the Kimberley than on the GBR and production by >150 μm zooplankton was of the order of 278 mg C m-2 d-1 in the Kimberley and 42 mg C m-2 d-1 on the GBR. We hypothesize that the much stronger physical forcing on the North West shelf is the principal driver of higher rates in the west than in the east of the continent. © 2015 McKinnon et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Source

Gilmour J.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | Gilmour J.,Western Australian Marine Science Institution | Speed C.W.,Australian Institute of Marine Science | Speed C.W.,Western Australian Marine Science Institution | And 2 more authors.

Larval production and recruitment underpin the maintenance of coral populations, but these early life history stages are vulnerable to extreme variation in physical conditions. Environmental managers aim to minimise human impacts during significant periods of larval production and recruitment on reefs, but doing so requires knowledge of the modes and timing of coral reproduction. Most corals are hermaphroditic or gonochoric, with a brooding or broadcast spawning mode of reproduction. Brooding corals are a significant component of some reefs and produce larvae over consecutive months. Broadcast spawning corals are more common and display considerable variation in their patterns of spawning among reefs. Highly synchronous spawning can occur on reefs around Australia, particularly on the Great Barrier Reef. On Australia's remote north-west coast there have been fewer studies of coral reproduction. The recent industrial expansion into these regions has facilitated research, but the associated data are often contained within confidential reports. Here we combine information in this grey-literature with that available publicly to update our knowledge of coral reproduction in WA, for tens of thousands of corals and hundreds of species from over a dozen reefs spanning 20° of latitude. We identified broad patterns in coral reproduction, but more detailed insights were hindered by biased sampling; most studies focused on species of Acropora sampled over a few months at several reefs. Within the existing data, there was a latitudinal gradient in spawning activity among seasons, with mass spawning during autumn occurring on all reefs (but the temperate southwest). Participation in a smaller, multi-specific spawning during spring decreased from approximately one quarter of corals on the Kimberley Oceanic reefs to little participation at Ningaloo. Within these seasons, spawning was concentrated in March and/or April, and October and/or November, depending on the timing of the full moon. The timing of the full moon determined whether spawning was split over two months, which was common on tropical reefs. There were few data available for non-Acropora corals, which may have different patterns of reproduction. For example, the massive Porites seemed to spawn through spring to autumn on Kimberley Oceanic reefs and during summer in the Pilbara region, where other common corals (e.g. Turbinaria & Pavona) also displayed different patterns of reproduction to the Acropora. The brooding corals (Isopora & Seriatopora) on Kimberley Oceanic reefs appeared to planulate during many months, possibly with peaks from spring to autumn; a similar pattern is likely on other WA reefs. Gaps in knowledge were also due to the difficulty in identifying species and issues with methodology. We briefly discuss some of these issues and suggest an approach to quantifying variation in reproductive output throughout a year. © 2016 Gilmour et al. Source

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