Response of three krill species to hypoxia and warming: An experimental approach to oxygen minimum zones expansion in coastal ecosystems

Nelly.Tremblay [ at ]


To understand the adaptation of euphausiid (krill) species to oxygen minimum zones (OMZ), respiratory response and stress experiments combining hypoxia/reoxygenation exposure with warming were conducted. Experimental krill species were obtained from the Antarctic (South Georgia area), the Humboldt Current system (HCS, Chilean coast), and the Northern California Current system (NCCS, Oregon). Euphausia mucronata from the HCS shows oxyconforming pO2-dependent respiration below 80% air saturation (18 kPa). Normoxic subsurface oxygenation in winter posed a “high oxygen stress” for this species. The NCCS krill, Euphausia pacifica, and the Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba maintain respiration rates constant down to low critical pO2 values of 6 kPa (30% air saturation) and 11 kPa (55% air saturation), respectively. Antarctic krill had low antioxidant enzyme activities, but high concentrations of the molecular antioxidant glutathione (GSH) and was not lethally affected by 6 h exposure to moderate hypoxia. Temperate krill species had higher SOD (superoxide dismutase) values in winter than in summer, which relate to higher winter metabolic rate (E. pacifica). In all species, antioxidant enzyme activities remained constant during hypoxic exposure at the typical temperature for their habitat. Warming by 7°C above their typical temperature in summer increased SOD activities and GSH levels in E. mucronata (HCS), but no oxidative damage occurred. In winter, when the NCCS is well mixed and the OMZ is deeper, +4°C of warming combined with hypoxia represents a lethal condition for E. pacifica. In summer, when the OMZ expands upwards (100 m subsurface), antioxidant defences counteracted hypoxia and reoxygenation effects in E. pacifica, but only at mildly elevated temperature (+2°C). In this season, experimental warming by +4°C reduced antioxidant activities and the combination of warming with hypoxia again caused mortality of exposed specimens. We conclude that a climate change scenario combining warming and hypoxia represents a serious threat to E. pacifica and, as a consequence, NCCS food webs.

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DOI 10.1111/maec.12258

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Tremblay, N. and Abele, D. (2015): Response of three krill species to hypoxia and warming: An experimental approach to oxygen minimum zones expansion in coastal ecosystems , Marine Ecology-An Evolutionary Perspective . doi: 10.1111/maec.12258

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