This study has examined the effect of an increased seawater pCO2 on the rates of photosynthesis and carbon translocation in the scleractinian coral species Stylophora pistillata using a new model based on 13C-labelling of the photosynthetic products. Symbiont photosynthesis contributes for a large part of the carbon acquisition in tropical coral species and is therefore an important process that may determine their survival under climate change scenarios. Nubbins of S. pistillata were maintained for six months under two pHs (8.1 and 7.2). Rates of photosynthesis and respiration of the symbiotic association and of isolated symbionts were assessed at each pH. The fate of 13C-photosynthates was then followed in the symbionts and the coral host for 48 h. Nubbins maintained at pH 7.2 presented a lower areal symbiont concentration, lower areal rates of gross photosynthesis, and lower carbon incorporation rates compared to nubbins maintained at pH 8.1, therefore suggesting that the total carbon acquisition was lower in this first set of nubbins. However, the total percentage of carbon translocated to the host, as well as the amount of carbon translocated per symbiont cell was significantly higher under pH 7.2 than under pH 8.1 (70% at pH 7.2 versus 60% at pH 8.1), so that the total amount of photosynthetic carbon received by the coral host was equivalent under both pHs (5.5 to 6.1 μg C cm−2 h−1). Although the carbon budget of the host was unchanged, symbionts acquired less carbon for their own needs (0.6 against 1.8 μg C cm−2 h−1), explaining the overall decrease in symbiont concentration at low pH. In the long-term, this decrease might have important consequences for the survival of corals under an acidification stress.
Tremblay P., Fine M., Maguer J. F., Grover R. & Ferrier-Pagès C., 2013. Ocean acidification increases photosynthate translocation in a coral–dinoflagellates symbiosis. Biogeosciences Discussions 10: 83-109. Article.