Physiological responses of three temperate coralline algae from contrasting habitats to near-future ocean acidification

Coralline algae are major calcifiers of significant ecological importance in marine habitats but are among the most sensitive calcifying organisms to ocean acidification. The elevated pCO2 effects were examined in three coralline algal species living in contrasting habitats from intertidal to subtidal zones on the north-western coast of Brittany, France: (i) Corallina elongata, a branched alga found in tidal rock pools, (ii) Lithophyllum incrustans, a crustose coralline alga from the low intertidal zone, and (iii) Lithothamnion corallioides (maerl), a free-living form inhabiting the subtidal zone. Metabolic rates were assessed on specimens grown for one month at varying pCO2: 380 (current pCO2), 550, 750 and 1000 μatm (elevated pCO2). There was no pCO2 effect on gross production in C. elongata and L. incrustans but L. incrustans respiration strongly increased with elevated pCO2. L. corallioides gross production slightly increased at 1000 μatm, while respiration remained unaffected. Calcification rates decreased with pCO2 in L. incrustans (both in the light and dark) and L. corallioides (only in the light), while C. elongata calcification was unaffected. This was consistent with the lower skeletal mMg/Ca ratio of C. elongata (0.17) relative to the two other species (0.20). L. incrustans had a higher occurrence of bleaching that increased with increasing pCO2. pCO2 could indirectly impact this coralline species physiology making them more sensitive to other stresses such as diseases or pathogens. These results underlined that the physiological response of coralline algae to near-future ocean acidification is species-specific and that species experiencing naturally strong pH variations were not necessarily more resistant to elevated pCO2 than species from more stable environment.

Noisette F., Egilsdottir H., Davoult D. & Martin S., 2013. Physiological responses of three temperate coralline algae from contrasting habitats to near-future ocean acidification. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 448: 179–187. Article (subscription required).

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