Mediterranean corals under global warming and ocean acidification

Anthropogenic-driven accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere and projected ocean acidification has raised concerns regarding the eventual impact on coral reefs. Little is known however about the physiological response of corals to increased pCO2 and ocean acidification and it is difficult hence to predict what shifts these ecosystems will experience. It has been demonstrated that skeleton-producing corals grown in experimental acidified conditions are able to sustain basic life functions in a sea anemone-like form and will resume skeleton-building when reintroduced to normal modern marine conditions. However, in a natural environment and under ocean acidification conditions, calcifying organisms were absent. This can be attributed probably to ecological processes rather than physiological processes that drive shifts in benthic community structure. It should be noted that ocean acidification does not operate in isolation and that other stressors such as sea water elevated temperature and local stressors may act sooner than expected on coral communities, maybe before ocean acidification will affect these populations. The combination of global warming, ocean acidification and anthropogenic local stressors might shift coral populations to extinction within a few decades as is already apparent from some populations such as Cladocora caespitosa which reached extinction in some sites in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Fine M. & Mordechay T., 2008. Mediterranean corals under global warming and ocean acidification. In: Briand F. (Ed.), Impacts of acidification on biological, chemical and physical systems in the Mediterranean and Black Seas, pp. 65-69. Monaco: CIESM. Article.

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