Non-lethal effects of ocean acidification on two symbiont-bearing benthic foraminiferal species

We conducted experiments to assess the effect of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on survival, fitness, shell microfabric and growth of two species of symbiont-bearing coral-reef benthic foraminifera, using pCO2 Ievels similar to those likely to occur in shallow marine pore waters in the decades ahead. Foraminifera were cultured at constant temperature and controlled pCO2 (385 ppmv, 1000 ppmv, and 2000 ppmv) for six weeks, and total alkalinity and dissolved inorganic carbon were measured to characterize the carbonate chemistry of the incubations. Foraminiferal survival and cellular energy levels were assessed using Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) analyses, and test microstructure and growth were evaluated using high resolution SEM and image analysis. Fitness and survival of Amphistegina (A.) gibbosa and Archaias (A.) angulatus were not directly affected by elevated pCO2 and the concomitant decrease in pH and calcite saturation states (Ωc values) of the seawater (pH and Ωc values of 8.12, 7.86, and 7.50, and 5.4, 3.4, and 1.5, for control, 1000 ppmv, and 2000 ppmv, respectively). In A. gibbosa, a species precipitating low-Mg calcite, test growth was not affected by elevated pCO2, but areas of dissolved calcium carbonate were observed even though Ωc was >1 in all treatments; the fraction of test area dissolved increased with decreasing Ωc. Similar dissolution was observed in offspring produced in the 2000 ppmv pCO2 treatments. In A. angulatus, whose tests are more-solubile high-Mg calcite, growth was greatly diminished in the 2000 ppmv pCO2 treatment compared to the control. These non-lethal effects of ocean acidification – reduced growth in A. angulatus, and enhanced dissolution in A. gibbosa – may reflect differences in test mineralogy for the two species; the long-term ecological consequences of these effects are not yet known.

McIntyre-Wressnig A., Bernhard J. M., McCorkle D. C., & Hallock P., 2011. Non-lethal effects of ocean acidification on two symbiont-bearing benthic foraminiferal species. Biogeosciences Discussions 8(5):9165-9200. Article.

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