Coral uptake of inorganic phosphorus and nitrogen negatively affected by simultaneous changes in temperature and pH

The effects of ocean acidification and elevated seawater temperature on coral calcification and photosynthesis have been extensively investigated over the last two decades, whereas they are still unknown on nutrient uptake, despite their importance for coral energetics. We therefore studied the separate and combined impacts of increases in temperature and pCO2 on phosphate, ammonium, and nitrate uptake rates by the scleractinian coral S. pistillata. Three experiments were performed, during 10 days i) at three pHT conditions (8.1, 7.8, and 7.5) and normal temperature (26°C), ii) at three temperature conditions (26°, 29°C, and 33°C) and normal pHT (8.1), and iii) at three pHT conditions (8.1, 7.8, and 7.5) and elevated temperature (33°C). After 10 days of incubation, corals had not bleached, as protein, chlorophyll, and zooxanthellae contents were the same in all treatments. However, photosynthetic rates significantly decreased at 33°C, and were further reduced for the pHT 7.5. The photosynthetic efficiency of PSII was only decreased by elevated temperature. Nutrient uptake rates were not affected by a change in pH alone. Conversely, elevated temperature (33°C) alone induced an increase in phosphate uptake but a severe decrease in nitrate and ammonium uptake rates, even leading to a release of nitrogen into seawater. Combination of high temperature (33°C) and low pHT (7.5) resulted in a significant decrease in phosphate and nitrate uptake rates compared to control corals (26°C, pHT = 8.1). These results indicate that both inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus metabolism may be negatively affected by the cumulative effects of ocean warming and acidification.

Godinot C., Houlbrèque F., Grover R., & Ferrier-Pagès C., 2011. Coral Uptake of Inorganic Phosphorus and Nitrogen Negatively Affected by Simultaneous Changes in Temperature and pH. PLoS ONE 6(9):e25024. Article.

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