Effects of water temperature and pH on growth and metabolite biosynthesis of coral reef sponges

Warmer, more acidic water resulting from increased emissions of greenhouse gases will impact coral reef organisms, but the effects remain unknown for many dominant groups such as sponges. To test for possible effects, adult sponges of 6 common Caribbean coral reef species—Aiolochroia crassa, Aplysina cauliformis, Aplysina fistularis, Ectyoplasia ferox, Iotrochota birotulata and Smenospongia conulosa—were grown for 24 d in seawater ranging from values experienced at present-day summer-maxima (temperature = 28°C; pH = 8.1) to those predicted for the year 2100 (temperature = 31°C; pH = 7.8). For each species, growth and survival were similar among temperature and pH levels. Sponge attachment rates, which are important for reef consolidation, were similar between pH values for all species, and highest at 31°C for E. ferox, I. birotulata and A. cauliformis. Secondary metabolites, responsible for deterring predation and fouling, were examined for A. crassa, A. cauliformis, E. ferox and I. birotulata, with 1 to 3 major metabolites quantified from each species. Final metabolite concentrations varied significantly among treatments only for zooanemonin from E. ferox and N-tele-methylhistamine from I. birotulata, but these concentrations were similar to those found in wild conspecifics. Considering adult sponges only, these findings suggest that the ecological roles and physiological processes of the 6 coral reef species will be little affected by the mean values of water temperature and pH predicted for the end of the century.

Duckworth A. R., West L., Vansach T., Stubler A. & Hardt M., 2012. Effects of water temperature and pH on growth and metabolite biosynthesis of coral reef sponges. Marine Ecology Progress Series 462: 67-77. Article (subscription required).

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