Red coral extinction risk enhanced by ocean acidification

The red coral Corallium rubrum is a habitat-forming species with a prominent and structural role in mesophotic habitats, which sustains biodiversity hotspots. This precious coral is threatened by both over-exploitation and temperature driven mass mortality events. We report here that biocalcification, growth rates and polyps’ (feeding) activity of Corallium rubrum are significantly reduced at pCO2 scenarios predicted for the end of this century (0.2 pH decrease). Since C. rubrum is a long-living species (>200 years), our results suggest that ocean acidification predicted for 2100 will significantly increases the risk of extinction of present populations. Given the functional role of these corals in the mesophotic zone, we predict that ocean acidification might have cascading effects on the functioning of these habitats worldwide.

Cerrano C., Cardini U., Bianchelli S., Corinaldesi C., Pusceddu A. & Danovaro R., 2013. Red coral extinction risk enhanced by ocean acidification. Scientific Reports 3: 1457. doi:10.1038/srep01457. Article.

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