Sponge bioerosion accelerated by ocean acidification across species and latitudes?

In many marine biogeographic realms, bioeroding sponges dominate the internal bioerosion of calcareous substrates such as mollusc beds and coral reef framework. They biochemically dissolve part of the carbonate and liberate so-called sponge chips, a process that is expected to be facilitated and accelerated in a more acidic environment inherent to the present global change. The bioerosion capacity of the demosponge Cliona celata Grant, 1826 in subfossil oyster shells was assessed via alkalinity anomaly technique based on 4 days of experimental exposure to three different levels of carbon dioxide partial pressure (pCO2) at ambient temperature in the cold-temperate waters of Helgoland Island, North Sea. The rate of chemical bioerosion at present-day pCO2 was quantified with 0.08–0.1 kg m−2 year−1. Chemical bioerosion was positively correlated with increasing pCO2, with rates more than doubling at carbon dioxide levels predicted for the end of the twenty-first century, clearly confirming that C. celata bioerosion can be expected to be enhanced with progressing ocean acidification (OA). Together with previously published experimental evidence, the present results suggest that OA accelerates sponge bioerosion (1) across latitudes and biogeographic areas, (2) independent of sponge growth form, and (3) for species with or without photosymbionts alike. A general increase in sponge bioerosion with advancing OA can be expected to have a significant impact on global carbonate (re)cycling and may result in widespread negative effects, e.g. on the stability of wild and farmed shellfish populations, as well as calcareous framework builders in tropical and cold-water coral reef ecosystems.

Wisshak M., Schönberg C. H. L., Form A. & Freiwald A., in press. Sponge bioerosion accelerated by ocean acidification across species and latitudes? Helgoland Marine Research. Article (restricted access).

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