Effects of elevated pCO2 on the post-settlement development of Pocillopora damicornis

Ocean acidification represents a key threat to the recruitment of scleractinian corals. Here, we investigated the effect of increased partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) on the early development of Pocillopora damicornis by rearing the recruits for 12 days at 3 pCO2 levels (446, 896 and 1681 μatm). Results showed that increased pCO2 exerted minor effects on symbiont density and maximum quantum yield (Fv/Fm), while significantly enhanced the relative electron transport through photosystem II (PSII) of Symbiodinium. Notably, calcification and biomass of recruits decreased sharply by 34% and 24% respectively in 896 μatm, and tended to remain constant as pCO2 was raised from 896 to 1681 μatm. Furthermore, recruits in 1681 μatm, with comparable surface area as those in 896 μatm, produced fewer buds. These findings indicated that juvenile P. damicornis under high pCO2 would enhance electron transport rate and suppress asexual budding to favor skeletal and tissue growths, which are more critical for their persistence and survival in a high pCO2 environment. This work suggested the physiological plasticity of juvenile corals under short-term exposure to elevated pCO2.

Jiang L., Huang H., Yuan X.-C., Yuan T., Zhang Y.-Y., Wen C. K.-C., Li X.-B. & Zhou G.-W., 2015. Effects of elevated pCO2 on the post-settlement development of Pocillopora damicornis. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 473:169–175. Article (subscription required).

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