Relative sensitivity of five Hawaiian coral species to high temperature under high-pCO2 conditions

Coral reef ecosystems are presently undergoing decline due to anthropogenic climate change. The chief detrimental factors are increased temperature and increased pCO2. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of these two stressors operating independently and in unison on the biological response of common Hawaiian reef corals. Manipulative experiments were performed using five species (Porites compressa, Pocillopora damicornis, Fungia scutaria, Montipora capitata, and Leptastrea purpurea) in a continuous-flow mesocosm system under natural sunlight conditions. Corals were grown together as a community under treatments of high temperature (2 °C above normal maximum summer temperature), high pCO2 (twice present-day conditions), and with both factors acting in unison. Control corals were grown under present-day pCO2 and at normal summer temperatures. Leptastrea purpurea proved to be an extremely hardy coral. No change in calcification or mortality occurred under treatments of high temperature, high pCO2, or combined high temperature–high pCO2. The remaining four species showed reduced calcification in the high-temperature treatment. Two species (L. purpurea and M. capitata) showed no response to increased pCO2. Also, high pCO2 ameliorated the negative effect of high temperature on the calcification rates of P. damicornis. Mortality was driven primarily by high temperature, with a negative synergistic effect in P. compressa only in the high-pCO2–high-temperature treatment. Results support the observation that biological response to temperature and pCO2 elevation is highly species-specific, so generalizations based on response of a single species might not apply to a diverse and complex coral reef community.

Bahr K. D., Jokiel P. L. & Rodgers K. S., 2016. Relative sensitivity of five Hawaiian coral species to high temperature under high-pCO2 conditions. Coral Reefs 35(2):729-738. Article (subscription required).

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