Environmental sensitivity of Neogoniolithon brassica-florida associated with vermetid reefs in the Mediterranean Sea

Vermetid reefs in the Mediterranean Sea are increasingly affected by both anthropogenic actions and global climate change, which are putting this coastal ecosystem at risk. The main species involved in building these reefs are two species of intertidal vermetid gastropods and the crustose calcareous alga, Neogoniolithon brassica-florida, which cements the gastropod shells and thus solidifying the reef edges. In the present study, we examined the pattern of distribution in the field and the environmental sensitivity (thermal tolerance, resilience to low pH, high light intensity and desiccation) of N. brassica-florida along the coasts of Sicily and Israel by means of chlorophyll fluorescence and total alkalinity measurements in situ and in the laboratory. Tidal regimes did not affect photosynthesis of N. brassica-florida but light intensity in the intertidal did. Sensitivity to increased light intensity was amplified by elevated temperature and reduced pH. Winter temperature above 16 °C caused a decrease in the photosynthetic performance of photo-system II. Similarly, a decrease in pH resulted in decreased maximum photosynthetic yield and electron transport rate. Calcification was significantly lower at pH 7.9 as compared with ambient (8.1) pH. In fact, dissolution at pH 7.9 at night was higher than net calcification during the day, suggesting that N. brassica-florida may not be able to contribute to reef accretion under the levels of seawater warming and ocean acidification projected by the end of this century.

Fine M., Tsadok R., Meron D., Cohen S. & Milazzo M., in press.  Environmental sensitivity of Neogoniolithon brassica-florida associated with vermetid reefs in the Mediterranean Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science. Article (subscription required).

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