Changes in microbial communities, photosynthesis and calcification of the coral Acropora gemmifera in response to ocean acidification

With the increasing anthropogenic CO2 concentration, ocean acidification (OA) can have dramatic effects on coral reefs. However, the effects of OA on coral physiology and the associated microbes remain largely unknown. In the present study, reef-building coral Acropora gemmifera collected from a reef flat with highly fluctuating environmental condition in the South China Sea were exposed to three levels of partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) (i.e., 421, 923, and 2070 μatm) for four weeks. The microbial community structures associated with A. gemmifera under these treatments were analyzed using 16S rRNA gene barcode sequencing. The results revealed that the microbial community associated with A. gemmifera was highly diverse at the genus level and dominated by Alphaproteobacteria. More importantly, the microbial community structure remained rather stable under different pCO2 treatments. Photosynthesis and calcification in A. gemmifera, as indicated by enrichment of δ18O and increased depletion of δ13C in the coral skeleton, were significantly impaired only at the high pCO2 (2070 μatm). These results suggest that A. gemmifera can maintain a high degree of stable microbial communities despite of significant physiological changes in response to extremely high pCO2.

Zhou G., Yuan T., Cai L., Zhang W., Tian R., Tong H., Jiang L., Yuan X., Liu S., Qian P. & Huang H., 2016. Changes in microbial communities, photosynthesis and calcification of the coral Acropora gemmifera in response to ocean acidification. Scientific Reports 6:35971. Article.

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