Resilience to ocean acidification: decreased carbonic anhydrase activity in sea anemones under high pCO2 conditions

Non-calcifying photosynthetic anthozoans have emerged as a group that may thrive under high carbon dioxide partial pressure ( pCO2) conditions via increased productivity. However, the physiological mechanisms underlying this potential success are unclear. Here we investigated the impact of high pCO2 on the dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) use in the temperate sea anemone Anemonia viridis. We assessed the impacts of long-term exposure to high pCO2, i.e. sampling in situ natural CO2 vents (Vulcano, Italy), and short-term exposure, i.e. during a 3 wk controlled laboratory experiment. We focused on photo-physiological parameters (net photosynthesis rates, chlorophyll a content and Symbiodinium density) and on carbonic anhydrase (CA) activity, an enzyme involved in the energy-demanding process of DIC absorption. Long-term exposure to high pCO2 had no impact on Symbiodinium density and chlorophyll a content. In contrst, short-term exposure to high pCO2 induced a significant reduction in Symbiodinium density, which together with unchanged net photosynthesis resulted in the increase of Symbiodinium productivity per cell. Finally, in both in situ long-term and laboratory short-term exposure to high pCO2, we observed a significant decrease in the CA activity of sea anemones, suggesting a change in DIC use (i.e. from an HCO3- to a CO2 user). This change could enable a shift in the energy budget that may increase the ability of non-calcifying photosynthetic anthozoans to cope with ocean acidification.

Ventura P., Jarrold M. D., Merle P.-L., Barnay-Verdier S., Zamoum T., Rodolfo-Metalpa R., Calosi P. & Furla P., 2016. Resilience to ocean acidification: decreased carbonic anhydrase activity in sea anemones under high pCO2 conditions. Marine Ecology Progress Series 559:257-263. Article (subscription required).

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