Effects of elevated nutrients and CO2 emission scenarios on three coral reef macroalgae

Coral reef macroalgae are expected to thrive in the future under conditions that are deleterious to the health of reef-building corals. Here we examined how macroalgae would be affected by exposure to future CO2 emission scenarios (pCO2 and temperature), enriched nutrients and combinations of both. The species tested, Laurencia intricata (Rhodophyta), Turbinaria ornata and Chnoospora implexa (both Phaeophyceae), have active carbon-concentrating mechanisms but responded differently to the treatments. L. intricata showed high mortality under nutrient enriched RCP4.5 (“reduced” CO2 emission) and RCP8.5 (“business-as-usual” CO2 emission) and grew best under pre-industrial (PI) conditions, where it could take up carbon using external carbonic anhydrase combined, potentially, with proton extrusion. T. ornata’s growth rate showed a trend for reduction under RCP8.5 but was unaffected by nutrient enrichment. In C. implexa, highest growth was observed under PI conditions, but highest net photosynthesis occurred under RCP8.5, suggesting that under RCP8.5, carbon is stored and respired at greater rates while it is directed to growth under PI conditions. None of the species showed growth enhancement under future scenarios, nutrient enrichment or combinations of both. This leads to the conclusion that under such conditions these species are unlikely to pose an increasing threat to coral reefs.

Bender-Champ D., Diaz-Pulido G. & Dove S., 2017. Effects of elevated nutrients and CO2 emission scenarios on three coral reef macro algae. Harmful Algae 65:40–51. Article (subscription required).


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