Combined effects of sea water acidification and copper exposure on the symbiont-bearing foraminifer Amphistegina gibbosa

Coral reefs are threatened by global and local stressors such as ocean acidification and trace metal contamination. Reliable early warning monitoring tools are needed to assess and monitor coral reef health. Symbiont-bearing foraminifers (Amphistegina gibbosa) were kept under ambient conditions (no sea water acidification and no copper addition) or exposed to combinations of different levels of sea water pH (8.1, 7.8, 7.5 and 7.2) and environmentally relevant concentrations of dissolved copper (measured: 1.0, 1.6, 2.3 and 3.2 µg L−1) in a mesocosm system. After 10- and 25-d exposure, foraminifers were analyzed for holobiont Ca2+-ATPase activity, bleaching, growth and mortality. Enzyme activity was inhibited in foraminifers exposed to pH 7.2 and 3.2 µg L−1 Cu for 25 d. Bleaching frequency was also higher at pH 7.2 combined with copper addition. There was no significant effect of sea water acidification and copper addition on mortality. However, test size was smaller in foraminifers exposed to copper, with a positive interactive effect of sea water acidification. These findings can be explained by the higher availability of free copper ions at lower water pH. This condition would increase Cu competition with Ca2+ for the binding sites on the organism, thus inhibiting Ca2+-ATPase activity and affecting the organism’s overall fitness. Findings reported here suggest that key processes in A. gibbosa, such as calcification and photosynthesis, are affected by the combined effect of global (sea water acidification) and local (copper contamination) stressors. Considering the experimental conditions employed (mesocosm system, possible ocean acidification scenarios, low copper concentrations, biomarkers of ecological relevance and chronic exposure), our findings support the use of foraminifera and biomarkers analyzed in the present study as reliable tools to detect and monitor the ecological impacts of multiple stressors in coral reef environments.

Marques J. A., de Barros Marangoni L. F. & Bianchini A., 2017. Combined effects of sea water acidification and copper exposure on the symbiont-bearing foraminifer Amphistegina gibbosa. Coral Reefs 36:489. Article (subscription required).

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