Effects of CO2-driven acidification of seawater on the calcification process in the calcareous hydrozoan Millepora alcicornis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Ocean acidification is expected to intensify due to increasing levels in the partial pressure of atmospheric CO2 (pCO2). This could negatively affect major calcifying reef organisms. In this study, the effects of different levels of CO2-driven acidification of seawater (control: pH 8.1; moderate: pH 7.8; intermediate: pH 7.5; and severe: pH 7.2) on the net calcification rate and activity of enzymes related to the calcification process (Ca-ATPase and carbonic anhydrase) were evaluated in the calcareous hydrozoan Millepora alcicornis. The experiment was run for 30 d using a marine mesocosm system. Net calcification ratio was significantly reduced in hydrocorals exposed to intermediate seawater acidification for 16 d and to severe seawater acidification for 16 d or 30 d, compared to animals at control conditions. However, only hydrocorals exposed to severe seawater acidification showed lower net calcification rates than those exposed to control conditions for 30 d. In accordance, the activities of enzymes involved in the calcification process markedly increased in hydrocorals exposed to reduced pH. Ca-ATPase seemed to be more sensitive to seawater acidification than carbonic anhydrase as it increased in hydrocorals exposed to intermediate and severe seawater acidification for 30 d, while carbonic anhydrase activity was only stimulated under severe seawater acidification. Therefore, our findings clearly show that the hydrocoral M. alcicornis is able to cope, to some extent, with long-term CO2-driven acidification of seawater (pH ≥ 7.5). In addition, they show that Ca-ATPase plays a key role in the maintenance of calcification rate under scenarios of moderate and intermediate levels of seawater acidification. However, the observed increase in Ca-ATPase and carbonic anhydrase activity was not enough to compensate for the effects of CO2-driven reduction in seawater pH on the net calcification rate of the hydrocoral M. alcicornis under a scenario of severe ocean acidification (pH 7.2).

de Barros Marangoni L. F., Calderon E. N., Marques J. A., Santos Duarte G. A., Pereira C. M., e Castro C. B. & Bianchini A., 2017. Effects of CO2-driven acidification of seawater on the calcification process in the calcareous hydrozoan Millepora alcicornis (Linnaeus, 1758). Coral Reefs 36 (4): 1133-1141. Article (subscription required).

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