Bleaching and mortality of a photosymbiotic bioeroding sponge under future carbon dioxide emission scenarios

The bioeroding sponge Cliona orientalis is photosymbiotic with dinoflagellates of the genus Symbiodinium and is pervasive on the Great Barrier Reef. We investigated how C. orientalis responded to past and future ocean conditions in a simulated community setting. The experiment lasted over an Austral summer under four carbon dioxide emission scenarios: a pre-industrial scenario (PI), a present-day scenario (PD; control), and two future scenarios of combined ocean acidification and ocean warming, i.e., B1 (intermediate) and A1FI (extreme). The four scenarios also simulated natural variability of carbon dioxide partial pressure and temperature in seawater. Responses of C. orientalis generally remained similar between the PI and PD treatments. C. orientalis under B1 displayed a dramatic increase in lateral tissue extension, but bleached and displayed reduced rates of respiration and photosynthesis. Some B1 sponge replicates died by the end of the experiment. Under A1FI, strong bleaching and subsequent mortality of all C. orientalis replicates occurred at an early stage of the experiment. Mortality arrested bioerosion by C. orientalis under B1 and A1FI. Overall, the absolute amount of calcium carbonate eroded by C. orientalis under B1 or A1FI was similar to that under PI or PD at the end of the experiment. Although bioerosion rates were raised by short-term experimental acidification in previous studies, our findings from the photosymbiotic C. orientalis imply that the effects of bioerosion on reef carbonate budgets may only be temporary if the bioeroders cannot survive long-term in the future oceans.

Fang J. K. H., Schönberg C. H. L., Mello-Athayde M. A., Achlatis M., Hoegh-Guldberg O. & Dove S., in press. Bleaching and mortality of a photosymbiotic bioeroding sponge under future carbon dioxide emission scenarios. Oecologia. Article (subscription required).

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