Impacts of ocean acidification on sea urchin growth across the juvenile to mature adult life-stage transition is mitigated by warming

Understanding how growth trajectories of calcifying invertebrates are affected by changing climate requires acclimation experiments that follow development across life-history transitions. In a long-term acclimation study, the effects of increased acidification and temperature on survival and growth of the tropical sea urchin Tripneustes gratilla from the early juvenile (5 mm test diameter—TD) through the developmental transition to the mature adult (60 mm TD) were investigated. Juveniles were reared in a combination of three temperature and three pH/pCO2 treatments, including treatments commensurate with global change projections. Elevated temperature and pCO2/pH both affected growth, but there was no interaction between these factors. The urchins grew more slowly at pH 7.6, but not at pH 7.8. Slow growth may be influenced by the inability to compensate coelomic fluid acid–base balance at pH 7.6. Growth was faster at +3 and +6°C compared to that in ambient temperature. Acidification and warming had strong and interactive effects on reproductive potential. Warming increased the gonad index, but acidification decreased it. At pH 7.6 there were virtually no gonads in any urchins regardless of temperature. The T. gratilla were larger at maturity under combined near-future warming and acidification scenarios (+3°C/pH 7.8). Although the juveniles grew and survived in near-future warming and acidification conditions, chronic exposure to these stressors from an early stage altered allocation to somatic and gonad growth. In the absence of phenotypic adjustment, the interactive effects of warming and acidification on the benthic life phases of sea urchins may compromise reproductive fitness and population maintenance as global climatic change unfolds.

Dworjanyn S. A. & Byrne M., in press. Impacts of ocean acidification on sea urchin growth across the juvenile to mature adult life-stage transition is mitigated by warming.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Article (subscription required).

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