High CO2 decreases the long‐term resilience of the free‐living coralline algae Phymatolithon lusitanicum

Mäerl/rhodolith beds are protected habitats that may be affected by ocean acidification (OA), but it is still unclear how the availability of CO2 will affect the metabolism of these organisms. Some of the inconsistencies found among OA experimental studies may be related to experimental exposure time and synergetic effects with other stressors. Here, we investigated the long‐term (up to 20 months) effects of OA on the production and calcification of the most common mäerl species of southern Portugal, Phymatolithon lusitanicum. Both the photosynthetic and calcification rates increased with CO2 after the first 11 months of the experiment, whereas respiration slightly decreased with CO2. After 20 months, the pattern was reversed. Acidified algae showed lower photosynthetic and calcification rates, as well as lower accumulated growth than control algae, suggesting that a metabolic threshold was exceeded. Our results indicate that long‐term exposure to high CO2 will decrease the resilience of Phymatolithon lusitanicum. Our results also show that shallow communities of these rhodoliths may be particularly at risk, while deeper rhodolith beds may become ocean acidification refuges for this biological community.

Sordo L., Santos R., Barrote I. & Silva J., in press. High CO2 decreases the long‐term resilience of the free‐living coralline algae Phymatolithon lusitanicum. Ecology and Evolution. Article.

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