The influence of diel carbonate chemistry fluctuations on the calcification rate of Acropora cervicornis under present day and future acidification conditions

Highlights

• Fluctuations in carbonate chemistry enhance the growth of threatened staghorn coral.
• Mean and magnitude of pH oscillations are important in predicting the response of corals to OA.
• A new high-accuracy experimental setup allows real-time control of OA conditions.

Abstract

Ocean acidification (OA) will result in lower calcification rates for numerous marine taxa, including many species of corals which create important reef habitat. Seawater carbonate chemistry fluctuates over cycles ranging from days to seasons, often driven by biological processes such as respiration and photosynthesis. The magnitude of diel fluctuations varies spatially and may become more pronounced in the future due to OA. Due to technical constraints, OA experiments that incorporate diel variability into treatments are few in number. As a result, the degree to which coral reef organisms are influenced by ambient daily carbonate chemistry variability is poorly understood. Here we describe an experiment conducted in a novel seawater system which can independently manipulate carbonate chemistry in 16 separate aquaria, in real time, allowing precise control of the mean and magnitude of pH oscillations while minimizing pseudoreplication. Five genotypes of the threatened Caribbean coral Acropora cervicornis were subjected to a total of five pH treatments, 7.80 ± 0.20, 7.80 ± 0.10, and 7.80 ± 0.00, as well as 8.05 ± 0.10 and 8.05 ± 0.00. Those corals exposed to variable contemporary conditions (8.05 ± 0.10) calcified faster than those in current and future static treatment levels, which did not significantly differ from each other. Variable contemporary pH also resulted in faster growth rates than highly variable future conditions (7.80 ± 0.20), but were not significantly different than future conditions with the same ±0.10 diel pH oscillation. These findings support the importance of incorporating diel variability into OA experiments and suggest that more variable natural ecosystems may yield higher calcification rates for corals.

Enochs I. C., Manzello D. P., Jones P. J., Aguilar C., Cohen K., Valentino L., Schopmeyer S., Kolodziej G., Jankulak M. & Lirman D., 2018. The influence of diel carbonate chemistry fluctuations on the calcification rate of Acropora cervicornis under present day and future acidification conditions. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 506: 135-143. Article.


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