Effects of ocean acidification on algae growth and feeding rates of juvenile sea urchins


• Ocean acidification increase the feeding rates of juveniles of P. lividus on algae reared at low pH.
• However the effects of ocean acidification on feeding rates of D. africanum were not differences between algae reared under low pH and control pH.
• This investigation highlights indirect effects of ocean acidification such as increase in herbivores pressure as consequence of change in algae palatability.
• Ocean acidification affects growth of 9 algae species from Canary Islands.
• A future scenario of climate change could affect the palatability of algae and their growth.


The recent decrease in seawater pH has stimulated a great deal of research on the effects of ocean acidification on various organisms. Most of these studies have mainly focused on the direct effects of acidification on organisms. However, the effects on ecological interactions have been poorly studied. In this paper we have focused on determining the effects of acidification on feeding rates of two species of sea urchins, Paracentrotus lividus and Diadema africanum through laboratory experiments. Nine algae species were reared under two pH treatmens (ph = 8.1 vs. pH = 7.6) for 10 days. We evaluated possible changes in calcification rates, growth and internal structure. Then these algae were offered to juvenile sea urchins for 7 days, evaluating the consumption rates of juvenile sea urchins under these different pH conditions. The algae reared in the control treatment showed higher growth rates and concentration of calcium carbonate, however no internal structural changes were observed in any algae. Juvenile Paracentrotus lividus showed higher consumption rates on algae previously subjected to pH 7.6 than on algae reared under control conditions and between algae species in low pH.The algae most consumed were C. liebetruthii, C. abies-marina and C. elongata by P. lividus juveniles from low pH treatment. However in D. africanum the feeding rates were similar between treatments. This study demonstrated the negative effects of low pH on various species of algae in growth, and indirectly the increase in herbivory rates of juvenile sea urchins on algae reared under low pH.

Rodríguez A., Clemente S., Brito A. & Hernández J. C., in press. Effects of ocean acidification on algae growth and feeding rates of juvenile sea urchins. Marine Environmental Research. Article (subscription required).

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