Influences of coral genotype and seawater pCO2 on skeletal Ba/Ca and Mg/Ca in cultured massive Porites spp. corals

Highlights

• KD Ba/Ca vary significantly between massive Porites spp. coral genotypes.
• Seawater pCO2 affects KD Ba/Ca significantly in 1 of 3 coral genotypes.
• KD Mg/Ca varies significantly between some duplicates of the same coral.

Abstract

Coral skeletal Ba/Ca is a proxy for seawater Ba/Ca, used to infer oceanic upwelling and terrigenous runoff while [Mg2+] is implicated in the control of coral biomineralisation. We cultured large individuals (>12 cm diameter) of 3 genotypes of massive adult Porites spp. corals over a range of seawater pCO2 to test how atmospheric CO2 variations affect skeletal Ba/Ca and Mg/Ca. We identified the skeleton deposited after a 5 month acclimation period and analysed the skeletal Ba/Ca and Mg/Ca by secondary ion mass spectrometry. Skeletal Mg/Ca varies significantly between some duplicate colonies of the same coral genotype hampering identification of genotype and seawater pCO2 effects. Coral aragonite:seawater Ba/Ca partition coefficients (KD Ba/Ca) do not vary significantly between duplicate colonies of the same coral genotype. We observe large variations in KD Ba/Ca between different massive Porites spp. coral genotypes irrespective of seawater pCO2. These variations do not correlate with coral calcification, photosynthesis or respiration rates or with skeletal KD Mg/Ca or KD Sr/Ca. Seawater pCO2 does not significantly affect KD Ba/Ca in 2 genotypes but KD Ba/Ca is significantly higher at 750 μatm seawater pCO2 than at 180 μatm in 1 P. lutea genotype. Genotype specific variations in KD Ba/Ca between different Porites spp. could yield large errors (~250%) in reconstructions of seawater Ba when comparing Ba/Ca between corals. Analysis of fossil coral specimens deposited at low seawater pCO2, may underestimate past seawater Ba/Ca and ocean upwelling/freshwater inputs when compared with modern specimens but the effect is small in comparison with the observed difference between coral genotypes.

Allison N., Cole C., Hintz C., Hintz K. & Finch A. A., 2018. Influences of coral genotype and seawater pCO2 on skeletal Ba/Ca and Mg/Ca in cultured massive Porites spp. corals. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 505: 351-358. Article (subscription required).

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