Juveniles of the Atlantic coral, Favia fragum (Esper, 1797) do not invest energy to maintain calcification under ocean acidification


• Fed corals produce larger and heavier skeletons than unfed corals.
• Corals maintained under elevated light conditions have greater energetic reserves.
• Acidification reduces coral calcification, regardless of nutritional enhancement.
• Acidification does not reduce coral size or energetic (total lipid) reserves.
• Metabolic resources are not used to mitigate acidification impact on calcification.


Ocean acidification (OA) threatens coral reef ecosystems by slowing calcification and enhancing dissolution of calcifying organisms and sediments. Nevertheless, multiple factors have been shown to modulate OA’s impact on calcification, including the nutritional status of the coral host. In three separate experiments, we exposed juveniles of the Atlantic golf ball coral, Favia fragum, to elevated CO2 and varied nutritional (light or feeding) conditions. Juveniles reared from planulae larvae were significantly larger and produced more CaCO3 when fed, regardless of CO2 level. However, corals subjected to elevated CO2 produced less CaCO3 per mm2 regardless of feeding condition. Additionally, unfed corals reared under elevated light levels exhibited lower chlorophyll a and higher total lipid content, but light had no significant effect on coral calcification. Conversely, elevated CO2 had a significant, negative affect on calcification, regardless of light condition but no detectable effect on physiological tissue parameters. Our results indicate that the sensitivity of juvenile F. fragum calcification to OA was neither modulated by light nor by feeding, despite physiological indications of enhanced nutritional status. This suggests that corals do not necessarily divert energy to maintain calcification under high CO2, even when they have the energetic resources to do so.

Drenkard E. J., Cohen A. L., McCorkle D. C., de Putron S. J., Starczak V. R. & Repeta D. J., 2018. Juveniles of the Atlantic coral, Favia fragum (Esper, 1797) do not invest energy to maintain calcification under ocean acidification. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 507: 61-69. Article (subscription required).

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