Resistance of corals and coralline algae to ocean acidification: physiological control of calcification under natural pH variability

Ocean acidification is a threat to the continued accretion of coral reefs, though some undergo daily fluctuations in pH exceeding declines predicted by 2100. We test whether exposure to greater pH variability enhances resistance to ocean acidification for the coral Goniopora sp. and coralline alga Hydrolithon reinboldii from two sites: one with low pH variability (less than 0.15 units daily; Shell Island) and a site with high pH variability (up to 1.4 pH units daily; Tallon Island). We grew populations of both species for more than 100 days under a combination of differing pH variability (high/low) and means (ambient pH 8.05/ocean acidification pH 7.65). Calcification rates of Goniopora sp. were unaffected by the examined variables. Calcification rates of H. reinboldii were significantly faster in Tallon than in Shell Island individuals, and Tallon Island individuals calcified faster in the high variability pH 8.05 treatment compared with all others. Geochemical proxies for carbonate chemistry within the calcifying fluid (cf) of both species indicated that only mean seawater pH influenced pHcf. pH treatments had no effect on proxies for Ωcf. These limited responses to extreme pH treatments demonstrate that some calcifying taxa may be capable of maintaining constant rates of calcification under ocean acidification by actively modifying Ωcf.

Cornwall C. E., Comeau S., DeCarlo T. M., Moore B., D’Alexis Q. & McCulloch M. T., 2018. Resistance of corals and coralline algae to ocean acidification: physiological control of calcification under natural pH variability. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 285 (1884): 20181168. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.1168. Article (subscription required).

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