The effects of nutrient addition and ocean acidification on tropical crustose coralline algae

As the global population increases, the occurrence of multiple anthropogenic
impacts on valuable coastal ecosystems, such as coral reefs, also increases. These
stressors can be global and long-term, like ocean acidification (OA), or local and short term, like nutrient runoff in some areas. The combination of these stressors can  potentially have additive or interactive effects on the organisms in coral reef
communities. Among the most important groups of organisms on coral reefs are crustose coralline algae (CCA), calcifying algae that cement the reef together and contribute to the global carbon cycle. This thesis studied the effects of nutrient addition and OA on Lithophyllum kotschyanum, a common species of CCA on the fringing reefs of Mo’orea, French Polynesia. Two mesocosm experiments tested the individual and interactive effects of OA and short-term nitrate and phosphate addition on L. kotschyanum. These experiments showed that nitrate and phosphate addition together increased photosynthesis, OA had interactive effects with nutrient addition, and after nutrient addition ended, calcification and photosynthetic rates changed in unpredictable ways in different OA and nutrient treatments. Because the results of the first two experiments showed impacts of nutrients even after addition stopped, two more mesocosm experiments were conducted to study the changes in photosynthesis and calcification over hourly time scales more relevant to a single nutrient pulse event. These two experiments revealed the existence of diurnal variation in light-saturated photosynthetic rate, but not calcification rate, under ambient and elevated pCO2. This pattern of increased maximum photosynthesis in the middle of the day can have important implications for how the time of nutrient runoff events during the day impacts CCA physiology. Finally, a field experiment was conducted to determine the effects of short- and long-term nutrient addition on L. kotschyanum. The results showed that a series of short-term nutrient additions did not increase photosynthesis or calcification rates above those in ambient nutrient conditions, but continual nutrient enrichment for 6 weeks increased photosynthetic rates. This increase in photosynthesis under only long-term enrichment shows the need for consideration of specific nutrient addition scenarios on coral reefs when predicting how the community will be affected.

Shayka B. F., 2018. The effects of nutrient addition and ocean acidification on tropical crustose coralline  algae. MSc thesis, California State University, 97 p. Thesis.


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