Seagrass can mitigate negative ocean acidification effects on calcifying algae

The ultimate effect that ocean acidification (OA) and warming will have on the physiology of calcifying algae is still largely uncertain. Responses depend on the complex interactions between seawater chemistry, global/local stressors and species-specific physiologies. There is a significant gap regarding the effect that metabolic interactions between coexisting species may have on local seawater chemistry and the concurrent effect of OA. Here, we manipulated CO2 and temperature to evaluate the physiological responses of two common photoautotrophs from shallow tropical marine coastal ecosystems in Brazil: the calcifying alga Halimeda cuneata, and the seagrass Halodule wrightii. We tested whether or not seagrass presence can influence the calcification rate of a widespread and abundant species of Halimeda under OA and warming. Our results demonstrate that under elevated CO2, the high photosynthetic rates of H. wrightii contribute to raise H. cuneata calcification more than two-fold and thus we suggest that H. cuneata populations coexisting with H. wrightii may have a higher resilience to OA conditions. This conclusion supports the more general hypothesis that, in coastal and shallow reef environments, the metabolic interactions between calcifying and non-calcifying organisms are instrumental in providing refuge against OA effects and increasing the resilience of the more OA-susceptible species.

Bergstrom E., Silva J., Martins C. & Horta P., 2019. Seagrass can mitigate negative ocean acidification effects on calcifying algae. Scientific Reports 9: 1932. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-35670-3. Article.

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