Grazers increase the sensitivity of coralline algae to ocean acidification and warming

Highlights

  • Stimulation of the primary production and calcification of corallines by grazing
  • Different response of maerl between winter and summer conditions
  • High vulnerability of corallines to ocean acidification in the presence of grazers

Abstract

Coralline algae are expected to be adversely impacted by ocean acidification and warming. Most research on these algae has involved experiments on isolated species, without considering species interactions, such as grazing. This myopic view is challenging because the impact of climate change on coralline algae will depend on the direct impacts on individual coralline species and the indirect effects of altered interactions with other species. Here, we tested the influence of grazing on the response of the coralline alga Lithothamnion corallioides to near-future ocean acidification and warming. Two three-month experiments were performed in the winter and summer seasons in mesocosms under crossed conditions of pCO2 (ambient and high pCO2) and temperature (ambient and +3 °C) in the presence and absence of grazers. In the winter, L. corallioides photosynthesis decreased with rising temperature in the presence of grazers, while calcification increased. It is likely that increased calcification may act as a structural protection to prevent damage from grazing. However, increasing calcification rates in the presence of grazers may be detrimental to other physiological processes, such as photosynthesis. In the summer, L. corallioides primary production, respiration, and calcification were higher in the presence of grazers than in their absence. Light calcification rates were reduced under high pCO2 in the presence of grazers only. Moreover, dark calcification rates were more adversely affected by pCO2 increase in the presence of grazers. Through their feeding activity, grazers may alter the structural integrity of thalli and increase the sensitivity of coralline algae to ocean acidification. Our results indicate that both season and grazing play a key role in the response of L. corallioides to acidification and warming. Seasonal variations and species interactions are thus critical to consider to make ecologically relevant predictions of the effects of future environmental changes.

Legrand E., Riera P., Lutier M., Coudret J., Grall J. & Martin S., in press. Grazers increase the sensitivity of coralline algae to ocean acidification and warming. Journal of Sea Research. Article (subscription required).

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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book