Sponge bioerosion versus aqueous pCO2: morphometric assessment of chips and etching fissures

Bioeroding sponges are important macroborers that chemically cut out substrate particles (chips) and mechanically remove them, thereby contributing to reef-associated sediment. These chemical and mechanical proportions vary with elevated levels of partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2). To assess related impacts, the morphometric parameters “chip diameter” and “etching fissure width” were analyzed for Cliona orientalis Thiele, 1900, hypothesizing that their dimensions would differ with different pCO2 exposures (72 h at ca. 400, 750 and 1700 μatm). Under ambient conditions, we obtained a mean chip diameter of 21.6 ± 0.7 μm and a mean fissure width of 0.29 ± 0.01 μm. Chips were evenly distributed across the medium and coarse silt fractions regardless of treatment. We could not find a reliable pCO2 treatment effect for chip diameter and fissure width, but we observed strong data variability not related to our key questions. A hierarchical data design further reduced the test power. Fissure width was the more sensitive, but also more variable parameter. Sample size analyses nevertheless indicated that we had processed enough data. Thus, we reject our scenario of an increase in fissure width and consequent reduction in chip size to explain why chemical sponge bioerosion increases more strongly than the mechanical counterpart. Instead, we propose that a lowered ambient pH may favor respiratory acid build-up in the sponge tissue, possibly leading to a less localized bioerosion, causing bias towards more chemical bioerosion. Overall, this does not seem to affect the morphometry of sponge chips and the quality of sponge-generated sediment.

Meyer N., Wisshak M. & Schönberg C. H. L., 2019. Sponge bioerosion versus aqueous pCO2: morphometric assessment of chips and etching fissures. Facies 65: 27. doi: 10.1007/s10347-019-0558-3. Article (subscription required).

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