Resistance to ocean acidification in coral reef taxa is not gained by acclimatization

Ocean acidification (OA) is a major threat to coral reefs, which are built by calcareous species. However, long-term assessments of the impacts of OA are scarce, limiting the understanding of the capacity of corals and coralline algae to acclimatize to high partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) levels. Species-specific sensitivities to OA are influenced by its impacts on chemistry within the calcifying fluid (CF). Here, we investigate the capacity of multiple coral and calcifying macroalgal species to acclimatize to elevated pCO2 by determining their chemistry in the CF during a year-long experiment. We found no evidence of acclimatization to elevated pCO2 across any of the tested taxa. The effects of increasing seawater pCO2 on the CF chemistry were rapid and persisted until the end of the experiment. Our results show that acclimatization of the CF chemistry does not occur within one year, which confirms the threat of OA for future reef accretion and ecological function.

Comeau S., Cornwall C. E., DeCarlo T. M., Doo S. S., Carpenter R. C. & McCulloch M. T., 2019. Resistance to ocean acidification in coral reef taxa is not gained by acclimatization. Nature Climate Change 9: 477-483. Article (subscription required).

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