Influence of the seagrass Thalassia hemprichii on coral reef mesocosms exposed to ocean acidification and experimentally elevated temperatures

Highlights

• The combined effect of OA and rising temperatures stimulated the growth of macroalgae.

• OA resulted in higher coral calcification rates when corals were co-incubated with seagrass.

• Macroalgal growth was lower in seagrass-containing mesocosms.

• Coral and macroalgal, but not seagrass, growth suffered at 31°C under OA conditions.

• Seagrass helped to stabilize the system’s metabolism in response to projected climate change stressors.

Abstract

Ocean acidification (OA) and warming currently threaten coastal ecosystems across the globe. However, it is possible that the former process could actually benefit marine plants, such as seagrasses. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the effects of the seagrass Thalassia hemprichii can increase the resilience of OA-challenged coral reef mesocosms whose temperatures were gradually elevated. It was found that shoot density, photosynthetic efficiency, and leaf growth rate of the seagrass actually increased with rising temperatures under OA. Macroalgal growth rates were higher in the seagrass-free mesocosms, but the calcification rate of the model reef coral Pocillopora damicornis was higher in coral reef mesocosms featuring seagrasses under OA condition at 25 and 28°C. Both the macroalgal growth rate and the coral calcification rate decreased in all mesocosms when the temperature was raised to 31°C under OA conditions. However, the variation in gross primary production, ecosystem respiration, and net ecosystem production in the seagrass mesocosms was lower than in seagrass-free controls, suggesting that the presence of seagrass in the mesocosms helped to stabilize the metabolism of the system in response to simulated climate change.

Liu P.-J., Ang S.-J., Mayfield A. B. & Lin H.-J., in press. Influence of the seagrass Thalassia hemprichii on coral reef mesocosms exposed to ocean acidification and experimentally elevated temperatures. Science of The Total Environment. Article (subscription required).

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OA-ICC HIGHLIGHTS

Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book