A high biodiversity mitigates the impact of ocean acidification on hard-bottom ecosystems

Biodiversity loss and climate change simultaneously threaten marine ecosystems, yet their interactions remain largely unknown. Ocean acidification severely affects a wide variety of marine organisms and recent studies have predicted major impacts at the pH conditions expected for 2100. However, despite the renowned interdependence between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, the hypothesis that the species’ response to ocean acidification could differ based on the biodiversity of the natural multispecies assemblages in which they live remains untested. Here, using experimentally controlled conditions, we investigated the impact of acidification on key habitat-forming organisms (including corals, sponges and macroalgae) and associated microbes in hard-bottom assemblages characterised by different biodiversity levels. Our results indicate that, at higher biodiversity, the impact of acidification on otherwise highly vulnerable key organisms can be reduced by 50 to >90%, depending on the species. Here we show that such a positive effect of a higher biodiversity can be associated with higher availability of food resources and healthy microbe-host associations, overall increasing host resistance to acidification, while contrasting harmful outbreaks of opportunistic microbes. Given the climate change scenarios predicted for the future, we conclude that biodiversity conservation of hard-bottom ecosystems is fundamental also for mitigating the impacts of ocean acidification.

Rastelli E., Petani B., Corinaldesi C., Dell’Anno A., Martire M. L., Cerrano C. & Danovaro R., 2020. A high biodiversity mitigates the impact of ocean acidification on hard-bottom ecosystems. Scientific Reports 10: 2948. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-59886-4. Article.

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