Year-long effects of high pCO2 on the community structure of a tropical fore reef assembled in outdoor flumes

In this study, fore reef coral communities were exposed to high pCO2 for a year to explore the relationship between net accretion (Gnet) and community structure (planar area growth). Coral reef communities simulating the fore reef at 17-m depth on Mo’orea, French Polynesia, were assembled in three outdoor flumes (each 500 l) that were maintained at ambient (396 µatm), 782 µatm, and 1434 µatm pCO2, supplied with seawater at 300 l h−1, and exposed to light simulating 17-m depth. The communities were constructed using corals from the fore reef, and the responses of massive Porites spp., Acropora spp., and Pocillopora verrucosa were assessed through monthly measurements of Gnet and planar area. High pCO2 depressed Gnet but did not affect colony area by taxon, although the areas of Acropora spp. and P. verrucosa summed to cause multivariate community structure to differ among treatments. These results suggest that skeletal plasticity modulates the effects of reduced Gnet at high pCO2 on planar growth, at least over a year. The low sensitivity of the planar growth of fore reef corals to the effects of ocean acidification (OA) on net calcification supports the counterintuitive conclusion that coral community structure may not be strongly affected by OA.

Edmunds P. J., Doo S. S. & Carpenter R. C., 2020. Year-long effects of high pCO2 on the community structure of a tropical fore reef assembled in outdoor flumes. ICES Journal of Marine Science fsaa015. doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsaa015. Article (subscription required).

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