Impacts of elevated temperature and pCO2 on the brooded larvae of Pocillopora damicornis from Luhuitou Reef, China: evidence for local acclimatization

In this study, we tested whether larvae brooded by the reef coral Pocillopora damicornis from a naturally extreme and highly variable environment are preadapted to cope with predicted increases in temperature and pCO2. We exposed larvae to two temperatures (29 vs. 30.8 °C) crossed with two pCO2 levels (~ 500 vs. ~ 1000 μatm) in a full-factorial experiment for 5 d. Larval performance was assessed as dark respiration (RD), net and gross photosynthesis (PN and PG, respectively), survival, settlement, and the activity of carbonic anhydrase (CA), the central enzyme involved in photosynthesis. The results showed that RD was unaffected by either elevated temperature or pCO2, while elevated temperature and/or pCO2 stimulated PN and PG and increased the ratios of PN to RD, indicating a relatively higher autotrophic capacity. Consequently, larval survivorship under elevated temperature and/or pCO2 was consistently 14% higher than that under the control treatment. Furthermore, elevated temperature and pCO2 did not affect host CA activity, but synergistically enhanced symbiont CA activity, contributing greatly to the stimulated photosynthetic capacity. These results suggest that brooded larvae of P. damicornis larvae from Luhuitou may be preadapted to cope with projected warming and ocean acidification. More generally, it appears that corals from highly variable environments may have increased resilience to the widespread climate change.

Jiang L., Guo M.-L., Zhang F., Zhang Y.-Y., Zhou G.-W., Lei X.-M., Yuan X.-C., Sun Y.-F., Yuan T., Cai L., Lian J.-S., Liu S., Qian P.-Y. & Huang H., in press. Impacts of elevated temperature and pCO2 on the brooded larvae of Pocillopora damicornis from Luhuitou Reef, China: evidence for local acclimatization. Coral Reefs. Article (subscription required).

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