Plasticity of adult coralline algae to prolonged increased temperature and pCO2 exposure but reduced survival in their first generation

Crustose coralline algae (CCA) are vital to coral reefs worldwide, providing structural integrity and inducing the settlement of important invertebrate larvae. CCA are known to be impacted by changes in their environment, both during early development and adulthood. However, long-term studies on either life history stage are lacking in the literature, therefore not allowing time to explore the acclimatory or potential adaptive responses of CCA to future global change scenarios. Here, we exposed a widely distributed, slow growing, species of CCA, Sporolithon cf. durum, to elevated temperature and pCO2 for five months and their first set of offspring (F1) for eleven weeks. Survival, reproductive output, and metabolic rate were measured in adult S. cf. durum, and survival and growth were measured in the F1 generation. Adult S. cf. durum experienced 0% mortality across treatments and reduced their O2 production after five months exposure to global stressors, indicating a possible expression of plasticity. In contrast, the combined stressors of elevated temperature and pCO2 resulted in 50% higher mortality and 61% lower growth on germlings. On the other hand, under the independent elevated pCO2 treatment, germling growth was higher than all other treatments. These results show the robustness and plasticity of S. cf. durum adults, indicating the potential for them to acclimate to increased temperature and pCO2. However, the germlings of this species are highly sensitive to global stressors and this could negatively impact this species in future oceans, and ultimately the structure and stability of coral reefs.

Page T. M. & Diaz-Pulido G., 2020. Plasticity of adult coralline algae to prolonged increased temperature and pCO2 exposure but reduced survival in their first generation. PLoS ONE 15 (6): e0235125. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0235125. Article.

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