Ocean acidification effects on calcification and dissolution in tropical reef macroalgae

Net calcification rates for coral reef and other calcifiers have been shown to decline as ocean acidification (OA) occurs. However, the role of calcium carbonate dissolution in lowering net calcification rates is unclear. The objective of this study was to distinguish OA effects on calcification and dissolution rates in dominant calcifying macroalgae of the Florida Reef Tract, including two rhodophytes (Neogoniolithon strictum, Jania adhaerens) and two chlorophytes (Halimeda scabra, Udotea luna). Two experiments were conducted: (1) to assess the difference in gross (45Ca uptake) versus net (total alkalinity anomaly) calcification rates in the light/dark and (2) to determine dark dissolution (45CaCO3), using pH levels predicted for the year 2100 and ambient pH. At low pH in the light, all species maintained gross calcification rates and most sustained net calcification rates relative to controls. Net calcification rates in the dark were ~84% lower than in the light. In contrast to the light, all species had lower net calcification rates in the dark at low pH with chlorophytes exhibiting net dissolution. These data are supported by the relationship (R2 = 0.82) between increasing total alkalinity and loss of 45Ca from pre-labelled 45CaCO3 thalli at low pH in the dark. Dark dissolution of 45CaCO3-labelled thalli was ~18% higher in chlorophytes than rhodophytes at ambient pH, and ~ twofold higher at low pH. Only Udotea, which exhibited dissolution in the light, also had lower daily calcification rates integrated over 24 h. Thus, if tropical macroalgae can maintain high calcification rates in the light, lower net calcification rates in the dark from dissolution may not compromise daily calcification rates. However, if organismal dissolution in the dark is additive to sedimentary carbonate losses, reef dissolution may be amplified under OA and contribute to erosion of the Florida Reef Tract and other reefs that exhibit net dissolution.

McNicholl C., Koch M. S., Swarzenski P. W., Oberhaensli F. R., Taylor A., Batista M. G. & Metian M., in press. Ocean acidification effects on calcification and dissolution in tropical reef macroalgae. Coral Reefs. Article (subscription required.

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