Community responses of intertidal foraminifera to pH variations: a culture experiment with propagules

Calcifying organisms such as benthic foraminifera are susceptible to changes in ocean pH and alkalinity. Responses to these changes include variations in mortality, calcification rates or assemblage composition, which have been observed in field and experimental studies. Here we applied a growth experiment with benthic foraminiferal propagules under different pH conditions to gather insights into the effect of pH on the composition of grown assemblages. A homogeneous propagule assemblage from a local mudflat in Corfu Island (Greece) was exposed to a range of pH conditions (6.5, 7.2, 7.8 and 8.5) for 5 weeks. In a second experiment, the assemblages were first exposed to low and subsequently to high conditions for a total of 8 weeks. After termination of the experiments, we recorded high survivability and growth throughout the treatments. Analysis of the assemblage composition of the first experiments revealed a shift from porcelaneous dominated taxa in the higher pH treatments to an assemblage with higher numbers of agglutinated taxa in the lower pH treatments. Soft-shelled monothalamous species were common throughout. The second experiment revealed assemblages that were significantly dominated by porcelaneous taxa with monothalamous taxa being almost absent. The results of this study are congruent with other observations on changing assemblage compositions with changing pH from both laboratory and field studies. The fast response of the assemblages through activation of potentially dormant propagules adds insights into the mechanisms behind seasonal composition changes in naturally variable environments such as river estuaries. They also shed new light on possible effects of continuous decreases in ocean pH on shallow-water foraminiferal assemblages in future.

Weinmann A. E., Goldstein S. T., Triantaphyllou M. V. & Langer M. R., in press. Community responses of intertidal foraminifera to pH variations: a culture experiment with propagules. Aquatic Ecology. Article.

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