Moderate nutrient concentrations are not detrimental to corals under future ocean conditions

Under predicted future ocean conditions, reefs exposed to elevated nutrients will simultaneously experience ocean acidification and elevated temperature. We evaluated if moderate nutrients mitigate, minimize, or exacerbate negative effects of predicted future ocean conditions on coral physiology. For 30 days, Acropora millepora and Turbinaria reniformis were exposed to a fully factorial experiment of eight treatments including two seawater temperatures (26.4 °C and 29.8 °C), pCO2 levels (401 μatm pCO2 and 760 μatm pCO2), and nutrient concentrations (ambient: 0.40 μmol L−1 NO3 and 0.22 μmol L−1 PO43−, and moderate: 3.56 μmol L−1 NO3 and 0.31 μmol L−1 PO43−). Added nitrate was taken up by the algal endosymbionts and transferred to the coral hosts in both species, though to a much higher degree in A. millepora. When exposed to elevated temperature, elevated pCO2, or both, effects observed for chlorophyll a, calcification, biomass, and energy reserves were not compounded by the moderate nutrient concentrations in either species. Moderate nutrients enabled A. millepora to continue to meet daily metabolic demand via photosynthesis under predicted future ocean conditions and T. reniformis to greatly exceed daily metabolic demand via photosynthesis and heterotrophy. Our results suggest that balanced moderate nutrients are not detrimental to corals under predicted future ocean conditions and may even provide some benefits.

Dobson K. L., Levas S., Schoepf V., Warner M. E., Cai W.-J., Hoadley K. D., Yuan X., Matsui Y., Melman T. F. & Grottoli A. G., 2021. Moderate nutrient concentrations are not detrimental to corals under future ocean conditions. Marine Biology 168: 98. doi: 10.1007/s00227-021-03901-3. Article (subscription required).


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