Global change, including rising temperatures and acidification, threatens corals globally. Although bleaching events reveal fine-scale patterns of resilience, traits enabling persistence under global change remain elusive. We conducted a 95-d controlled-laboratory experiment investigating how duration of exposure to warming (~28, 31°C), acidification (pCO2 ~ 343 [present day], ~663 [end of century], ~3109 [extreme] μatm), and their combination influences physiology of reef-building corals (Siderastrea siderea, Pseudodiploria strigosa) from two reef zones on the Belize Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. Every 30 d, net calcification rate, host protein and carbohydrate, chlorophyll a, and symbiont density were quantified for the same coral individual to characterize acclimation potential under global change. Coral physiologies of the two species were differentially affected by stressors and exposure duration was found to modulate these responses. Siderastrea siderea exhibited resistance to end of century pCO2 and temperature stress, but calcification was negatively affected by extreme pCO2. However, S. siderea calcification rates remained positive after 95 d of extreme pCO2 conditions, suggesting acclimation. In contrast, P. strigosa was more negatively influenced by elevated temperatures, which reduced most physiological parameters. An exception was nearshore P. strigosa, which maintained calcification rates under elevated temperature, suggesting local adaptation to the warmer environment of their natal reef zone. This work highlights how tracking coral physiology across various exposure durations can capture acclimatory responses to global change stressors.
Aichelman H. E., Bove C. B., Castillo K. D., Boulton J. M., Knowlton A. C., Nieves O. C., Ries J. B. & Davies S. W., in press. Exposure duration modulates the response of Caribbean corals to global change stressors. Limnology Oceanography. Article.