The influences of diurnal variability and ocean acidification on the bioerosion rates of two reef-dwelling Caribbean sponges

Ocean acidification (OA) is expected to modify the structure and function of coral reef ecosystems by reducing calcification, increasing bioerosion, and altering the physiology of many marine organisms. Much of our understanding of these relationships is based upon experiments with static OA treatments, though evidence suggests that the magnitude of diurnal fluctuations in carbonate chemistry may modulate the calcification response to OA. These light-mediated swings in seawater pH are projected to become more extreme with OA, yet their impact on bioerosion remains unknown. We evaluated the influence of diurnal carbonate chemistry variability on the bioerosion rates of two Caribbean sponges: the zooxanthellate Cliona varians and azooxanthellate Cliothosa delitrix. Replicate fragments from multiple colonies of each species were exposed to four precisely-controlled pH treatments: contemporary static (8.05 ± 0.00; mean pH ± diurnal pH oscillation), contemporary variable (8.05 ± 0.10), future OA static (7.80 ± 0.00), and future OA variable (7.80 ± 0.10). Significantly enhanced bioerosion rates, determined using buoyant weight measurements, were observed under more variable conditions in both the contemporary and future OA scenarios for C. varians, whereas the same effect was only apparent under contemporary pH conditions for C. delitrix. These results indicate that variable carbonate chemistry has a stimulating influence on sponge bioerosion, and we hypothesize that bioerosion rates evolve non-linearly as a function of pCO2 resulting in different magnitudes and directions of rate enhancement/reduction between day and night, even with an equal fluctuation around the mean. This response appeared to be intensified by photosymbionts, evident by the consistently higher percent increase in bioerosion rates for photosynthetic C. varians across all treatments. These findings further suggest that more variable natural ecosystems may presently experience elevated sponge bioerosion rates and that the heightened impact of OA enhanced bioerosion on reef habitat could occur sooner than prior predictions.

Morris J., Enochs I., Webb A., de Bakker D., Soderberg N., Kolodziej G. & Manzello D., in press. The influences of diurnal variability and ocean acidification on the bioerosion rates of two reef-dwelling Caribbean sponges. Global Change Biology. Article.

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