Evaluation of the current understanding of the impact of climate change on coral physiology after three decades of experimental research

After three decades of coral research on the impacts of climate change, there is a wide consensus on the adverse effects of heat-stress, but the impacts of ocean acidification (OA) are not well established. Using a review of published studies and an experimental analysis, we confirm the large species-specific component of the OA response, which predicts moderate impacts on coral physiology and pigmentation by 2100 (scenario-B1 or SSP2-4.5), in contrast with the severe disturbances induced by only +2 °C of thermal anomaly. Accordingly, global warming represents a greater threat for coral calcification than OA. The incomplete understanding of the moderate OA response relies on insufficient attention to key regulatory processes of these symbioses, particularly the metabolic dependence of coral calcification on algal photosynthesis and host respiration. Our capacity to predict the future of coral reefs depends on a correct identification of the main targets and/or processes impacted by climate change stressors.

Krämer W. E., Iglesias-Prieto R. & Enríquez S., 2022. Evaluation of the current understanding of the impact of climate change on coral physiology after three decades of experimental research. Communications Biology 5: 1418. doi: 10.1038/s42003-022-04353-1. Article.

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