Posts Tagged 'calcification'

Calcification in Caribbean reef-building corals at high pCO2 levels in a recirculating ocean acidification exposure system


  • A recirculating OA system can be utilized as long as off-gassing measures are taken.
  • Aeration, water retention and algal scrubbing are effecting off-gassing measures.
  • Elevated pCO2 did not affect coral calcification rate or tissue growth.


Projected increases in ocean pCO2 levels are anticipated to affect calcifying organisms more rapidly and to a greater extent than other marine organisms. The effects of ocean acidification (OA) have been documented in numerous species of corals in laboratory studies, largely tested using flow-through exposure systems. We developed a recirculating ocean acidification exposure system that allows precise pCO2 control using a combination of off-gassing measures including aeration, water retention devices, venturi injectors, and CO2 scrubbing. We evaluated the recirculating system performance in off-gassing effectiveness and maintenance of target pCO2 levels over an 84-day experiment. The system was used to identify changes in calcification and tissue growth in response to elevated pCO2 (1000 μatm) in three reef-building corals of the Caribbean: Pseudodiploria clivosa, Montastraea cavernosa, and Orbicella faveolata. All three species displayed an overall increase in net calcification over the 84-day exposure period regardless of pCO2 level (control + 0.28–1.12 g, elevated pCO2 + 0.18–1.16 g), and the system was effective at both off-gassing acidified water to ambient pCO2 levels, and maintaining target elevated pCO2 levels over the 3-month experiment.

Continue reading ‘Calcification in Caribbean reef-building corals at high pCO2 levels in a recirculating ocean acidification exposure system’

Effects of CO2-driven acidification of seawater on the calcification process in the calcareous hydrozoan Millepora alcicornis (Linnaeus, 1758)

Ocean acidification is expected to intensify due to increasing levels in the partial pressure of atmospheric CO2 (pCO2). This could negatively affect major calcifying reef organisms. In this study, the effects of different levels of CO2-driven acidification of seawater (control: pH 8.1; moderate: pH 7.8; intermediate: pH 7.5; and severe: pH 7.2) on the net calcification rate and activity of enzymes related to the calcification process (Ca-ATPase and carbonic anhydrase) were evaluated in the calcareous hydrozoan Millepora alcicornis. The experiment was run for 30 d using a marine mesocosm system. Net calcification ratio was significantly reduced in hydrocorals exposed to intermediate seawater acidification for 16 d and to severe seawater acidification for 16 d or 30 d, compared to animals at control conditions. However, only hydrocorals exposed to severe seawater acidification showed lower net calcification rates than those exposed to control conditions for 30 d. In accordance, the activities of enzymes involved in the calcification process markedly increased in hydrocorals exposed to reduced pH. Ca-ATPase seemed to be more sensitive to seawater acidification than carbonic anhydrase as it increased in hydrocorals exposed to intermediate and severe seawater acidification for 30 d, while carbonic anhydrase activity was only stimulated under severe seawater acidification. Therefore, our findings clearly show that the hydrocoral M. alcicornis is able to cope, to some extent, with long-term CO2-driven acidification of seawater (pH ≥ 7.5). In addition, they show that Ca-ATPase plays a key role in the maintenance of calcification rate under scenarios of moderate and intermediate levels of seawater acidification. However, the observed increase in Ca-ATPase and carbonic anhydrase activity was not enough to compensate for the effects of CO2-driven reduction in seawater pH on the net calcification rate of the hydrocoral M. alcicornis under a scenario of severe ocean acidification (pH 7.2).

Continue reading ‘Effects of CO2-driven acidification of seawater on the calcification process in the calcareous hydrozoan Millepora alcicornis (Linnaeus, 1758)’

Coral calcification mechanisms facilitate adaptive responses to ocean acidification

Ocean acidification (OA) is a pressing threat to reef-building corals, but it remains poorly understood how coral calcification is inhibited by OA and whether corals could acclimatize and/or adapt to OA. Using a novel geochemical approach, we reconstructed the carbonate chemistry of the calcifying fluid in two coral species using both a pH and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) proxy (δ11B and B/Ca, respectively). To address the potential for adaptive responses, both species were collected from two sites spanning a natural gradient in seawater pH and temperature, and then subjected to three pHT levels (8.04, 7.88, 7.71) crossed by two temperatures (control, +1.5°C) for 14 weeks. Corals from the site with naturally lower seawater pH calcified faster and maintained growth better under simulated OA than corals from the higher-pH site. This ability was consistently linked to higher pH yet lower DIC values in the calcifying fluid, suggesting that these differences are the result of long-term acclimatization and/or local adaptation to naturally lower seawater pH. Nevertheless, all corals elevated both pH and DIC significantly over seawater values, even under OA. This implies that high pH upregulation combined with moderate levels of DIC upregulation promote resistance and adaptive responses of coral calcification to OA.

Continue reading ‘Coral calcification mechanisms facilitate adaptive responses to ocean acidification’

Species interactions can shift the response of a maerl bed community to ocean acidification and warming (update)

Predicted ocean acidification and warming are likely to have major implications for marine organisms, especially marine calcifiers. However, little information is available on the response of marine benthic communities as a whole to predicted changes. Here, we experimentally examined the combined effects of temperature and partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) increases on the response of maerl bed assemblages, composed of living and dead thalli of the free-living coralline alga Lithothamnion corallioides, epiphytic fleshy algae, and grazer species. Two 3-month experiments were performed in the winter and summer seasons in mesocosms with four different combinations of pCO2 (ambient and high pCO2) and temperature (ambient and +3 °C). The response of maerl assemblages was assessed using metabolic measurements at the species and assemblage scales. This study suggests that seasonal variability represents an important driver influencing the magnitude and the direction of species and community response to climate change. Gross primary production and respiration of assemblages was enhanced by high pCO2 conditions in the summer. This positive effect was attributed to the increase in epiphyte biomass, which benefited from higher CO2 concentrations for growth and primary production. Conversely, high pCO2 drastically decreased the calcification rates in assemblages. This response can be attributed to the decline in calcification rates of living L. corallioides due to acidification and increased dissolution of dead L. corallioides. Future changes in pCO2 and temperature are likely to promote the development of non-calcifying algae to the detriment of the engineer species L. corallioides. The development of fleshy algae may be modulated by the ability of grazers to regulate epiphyte growth. However, our results suggest that predicted changes will negatively affect the metabolism of grazers and potentially their ability to control epiphyte abundance. We show here that the effects of pCO2 and temperature on maerl bed communities were weakened when these factors were combined. This underlines the importance of examining multi-factorial approaches and community-level processes, which integrate species interactions, to better understand the impact of global change on marine ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘Species interactions can shift the response of a maerl bed community to ocean acidification and warming (update)’

Mussel larvae modify calcifying fluid carbonate chemistry to promote calcification

Understanding mollusk calcification sensitivity to ocean acidification (OA) requires a better knowledge of calcification mechanisms. Especially in rapidly calcifying larval stages, mechanisms of shell formation are largely unexplored—yet these are the most vulnerable life stages. Here we find rapid generation of crystalline shell material in mussel larvae. We find no evidence for intracellular CaCO3 formation, indicating that mineral formation could be constrained to the calcifying space beneath the shell. Using microelectrodes we show that larvae can increase pH and [CO32−] beneath the growing shell, leading to a ~1.5-fold elevation in calcium carbonate saturation state (Ωarag). Larvae exposed to OA exhibit a drop in pH, [CO32−] and Ωarag at the site of calcification, which correlates with decreased shell growth, and, eventually, shell dissolution. Our findings help explain why bivalve larvae can form shells under moderate acidification scenarios and provide a direct link between ocean carbonate chemistry and larval calcification rate.

Continue reading ‘Mussel larvae modify calcifying fluid carbonate chemistry to promote calcification’

Environmental controls on modern scleractinian coral and reef-scale calcification

Modern reef-building corals sustain a wide range of ecosystem services because of their ability to build calcium carbonate reef systems. The influence of environmental variables on coral calcification rates has been extensively studied, but our understanding of their relative importance is limited by the absence of in situ observations and the ability to decouple the interactions between different properties. We show that temperature is the primary driver of coral colony (Porites astreoides and Diploria labyrinthiformis) and reef-scale calcification rates over a 2-year monitoring period from the Bermuda coral reef. On the basis of multimodel climate simulations (Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5) and assuming sufficient coral nutrition, our results suggest that P. astreoides and D. labyrinthiformis coral calcification rates in Bermuda could increase throughout the 21st century as a result of gradual warming predicted under a minimum CO2 emissions pathway [representative concentration pathway (RCP) 2.6] with positive 21st-century calcification rates potentially maintained under a reduced CO2 emissions pathway (RCP 4.5). These results highlight the potential benefits of rapid reductions in global anthropogenic CO2 emissions for 21st-century Bermuda coral reefs and the ecosystem services they provide.

Continue reading ‘Environmental controls on modern scleractinian coral and reef-scale calcification’

Active modulation of the calcifying fluid carbonate chemistry (δ11B, B/Ca) and seasonally invariant coral calcification at sub-tropical limits

Coral calcification is dependent on both the supply of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and the up-regulation of pH in the calcifying fluid (cf). Using geochemical proxies (δ11B, B/Ca, Sr/Ca, Li/Mg), we show seasonal changes in the pHcf and DICcf for Acropora yongei and Pocillopora damicornis growing in-situ at Rottnest Island (32°S) in Western Australia. Changes in pHcf range from 8.38 in summer to 8.60 in winter, while DICcf is 25 to 30% higher during summer compared to winter (×1.5 to ×2 seawater). Thus, both variables are up-regulated well above seawater values and are seasonally out of phase with one another. The net effect of this counter-cyclical behaviour between DICcf and pHcf is that the aragonite saturation state of the calcifying fluid (Ωcf) is elevated ~4 times above seawater values and is ~25 to 40% higher during winter compared to summer. Thus, these corals control the chemical composition of the calcifying fluid to help sustain near-constant year-round calcification rates, despite a seasonal seawater temperature range from just ~19° to 24 °C. The ability of corals to up-regulate Ωcf is a key mechanism to optimise biomineralization, and is thus critical for the future of coral calcification under high CO2 conditions.

Continue reading ‘Active modulation of the calcifying fluid carbonate chemistry (δ11B, B/Ca) and seasonally invariant coral calcification at sub-tropical limits’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book