Posts Tagged 'corals'

Tropical coral reef coral patterns in Indonesian shallow water areas close to underwater volcanic vents at Minahasa Seashore, and Mahengetang and Gunung Api Islands

Coral community patterns on some Indonesian reefs influenced by CO2 from underwater volcanic vents and nutrients from eutrophication pressures were examined. The overall aim of the study was to provide an insight into the significance of future ocean acidification compared to eutrophication pressures on tropical coral communities. Coral cover and seawater characteristics at acidified sites (with varied levels of eutrophication), i.e., moderate acidification (pH: 7.87 ± 0.04), low acidification (pH: 8.01 ± 0.04) and reference (pH: 8.2 ± 0.02), were observed at reefs associated with Minahasa Seashore, and Mahengetang and Gunung Api Islands. Results showed that coral community patterns varied among locations and acidified sites, e.g., domination of families such as Alcyoniidae, Acroporidae, Poritidae and Heliporidae, and with different levels of abiotic cover. Surprisingly, pH was not detected as the major determining factor. This finding probably relates to tropical seawater temperatures being high enough to still allow for aragonite deposition even at pH values down to 7.8. Nutrients (phosphate and dissolved inorganic nitrogen) were shown to be the main determining factors that influenced community patterns on the observed coral reefs. Overall, the results indicate that tropical coral reef community patterns will continue to vary as pH decreases to the predicted oceanic value of pH 7.8 over the next 100 years, and bio-geo-ecological characteristics and anthropogenic pressures will be the major factors determining Indonesian tropical coral community structure, compared to pH.

Continue reading ‘Tropical coral reef coral patterns in Indonesian shallow water areas close to underwater volcanic vents at Minahasa Seashore, and Mahengetang and Gunung Api Islands’

Interactive effects of ocean acidification and warming on growth, fitness and survival of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa under different food availabilities

Cold-water corals are important bioengineers that provide structural habitat for a diverse species community. About 70 % of the presently known scleractinian cold-water corals are expected to be exposed to corrosive waters by the end of this century due to ocean acidification. At the same time, the corals will experience a steady warming of their environment. Studies on the sensitivity of cold-water corals to climate change mainly concentrated on single stressors in short-term incubation approaches, thus not accounting for possible long-term acclimatisation and the interactive effects of multiple stressors. Besides, preceding studies did not test for possible compensatory effects of a change in food availability. In this study a multifactorial long-term experiment (6 months) was conducted with end-of-the-century scenarios of elevated pCO2 and temperature levels in order to examine the acclimatisation potential of the cosmopolitan cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa to future climate change related threats. For the first time multiple ocean change impacts including the role of the nutritional status were tested on L. pertusa with regard to growth, ‘fitness’, and survival. Our results show that while L. pertusa is capable of calcifying under elevated CO2 and temperature, its condition (fitness) is more strongly influenced by food availability rather than changes in seawater chemistry. Whereas growth rates increased at elevated temperature (+ 4°C), they decreased under elevated CO2 concentrations (~ 800 µatm). No difference in net growth was detected when corals were exposed to the combination of increased CO2 and temperature compared to ambient conditions. A 10-fold higher food supply stimulated growth under elevated temperature, which was not observed in the combined treatment. This indicates that increased food supply does not compensate for adverse effects of ocean acidification and underlines the importance of considering the nutritional status in studies investigating organism responses under environmental changes.

Continue reading ‘Interactive effects of ocean acidification and warming on growth, fitness and survival of the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa under different food availabilities’

Intra-specific variation reveals potential for adaptation to ocean acidification in a cold-water coral from the Gulf of Mexico

Ocean acidification, the decrease in seawater pH due to the absorption of atmospheric CO2, profoundly threatens the survival of a large number of marine species. Cold-water corals are considered to be among the most vulnerable organisms to ocean acidification because they are already exposed to relatively low pH and corresponding low calcium carbonate saturation states (Ω). Lophelia pertusa is a globally distributed cold-water scleractinian coral that provides critical three-dimensional habitat for many ecologically and economically significant species. In this study, four different genotypes of L. pertusa were exposed to three pH treatments (pH=7.60, 7.75, and 7.90) over a short (two-week) experimental period, and six genotypes were exposed to two pH treatments (pH=7.60, and 7.90) over a long (six-month) experimental period. Their physiological response was measured as net calcification rate and the activity of carbonic anhydrase, a key enzyme in the calcification pathway. In the short-term experiment, net calcification rates did not significantly change with pH, although they were highly variable in the low pH treatment, including some genotypes that maintained positive net calcification in undersaturated conditions. In the six-month experiment, average net calcification was significantly reduced at low pH, with corals exhibiting net dissolution of skeleton. However, one of the same genotypes that maintained positive net calcification (+0.04% day-1) under the low pH treatment in the short-term experiment also maintained positive net calcification longer than the other genotypes in the long-term experiment, although none of the corals maintained positive calcification for the entire 6 months. Average carbonic anhydrase activity was not affected by pH, although some genotypes exhibited small, insignificant, increases in activity after the sixth month. Our results suggest that while net calcification in L. pertusa is adversely affected by ocean acidification in the long term, it is possible that some genotypes may prove to be more resilient than others, particularly to short perturbations of the carbonate system. These results provide evidence that populations of L. pertusa in the Gulf of Mexico may contain the genetic variability necessary to support an adaptive response to future ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Intra-specific variation reveals potential for adaptation to ocean acidification in a cold-water coral from the Gulf of Mexico’

Coral calcification under environmental change: a direct comparison of the alkalinity anomaly and buoyant weight techniques

Two primary methods—the buoyant weight (BW) and alkalinity anomaly (AA) techniques—are currently used to quantify net calcification rates (G) in scleractinian corals. However, it remains unclear whether they are directly comparable since the few method comparisons conducted to date have produced inconsistent results. Further, such a comparison has not been made for tropical corals. We directly compared GBW and GAA in four tropical and one temperate coral species cultured under various pCO2, temperature, and nutrient conditions. A range of protocols for conducting alkalinity depletion incubations was assessed. For the tropical corals, open-top incubations with manual stirring produced GAA that were highly correlated with and not significantly different from GBW. Similarly, GAA of the temperate coral was not significantly different from GBW when incubations provided water motion using a pump, but were significantly lower than GBW by 16% when water motion was primarily created by aeration. This shows that the two techniques can produce comparable calcification rates in corals but only when alkalinity depletion incubations are conducted under specific conditions. General recommendations for incubation protocols are made, especially regarding adequate water motion and incubation times. Further, the re-analysis of published data highlights the importance of using appropriate regression statistics when both variables are random and measured with error. Overall, we recommend the AA technique for investigations of community and short-term day versus night calcification, and the BW technique to measure organism calcification rates integrated over longer timescales due to practical limitations of both methods. Our findings will facilitate the direct comparison of studies measuring coral calcification using either method and thus have important implications for the fields of ocean acidification research and coral biology in general.

Continue reading ‘Coral calcification under environmental change: a direct comparison of the alkalinity anomaly and buoyant weight techniques’

Understanding feedbacks between ocean acidification and coral reef metabolism

Biogeochemical feedbacks from benthic metabolism have been hypothesized as a potential mechanism to buffer some effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs. The article in JGR-Oceans by DeCarlo et al. demonstrates the importance of benthic community health on this feedback from Dongsha Atoll in the South China Sea.

Continue reading ‘Understanding feedbacks between ocean acidification and coral reef metabolism’

Calcification responses to diurnal variation in seawater carbonate chemistry by the coral Acropora formosa

Significant diurnal variation in seawater carbonate chemistry occurs naturally in many coral reef environments, yet little is known of its effect on coral calcification. Laboratory studies on the response of corals to ocean acidification have manipulated the carbonate chemistry of experimental seawater to compare calcification rate changes under present-day and predicted future mean pH/Ωarag conditions. These experiments, however, have focused exclusively on differences in mean chemistry and have not considered diurnal variation. The aim of this study was to compare calcification responses of branching coral Acropora formosa under conditions with and without diurnal variation in seawater carbonate chemistry. To achieve this aim, we explored (1) a method to recreate natural diurnal variation in a laboratory experiment using the biological activities of a coral-reef mesocosm, and (2) a multi-laser 3D scanning method to accurately measure coral surface areas, essential to normalize their calcification rates. We present a cost- and time-efficient method of coral surface area estimation that is reproducible within 2% of the mean of triplicate measurements. Calcification rates were compared among corals subjected to a diurnal range in pH (total scale) from 7.8 to 8.2, relative to those at constant pH values of 7.8, 8.0 or 8.2. Mean calcification rates of the corals at the pH 7.8–8.2 (diurnal variation) treatment were not statistically different from the pH 8.2 treatment and were 34% higher than the pH 8.0 treatment despite similar mean seawater pH and Ωarag. Our results suggest that calcification of adult coral colonies may benefit from diurnal variation in seawater carbonate chemistry. Experiments that compare calcification rates at different constant pH without considering diurnal variation may have limitations.

Continue reading ‘Calcification responses to diurnal variation in seawater carbonate chemistry by the coral Acropora formosa’

Factors affecting coral recruitment and calcium carbonate accretion rates on a Central Pacific coral reef

Coral recruitment and calcium carbonate (CaCO3) accretion are fundamental processes that help maintain coral reefs. Many reefs worldwide have experienced degradation, including a decrease in coral cover and biodiversity. Successful coral recruitment helps degraded reefs to recover, while CaCO3 accretion by early successional benthic organisms maintains the topographic complexity of a coral reef system. It is therefore important to understand the processes that affect coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion rates in order to understand how coral reefs recover from disturbances.

The aim of this thesis was to determine how biophysical forcing factors affect coral recruitment, calcification and bioerosion on a pristine coral reef. I used artificial settlement tiles to measure coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion at ten sites (four on the fore reef, four on the Western Reef Terrace and two at the Entrance Channel) at Palmyra Atoll. Fungia skeletons and pieces of dead coral rock were used to measure bioerosion rates, which were combined with the CaCO3 accretion rates to obtain a net CaCO3 budget of the reef substratum. Interactions between coral recruits and other benthic organisms on the settlement tiles were recorded to determine the settlement preferences and competitive strength of coral recruits. The settlement preference of Pocillopora damicornis for divots shaped like steephead and bumphead parrotfish bites marks was determined by adding P. damicornis larvae to a container with a settlement tile with the aforementioned divots.

I found that coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion are influenced by biophysical forcing factors. Most pocilloporids likely recruit close to their parents while the origin of poritid larvae is much more distant. Pocilloporid recruitment rates were also significantly correlated with the successional stage of the benthic community on the settlement tiles, especially the cover of biofilm and bryozoa. Biofilm and crustose coralline algae (CCA) were preferred as settlement substrata by coral larvae, however both pocilloporids and poritids settled on a large number of different benthic substrata. P. damicornis larvae showed a significant settlement preference for divots shaped like parrotfish bite marks over a flat settlement surface. Coral recruits were good competitors against encrusting algae but were often outcompeted by filamentous and upright algae. Settlement tiles were almost entirely colonised by benthic organisms within three to twelve months of deployment. The mass of CaCO3 deposited onto the settlement tiles negatively correlated with herbivore grazing pressure on the benthic community. Bioerosion rates within pieces of coral (internal bioerosion) increased over time but overall bioerosion rates (internal and external) rarely exceeded CaCO3 deposition by CCA.

My results show how variability in biophysical forcing factors leads to natural variation in coral recruitment and CaCO3 accretion. This thesis highlights the importance of measuring herbivore grazing, CCA and turf algae cover to gain a better understanding of reef resilience. I conclude that models constructed for Caribbean reefs may not be suited to predict resilience in Pacific reefs and that within the Pacific, two different kinds of resilience models need to be constructed, one for human-inhabited coral reefs and one for uninhabited coral reefs.

Continue reading ‘Factors affecting coral recruitment and calcium carbonate accretion rates on a Central Pacific coral reef’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book