Posts Tagged 'corals'

Influences of coral genotype and seawater pCO2 on skeletal Ba/Ca and Mg/Ca in cultured massive Porites spp. corals


• KD Ba/Ca vary significantly between massive Porites spp. coral genotypes.
• Seawater pCO2 affects KD Ba/Ca significantly in 1 of 3 coral genotypes.
• KD Mg/Ca varies significantly between some duplicates of the same coral.


Coral skeletal Ba/Ca is a proxy for seawater Ba/Ca, used to infer oceanic upwelling and terrigenous runoff while [Mg2+] is implicated in the control of coral biomineralisation. We cultured large individuals (>12 cm diameter) of 3 genotypes of massive adult Porites spp. corals over a range of seawater pCO2 to test how atmospheric CO2 variations affect skeletal Ba/Ca and Mg/Ca. We identified the skeleton deposited after a 5 month acclimation period and analysed the skeletal Ba/Ca and Mg/Ca by secondary ion mass spectrometry. Skeletal Mg/Ca varies significantly between some duplicate colonies of the same coral genotype hampering identification of genotype and seawater pCO2 effects. Coral aragonite:seawater Ba/Ca partition coefficients (KD Ba/Ca) do not vary significantly between duplicate colonies of the same coral genotype. We observe large variations in KD Ba/Ca between different massive Porites spp. coral genotypes irrespective of seawater pCO2. These variations do not correlate with coral calcification, photosynthesis or respiration rates or with skeletal KD Mg/Ca or KD Sr/Ca. Seawater pCO2 does not significantly affect KD Ba/Ca in 2 genotypes but KD Ba/Ca is significantly higher at 750 μatm seawater pCO2 than at 180 μatm in 1 P. lutea genotype. Genotype specific variations in KD Ba/Ca between different Porites spp. could yield large errors (~250%) in reconstructions of seawater Ba when comparing Ba/Ca between corals. Analysis of fossil coral specimens deposited at low seawater pCO2, may underestimate past seawater Ba/Ca and ocean upwelling/freshwater inputs when compared with modern specimens but the effect is small in comparison with the observed difference between coral genotypes.

Continue reading ‘Influences of coral genotype and seawater pCO2 on skeletal Ba/Ca and Mg/Ca in cultured massive Porites spp. corals’

State of corals and coral reefs of the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador): past, present and future

Coral populations and structural coral reefs have undergone severe reductions and losses respectively over large parts of the Galápagos Islands during and following the 1982–83 El Niño event. Coral tissue loss amounted to 95% across the Archipelago. Also at that time, all coral reefs in the central and southern islands disappeared following severe degradation and eventual collapse due primarily to intense bioerosion and low recruitment. Six sites in the southern islands have demonstrated low to moderate coral community (scattered colonies, but no carbonate framework) recovery. The iconic pocilloporid reef at Devil’s Crown (Floreana Island) experienced recovery to 2007, then severe mortality during a La Niña cooling event, and is again (as of 2017) undergoing rapid recovery. Notable recovery has occurred at the central (Marchena) and northern islands (Darwin and Wolf). Of the 17 structural reefs first observed in the mid-1970s, the single surviving reef (Wellington Reef) at Darwin Island remains in a positive growth mode. The remainder either degraded to a coral community or was lost. Retrospective analyses of the age structure of corals killed in 1983, and isotopic signatures of the skeletal growth record of massive corals suggest the occurrence of robust coral populations during at least a 500-year period before 1983. The greatest potential threats to the recovery and persistence of coral reefs include: ocean warming and acidification, bioerosion, coral diseases, human population growth (increasing numbers of residents and tourists), overfishing, invasive species, pollution, and habitat destruction. Such a diverse spectrum of disturbances, acting alone or in combination, are expected to continue to cause local and archipelago-wide mortality and degradation of the coral reef ecosystem.

Continue reading ‘State of corals and coral reefs of the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador): past, present and future’

Ocean acidification and coral bleaching

Simultaneous with the increases in global sea surface temperature, increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is driving changes in the chemistry of the oceans—a process known as ocean acidification. Over the last two decades, reef-related ocean acidification research has focused primarily on the consequences of elevated CO2 on calcification. The impacts of ocean acidification on other critical processes such as coral-algal symbioses and bleaching thresholds are less well known. In this chapter, I review the available literature on the impacts of ocean acidification on coral bleaching. I begin by providing context for ocean acidification and its impacts on coral reefs. I focus primarily on primary literature investigating the effects of CO2 on photophysiology, coral–algal symbioses, and bleaching responses while shedding light on information needs and unresolved issues. I also briefly touch on environmental factors other than temperature and ocean acidification that have the potential to influence coral bleaching responses (e.g., nutrients).

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Quantitative interpretation of vertical profiles of calcium and pH in the coral coelenteron


• In this study, pH and Ca2+ microsensors were reported together with a theoretical analysis by a reaction-diffusion model to study the dynamics of pH and Ca2+ in the coelenteron of the reef corals Turbinaria reniformis and Acropora millepora.
• Our study showed that Ca2+ concentrations linearly decreased from the mouth to the base of the coelenteron due to calcification.
• The estimated H+ gradient between the coelenteron cavity and the calcification site was >10 times higher than previously predicted between outside seawater and the calcification site.
• Our numerical simulation reveals that OA reduces the internal pH at the base of the coelenteron, and this pH decline is greatly amplified in corals with a deeper coelenteron.


Scleratinian corals (hard corals) and their symbiotic algae are the ecological engineers of biodiverse and geological important coral reef habitats. The complex, linked physiological processes that enable the holobiont (coral + algae) to calcify and generate reef structures are consequently of great interest. However, the mechanism of calcification is difficult to study for several reasons including the small spatial scales of the processes and the close coupling between the symbiont and host. In this study, we explore the utility of pH and Ca2+ microelectrodes for constraining the rates and spatial distribution of photosynthesis, respiration, and calcification. The work focuses on vertical profiles of pH and Ca2+ through the coelenteron cavity, a semi-isolated compartment of modified seawater amenable to quantitative interpretation. In two studied species, Turbinaria reniformis and Acropora millepora, Ca2+ concentrations decreased in a roughly linear manner from the mouth to the base of the coelenteron, indicating the primary physiological process affecting Ca2+ concentration is removal for calcification below the coelenteron. In contrast, the H+ concentration remained relatively constant over much of the coelenteron cavity before it increased sharply toward the base of the coelenteron, indicative of proton-pumping from the calcification fluid below. The estimated H+ gradient between the coelenteron cavity and the calcification site was >10 times higher than previously predicted. Consequently, the energy required to export protons from the calcifying fluid was estimated to be ~3 times higher than previously calculated. A one-dimensional reaction-diffusion model was used to interpret the pH profile considering the effects of photosynthesis, respiration, and calcification. This model provided a good fit to the observed pH profile and helped to constrain the rates and spatial distribution of these processes. Our modeling results also suggested that adult corals with deeper polyps may be more sensitive to ocean acidification (OA) because of enhanced difficulty to transport H+ out of the coelenteron and into the surrounding seawater.

Continue reading ‘Quantitative interpretation of vertical profiles of calcium and pH in the coral coelenteron’

Physiological responses of corals to ocean acidification and copper exposure


  • Differences in copper accumulation and sensitivity were observed between coral species and between coral and zooxanthellae
  • Increased CO2 did not influence copper accumulation
  • Synergistic effects from combined CO2 and copper exposure were observed in corals
  • Altered enzyme activity was observed in both coral exposed to copper or CO2
  • A. cervicornis was more affected by copper and P. damicornis was more affected by increased CO2


Acidification and land-based sources of pollution have been linked to widespread declines of coral cover in coastal reef ecosystems. In this study, two coral species, Acropora cervicornis and Pocillopora damicornis were exposed to increased copper at two CO2 levels for 96 h. Copper accumulation and anti-oxidant enzyme activities were measured. Copper accumulation only increased in A. cervicornis zooxanthellae and corresponded with photosynthetic toxicity. Enzyme activities in both coral species were affected; however, A. cervicornis was more sensitive than P. damicornis, and zooxanthellae were more affected than animal fractions of holobionts. Generally, activities of all anti-oxidant enzymes increased, with copper exposure in corals; whereas, activities of glutathione reductase and to some degree glutathione peroxidase were observed due to increasing CO2 exposure alone. Exposure to copper in combination with higher CO2 resulted in a synergistic response in some cases. These results provide insight into mechanisms of copper and CO2 impacts in corals.

Continue reading ‘Physiological responses of corals to ocean acidification and copper exposure’

The influence of diel carbonate chemistry fluctuations on the calcification rate of Acropora cervicornis under present day and future acidification conditions


• Fluctuations in carbonate chemistry enhance the growth of threatened staghorn coral.
• Mean and magnitude of pH oscillations are important in predicting the response of corals to OA.
• A new high-accuracy experimental setup allows real-time control of OA conditions.


Ocean acidification (OA) will result in lower calcification rates for numerous marine taxa, including many species of corals which create important reef habitat. Seawater carbonate chemistry fluctuates over cycles ranging from days to seasons, often driven by biological processes such as respiration and photosynthesis. The magnitude of diel fluctuations varies spatially and may become more pronounced in the future due to OA. Due to technical constraints, OA experiments that incorporate diel variability into treatments are few in number. As a result, the degree to which coral reef organisms are influenced by ambient daily carbonate chemistry variability is poorly understood. Here we describe an experiment conducted in a novel seawater system which can independently manipulate carbonate chemistry in 16 separate aquaria, in real time, allowing precise control of the mean and magnitude of pH oscillations while minimizing pseudoreplication. Five genotypes of the threatened Caribbean coral Acropora cervicornis were subjected to a total of five pH treatments, 7.80 ± 0.20, 7.80 ± 0.10, and 7.80 ± 0.00, as well as 8.05 ± 0.10 and 8.05 ± 0.00. Those corals exposed to variable contemporary conditions (8.05 ± 0.10) calcified faster than those in current and future static treatment levels, which did not significantly differ from each other. Variable contemporary pH also resulted in faster growth rates than highly variable future conditions (7.80 ± 0.20), but were not significantly different than future conditions with the same ±0.10 diel pH oscillation. These findings support the importance of incorporating diel variability into OA experiments and suggest that more variable natural ecosystems may yield higher calcification rates for corals.

Continue reading ‘The influence of diel carbonate chemistry fluctuations on the calcification rate of Acropora cervicornis under present day and future acidification conditions’

Research gaps of coral ecology in a changing world


• Ocean warming, acidification, pollution, fishing, tourism threaten corals worldwide.
• Coral responses to these threats are known in only 37 of 141 marine ecoregions.
• Assessing human impacts in deeper zones (>30 m depth) are urgent anywhere.
• Conservation actions should be fast in spite of the geographic and theoretical gaps.


Coral reefs have long inspired marine ecologists and conservationists around the world due to their ecological and socioeconomic importance. Much knowledge on the anthropogenic impacts on coral species has been accumulated, but relevant research gaps on coral ecology remain underappreciated in human-modified seascapes. In this review we assessed 110 studies on coral responses to five major human disturbances– acidification, climate change, overfishing, pollution and non-regulated tourism –to identify geographic and theoretical gaps in coral ecology and help to guide further researches on the topic. We searched for papers in Web of Science published from 2000 to 2016 and classified them according to the ocean, ecoregion, human threat, level of biological organization, study approach, method of data collection, depth of data collected, and type of coral response. Most studies were carried out in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean (36.3 and 31.9%, respectively) and used observational approach (60%) with scuba diving (36.3%) to assess the impact of ocean warming (55.4%) on coral communities (58.2%). Only 37 of the 141 global ecoregions that contain coral reefs were studied. All studies were restricted to shallow waters (0.5–27 m depth) and reported negative responses of corals to human disturbance. Our results reinforce the notion that corals are sensitive to anthropogenic changes. They reveal the scarcity of information on coral responses to pollution, tourism, overfishing and acidification, particularly in mesophotic ecosystems (>30 m depth) and in ecoregions outside the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean. Experimental studies at the individual and population levels should be also encouraged.

Continue reading ‘Research gaps of coral ecology in a changing world’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book