Posts Tagged 'corals'

Rapid bioerosion in a tropical upwelling coral reef

Coral reefs persist in an accretion-erosion balance, which is critical for understanding the natural variability of sediment production, reef accretion, and their effects on the carbonate budget. Bioerosion (i.e. biodegradation of substrate) and encrustation (i.e. calcified overgrowth on substrate) influence the carbonate budget and the ecological functions of coral reefs, by substrate formation/consolidation/erosion, food availability and nutrient cycling. This study investigates settlement succession and carbonate budget change by bioeroding and encrusting calcifying organisms on experimentally deployed coral substrates (skeletal fragments of Stylophora pistillata branches). The substrates were deployed in a marginal coral reef located in the Gulf of Papagayo (Costa Rica, Eastern Tropical Pacific) for four months during the northern winter upwelling period (December 2013 to March 2014), and consecutively sampled after each month. Due to the upwelling environmental conditions within the Eastern Tropical Pacific, this region serves as a natural laboratory to study ecological processes such as bioerosion, which may reflect climate change scenarios. Time-series analyses showed a rapid settlement of bioeroders, particularly of lithophagine bivalves of the genus Lithophaga/Leiosolenus (Dillwyn, 1817), within the first two months of exposure. The observed enhanced calcium carbonate loss of coral substrate (>30%) may influence seawater carbon chemistry. This is evident by measurements of an elevated seawater pH (>8.2) and aragonite saturation state (Ωarag >3) at Matapalo Reef during the upwelling period, when compared to a previous upwelling event observed at a nearby site in distance to a coral reef (Marina Papagayo). Due to the resulting local carbonate buffer effect of the seawater, an influx of atmospheric CO2 into reef waters was observed. Substrates showed no secondary cements in thin-section analyses, despite constant seawater carbonate oversaturation (Ωarag >2.8) during the field experiment. Micro Computerized Tomography (μCT) scans and microcast-embeddings of the substrates revealed that the carbonate loss was primarily due to internal macrobioerosion and an increase in microbioerosion. This study emphasizes the interconnected effects of upwelling and carbonate bioerosion on the reef carbonate budget and the ecological turnovers of carbonate producers in tropical coral reefs under environmental change.

Continue reading ‘Rapid bioerosion in a tropical upwelling coral reef’

Corals sustain growth but not skeletal density across the Florida Keys Reef Tract despite ongoing warming

Through the continuous growth of their carbonate skeletons, corals record information about past environmental conditions and their effect on colony fitness. Here, we characterize century‐scale growth records of inner and outer reef corals across ~200 km of the Florida Keys Reef Tract (FKRT) using skeletal cores extracted from two ubiquitous reef‐building species, Siderastrea siderea and Pseudodiploria strigosa. We find that corals across the FKRT have sustained extension and calcification rates over the past century but have experienced a long‐term reduction in skeletal density, regardless of reef zone. Notably, P. strigosa colonies exhibit temporary reef zone‐dependent reductions in extension rate corresponding to two known extreme temperature events in 1969‐70 and 1997‐98. We propose that the subtropical climate of the FKRT may buffer corals from chronic growth declines associated with climate warming, though the significant reduction in skeletal density may indicate underlying vulnerability to present and future trends in ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘Corals sustain growth but not skeletal density across the Florida Keys Reef Tract despite ongoing warming’

Possible roles of glutamine synthetase in responding to environmental changes in a scleractinian coral

Glutamine synthetase is an enzyme that plays an essential role in the metabolism of nitrogen by catalyzing the condensation of glutamate and ammonia to form glutamine. In this study, the activity and responses of glutamine synthetase towards environmental changes were investigated in the scleractinian coral Pocillopora damicornis. The identified glutamine synthetase (PdGS) was comprised of 362 amino acids and predicted to contain one Gln-synt_N and one Gln-synt_C domain. Expression of PdGS mRNA increased significantly after 12 h (1.28-fold, p < 0.05) of exposure to elevated ammonium, while glutamine synthetase activity increased significantly from 12 to 24 h, peaking at 12 h (54.80 U mg−1, p < 0.05). The recombinant protein of the mature PdGS (rPdGS) was expressed in E. coli BL21, and its activities were detected under different temperature, pH and glufosinate levels. The highest levels of rPdGS activity were observed at 25 °C and pH 8 respectively, but decreased significantly at lower temperature, and higher or lower pH. Furthermore, the level of rPdGS activities was negatively correlated with the concentration of glufosinate, specifically decreasing at 10−5 mol L−1 glufosinate to be less than 50% (p < 0.05) of that in the blank. These results collectively suggest that PdGS, as a homologue of glutamine synthetase, was involved in the nitrogen assimilation in the scleractinian coral. Further, its physiological functions could be suppressed by high temperature, ocean acidification and residual glufosinate, which might further regulate the coral-zooxanthella symbiosis via the nitrogen metabolism in the scleractinian coral P. damicornis.

Continue reading ‘Possible roles of glutamine synthetase in responding to environmental changes in a scleractinian coral’

Water chemistry reveals a significant decline in coral calcification rates in the southern Red Sea

Experimental and field evidence support the assumption that global warming and ocean acidification is decreasing rates of calcification in the oceans. Local measurements of coral growth rates in reefs from various locations have suggested a decline of ~6–10% per decade since the late 1990’s. Here, by measuring open water strontium-to-alkalinity ratios along the Red Sea, we show that the net contribution of hermatypic corals to the CaCO3 budget of the southern and central Red Sea declined by ~100% between 1998 and 2015 and remained low between 2015 and 2018. Measured differences in total alkalinity of the Red Sea surface water indicate a 26 ± 16% decline in total CaCO3 deposition rates along the basin. These findings suggest that coral reefs of the southern Red Sea are under severe stress and demonstrate the strength of geochemical measurements as cost-effective indicators for calcification trends on regional scales.

Continue reading ‘Water chemistry reveals a significant decline in coral calcification rates in the southern Red Sea’

The acute transcriptomic response of coral-algae interactions to pH fluctuation

Little is known about how the coral host and its endosymbiont interactions change when they are exposed to a sudden nonlinear environmental transformation, yet this is crucial to coral survival in extreme events. Here, we present a study that investigates the transcriptomic response of corals and their endosymbionts to an abrupt change in pH (pH 7.60 and 8.35). The transcriptome indicates that the endosymbiont demonstrates a synchronized downregulation in carbon acquisition and fixation processes and may result in photosynthetic dysfunction in endosymbiotic Symbiodinium, suggesting that the mutualistic continuum of coral–algae interactions is compromised in response to high-CO2 exposure. Transcriptomic data also shows that corals are still capable of calcifying in response to the low pH but could experience a series of negative effects on their energy dynamics, which including protein damage, DNA repair, ion transport, cellular apoptosis, calcification acclimation and maintenance of intracellular pH homeostasis and stress tolerance to pH swing. This suggests enhanced energy costs for coral metabolic adaptation. This study provides a deeper understanding of the biological basis related to the symbiotic corals in response to extreme future climate change and environmental variability.

Continue reading ‘The acute transcriptomic response of coral-algae interactions to pH fluctuation’

The effect of ocean acidification on tropical coral calcification: insights from calcification fluid DIC chemistry

Highlights

• Calcification fluid pH and [co-precipitating DIC] are positively correlated in all corals.
• [Precipitating DIC] and coral calcification rate are positively correlated in all but one outlier coral.
• Corals cultured at high seawater pCO2 usually have low fluid pH and [precipitating DIC]. Reduced DIC substrate at the calcification site is the likely cause of decreased coral calcification rates under ocean acidification scenarios.
• The outlier coral maintained a high calcification fluid pH and [co-precipitating DIC] at high seawater pCO2 but exhibited a low calcification rate suggesting that corals have a limited energy budget for calcification which is apportioned between proton extrusion from the calcification site and other processes e.g. synthesis of the skeletal organic matrix.

Abstract

Ocean acidification typically reduces calcification in tropical marine corals but the mechanism for this process is not understood. We use skeletal boron geochemistry (B/Ca and δ11B) to reconstruct the calcification fluid DIC of corals cultured over both high and low seawater pCO2 (180, 400 and 750 μatm). We observe strong positive correlations between calcification fluid pH and concentrations of the DIC species potentially implicated in aragonite precipitation (be they CO32−, HCO3 or HCO3 + CO32−). Similarly, with the exception of one outlier, the fluid concentrations of precipitating DIC species are strongly positively correlated with coral calcification rate. Corals cultured at high seawater pCO2 usually have low calcification fluid pH and low concentrations of precipitating DIC, suggesting that a reduction in DIC substrate at the calcification site is responsible for decreased calcification. The outlier coral maintained high pHCF and DICCF at high seawater pCO2 but exhibited a reduced calcification rate indicating that the coral has a limited energy budget to support proton extrusion from the calcification fluid and meet other calcification demands. We find no evidence that increasing seawater pCO2 enhances diffusion of CO2 into the calcification site. Instead the overlying [CO2] available to diffuse into the calcification site appears broadly comparable between seawater pCO2 treatments, implying that metabolic activity (respiration and photosynthesis) generates a similar [CO2] in the vicinity of the calcification site regardless of seawater pCO2.

Continue reading ‘The effect of ocean acidification on tropical coral calcification: insights from calcification fluid DIC chemistry’

Thresholds and drivers of coral calcification responses to climate change

Increased temperature and CO2‐levels are considered key drivers of coral reef degradation. However, individual assessments of ecological responses (calcification) to these stressors are often contradicting. To detect underlying drivers of heterogeneity in coral calcification responses, we developed a procedure for the inclusion of stress‐effect relationships in ecological meta‐analyses. We applied this technique to a dataset of 294 empirical observations from 62 peer‐reviewed publications testing individual and combined effects of elevated temperature and pCO2 on coral calcification. Our results show an additive interaction between warming and acidification, which reduces coral calcification by 20% when pCO2 levels exceed 700 ppm and temperature increases by 3°C. However, stress levels varied among studies and significantly affected outcomes, with unaffected calcification rates under moderate stresses (pCO2 ≤ 700 ppm, ΔT < 3°C). Future coral reef carbon budgets will therefore depend on the magnitude of pCO2 and temperature elevations and, thus, anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Accounting for stress‐effect relationships enabled us to identify additional drivers of heterogeneity including coral taxa, life stage, habitat, food availability, climate, and season. These differences can aid reef management identifying refuges and conservation priorities, but without a global effort to reduce CO2 emissions, coral capacity to build reefs will be at risk.

Continue reading ‘Thresholds and drivers of coral calcification responses to climate change’


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