Posts Tagged 'corals'

Effects of seawater pCO2 and temperature on calcification and productivity in the coral genus Porites spp.: an exploration of potential interaction mechanisms

Understanding how rising seawater pCO2 and temperatures impact coral aragonite accretion is essential for predicting the future of reef ecosystems. Here, we report 2 long-term (10–11 month) studies assessing the effects of temperature (25 and 28 °C) and both high and low seawater pCO2 (180–750 μatm) on the calcification, photosynthesis and respiration of individual massive Porites spp. genotypes. Calcification rates were highly variable between genotypes, but high seawater pCO2 reduced calcification significantly in 4 of 7 genotypes cultured at 25 °C but in only 1 of 4 genotypes cultured at 28 °C. Increasing seawater temperature enhanced calcification in almost all corals, but the magnitude of this effect was seawater pCO2 dependent. The 3 °C temperature increase enhanced calcification rate on average by 3% at 180 μatm, by 35% at 260 μatm and by > 300% at 750 μatm. The rate increase at high seawater pCO2 exceeds that observed in inorganic aragonites. Responses of gross/net photosynthesis and respiration to temperature and seawater pCO2 varied between genotypes, but rates of all these processes were reduced at the higher seawater temperature. Increases in seawater temperature, below the thermal stress threshold, may mitigate against ocean acidification in this coral genus, but this moderation is not mediated by an increase in net photosynthesis. The response of coral calcification to temperature cannot be explained by symbiont productivity or by thermodynamic and kinetic influences on aragonite formation.

Continue reading ‘Effects of seawater pCO2 and temperature on calcification and productivity in the coral genus Porites spp.: an exploration of potential interaction mechanisms’

Carbon dioxide addition to coral reef waters suppresses net community calcification

Coral reefs feed millions of people worldwide, provide coastal protection and generate billions of dollars annually in tourism revenue. The underlying architecture of a reef is a biogenic carbonate structure that accretes over many years of active biomineralization by calcifying organisms, including corals and algae. Ocean acidification poses a chronic threat to coral reefs by reducing the saturation state of the aragonite mineral of which coral skeletons are primarily composed, and lowering the concentration of carbonate ions required to maintain the carbonate reef. Reduced calcification, coupled with increased bioerosion and dissolution, may drive reefs into a state of net loss this century. Our ability to predict changes in ecosystem function and associated services ultimately hinges on our understanding of community- and ecosystem-scale responses. Past research has primarily focused on the responses of individual species rather than evaluating more complex, community-level responses. Here we use an in situ carbon dioxide enrichment experiment to quantify the net calcification response of a coral reef flat to acidification. We present an estimate of community-scale calcification sensitivity to ocean acidification that is, to our knowledge, the first to be based on a controlled experiment in the natural environment. This estimate provides evidence that near-future reductions in the aragonite saturation state will compromise the ecosystem function of coral reefs.

Continue reading ‘Carbon dioxide addition to coral reef waters suppresses net community calcification’

Coral reef carbonate budgets and ecological drivers in the naturally high temperature and high total alkalinity environment of the Red Sea

The coral structural framework is crucial for maintaining reef ecosystem function and services. Rising seawater temperatures impair the calcification capacity of reef-building organisms on a global scale, but in the Red Sea total alkalinity is naturally high and beneficial to reef growth. It is currently unknown how beneficial and detrimental factors affect the balance between calcification and erosion, and thereby overall reef growth, in the Red Sea. To provide estimates of present-day carbonate budgets and reef growth dynamics in the central Red Sea, we measured in situ net-accretion and net-erosion rates (Gnet) by deployment of limestone blocks to estimate census-based carbonate budgets (Gbudget) in four reef sites along a cross-shelf gradient (25 km). In addition, we assessed abiotic (i.e., temperature, inorganic nutrients, and carbonate system variables) and biotic (i.e., calcifier and bioeroder abundances) variables. Our data show that aragonite saturation states (Ω = 3.65–4.20) were in the upper range compared to the chemistry of other tropical reef sites. Further, Gnet and Gbudget encompassed positive (offshore) and negative (midshore-lagoon and exposed nearshore site) carbonate budgets. Notably, Gbudget maxima were lower compared to reef growth from undisturbed Indian Ocean reefs, but erosive forces for Red Sea reefs were not as strong as observed elsewhere. In line with this, a comparison with recent historical data from the northern Red Sea suggests that overall reef growth in the Red Sea has remained similar since 1995. When assessing reef sites across the shelf gradient, AT correlated well and positive with reef growth (ρ = 0.9), while temperature (ρ = −0.7), pH variation (ρ = −0.8), and pCO2 (ρ = −0.8) were weaker negative correlates. Noteworthy for this oligotrophic sea was the positive effect of PO43− (ρ = 0.7) on reef growth. In the best-fitting distance-based linear model, AT explained about 64 % of Gbudget. Interestingly, parrotfish abundances added up to 78 % of the explained variation, further corroborating recent studies that highlight the importance of parrotfish to reef ecosystem functioning. Our study provides a baseline for reef growth in the central Red Sea that will be particularly useful in assessing future trajectories of reef growth capacities under current and future ocean warming and acidification scenarios.

Continue reading ‘Coral reef carbonate budgets and ecological drivers in the naturally high temperature and high total alkalinity environment of the Red Sea’

The effects of environmental history and thermal stress on coral physiology and immunity

Rising ocean temperatures can induce the breakdown of the symbiosis between reef building corals and Symbiodinium in the phenomenon known as coral bleaching. Environmental history may, however, influence the response of corals to stress and affect bleaching outcomes. A suite of physiological and immunological traits was evaluated to test the effect of environmental history (low vs. high variable pCO2) on the response of the reef coral Montipora capitata to elevated temperature (24.5 °C vs. thermal ramping to 30.5 °C). Heating reduced maximum photochemical efficiency (Fv/Fm) and chlorophyll a but increased tissue melanin in corals relative to the ambient treatment, indicating a role of the melanin synthesis pathway in the early stages of thermal stress. However, interactions of environmental history and temperature treatment were not observed. Rather, parallel reaction norms were the primary response pattern documented across the two temperature treatments with respect to reef environmental history. Corals with a history of greater pCO2 variability had higher constitutive antioxidative and immune activity (i.e., catalase, superoxide dismutase, prophenoloxidase) and Fv/Fm, but lower melanin and chlorophyll a, relative to corals with a history of lower pCO2 variability. This suggests that reef environments with high magnitude pCO2 variability promote greater antioxidant and immune activity in resident corals. These results demonstrate coral physiology and immunity reflect environmental attributes that vary over short distances, and that these differences may buffer the magnitude of thermal stress effects on coral phenotypes.

Continue reading ‘The effects of environmental history and thermal stress on coral physiology and immunity’

Coral reefs will transition to net dissolving before end of century

Ocean acidification refers to the lowering of the ocean’s pH due to the uptake of anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere. Coral reef calcification is expected to decrease as the oceans become more acidic. Dissolving calcium carbonate (CaCO3) sands could greatly exacerbate reef loss associated with reduced calcification but is presently poorly constrained. Here we show that CaCO3 dissolution in reef sediments across five globally distributed sites is negatively correlated with the aragonite saturation state (Ωar) of overlying seawater and that CaCO3 sediment dissolution is 10-fold more sensitive to ocean acidification than coral calcification. Consequently, reef sediments globally will transition from net precipitation to net dissolution when seawater (Ωar) reaches 2.92 ± 0.16 (expected circa 2050 CE). Notably, some reefs are already experiencing net sediment dissolution.

Continue reading ‘Coral reefs will transition to net dissolving before end of century’

Elevated CO2 delays the early development of scleractinian coral Acropora gemmifera

The effects of elevated CO2 on the early life stages of coral were investigated by culturing the pelagic larvae and new recruits of Acropora gemmifera at three concentrations of CO2 (corresponding to pH = 8.1, 7.8 and 7.5, respectively). Acidified seawater resulted in fewer A. gemmifera larvae settling, and led to the production of smaller new recruits by slowing the development of the skeleton. The delayed development of new recruits due to elevated CO2 was consistent with the downregulation of calcification related genes. Several genes related to HCO3− and Ca2+ transporters were downregulated by elevated CO2, with solute carriers (SLC) (membrane transport proteins) possibly playing an important role. The downregulation of these membrane transport proteins might suppress the transport of calcium, bicarbonate and organic matter, resulting in the delayed development of A. gemmifera.

Continue reading ‘Elevated CO2 delays the early development of scleractinian coral Acropora gemmifera’

Behavior of brooded coral larvae in response to elevated pCO2

Elevated pCO2 threatens coral reefs through impaired calcification. However, the extent to which elevated pCO2 affects the distribution of the pelagic larvae of scleractinian corals, and how this may be interpreted in the context of ocean acidification (OA), remains unknown. We tested the hypothesis that elevated pCO2 affects one aspect of the behavior (i.e., motility) of brooded larvae from Pocillopora damicornis in Okinawa (Japan), and used UV-transparent tubes that were 68-cm long (45 mm ID) to incubate larvae on a shallow fringing reef. Replicate tubes were filled with seawater at ~400 μatm or ~1,000 μatm pCO2, stocked with 50 larvae each, and incubated vertically for 12 h with their midpoints at 0.3-m (shallow) or 3.3-m (deep) depth over a reef at 4-m depth. Larval behavior was assayed through their position in the tubes, which was scored in situ every 4 h beginning at 08:00 h. Lipid content was measured at the end of the experiment as a potential driver of behavior through its effects on larval buoyancy. Larval position in the tubes varied between depths and time of day at ~400 μatm pCO2 and ~1,000 μatm pCO2. At ~400 μatm, larvae moved toward the top (0.1-m) of shallow tubes throughout the day, but in the deep tubes they aggregated at the bottom of the tubes from 08:00 to 20:00 h. In contrast, larvae incubated at ~1,000 μatm pCO2 aggregated at the bottom of shallow tubes at 08:00 and 20:00 h, however in the deep tubes they were found in the bottom throughout the day. As lipid content of the larvae declined 23–25% at ~1,000 vs. ~400 μatm pCO2, loss of lipid may be a cause of modified larval behavior at high pCO2. If the pCO2-mediated changes in behavior and lipid content during this short experiment occur during longer exposures to high pCO2, our results suggest OA could alter the dispersal capacity of brooded coral larvae.

Continue reading ‘Behavior of brooded coral larvae in response to elevated pCO2’

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book