Posts Tagged 'corals'

Net community metabolism and seawater carbonate chemistry scale non-intuitively with coral cover

Coral cover and reef health have been declining globally as reefs face local and global stressors including higher temperature and ocean acidification (OA). Ocean warming and acidification will alter rates of benthic reef metabolism (i.e., primary production, respiration, calcification, and CaCO3 dissolution), but our understanding of community and ecosystem level responses is limited in terms of functional, spatial, and temporal scales. Furthermore, dramatic changes in coral cover and benthic metabolism could alter seawater carbonate chemistry on coral reefs, locally alleviating or exacerbating OA. This study examines how benthic metabolic rates scale with changing coral cover (0-100%), and the subsequent influence of these coral communities on seawater carbonate chemistry based on mesocosm experiments in Bermuda and Hawaii. In Bermuda, no significant differences in benthic metabolism or seawater carbonate chemistry were observed for low (40%) and high (80%) coral cover due to large variability within treatments. In contrast, significant differences were detected between treatments in Hawaii with benthic metabolic rates increasing with increasing coral cover. Observed increases in daily net community calcification and nighttime net respiration scaled proportionally with coral cover. This was not true for daytime net community organic carbon production rates, which increased the most between 0 to 20% coral cover and then less so between 20% to 100%. These differences in scaling resulted in larger diel variability in seawater carbonate chemistry as coral cover increased. To place the results of the mesocosm experiments into a broader context, in situ seawater carbon dioxide (CO2) at three reef sites in Bermuda and Hawaii were also evaluated; reefs with higher coral cover experienced a greater range of diel CO2 levels, complementing the mesocosm results. The results from this study highlight the need to consider the natural complexity of reefs and additional biological and physical factors that influence seawater carbonate chemistry on larger spatial and longer temporal scales. Coordinated efforts combining various research approaches (e.g. experiments, field studies, and models) will be required to better understand how benthic metabolism integrates across functional, spatial, and temporal scales, and for making predictions on how coral reefs will respond to climate change.

Continue reading ‘Net community metabolism and seawater carbonate chemistry scale non-intuitively with coral cover’

The combined effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on the early life history stages of Caribbean coral and its implication for the recovery potential of Florida reefs

The early life history stages of coral are an essential component determining the recovery potential of coral reefs through sexual reproduction and recruitment. The pelagic larval phase is inherent in all coral species regardless of differing reproductive strategies and is the only time in coral life history where large scale movement is possible allowing for the repopulation of reef areas both within and outside the natal reef habitat. In the face of climate change, the larval dispersal and recruitment phase will take place in a warmer more acidic ocean if we continue on the path of unabated fossil fuel emissions. While much research has focused on how increased temperature or ocean acidification affect coral larvae independently, our understanding of how these factors interact to shape larval response is limited, especially in regards to Caribbean coral species.

To gain a better understanding of how the early life history stages of Caribbean coral may be affected by climate change, this dissertation investigates the effects of increased temperature (2.5 °C above historical averages in the Florida Keys) and carbon dioxide levels (900-1000 parts per million CO2) on corals from the Florida Reef tract by investigating the effects on larval metabolism, survivorship, settlement, and post-settlement growth and survival. Additionally, a coupled biophysical model was developed to determine the potential changes in connectivity that may result from the biological effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on the larval phase. The larval respiratory response of three Caribbean coral species revealed Orbicella faveolata as the most environmentally responsive with significant increases in respiration after 1 day exposure to increased temperature (68% greater than control conditions) with a counteracting effect of ocean acidification significantly decreasing respiration. The changes in metabolism over time correlated with decreased time to competency under elevated temperature in O. faveolata larvae, resulting in a greater number of settlers (76% greater than control) and a relative increase in local retention and self-recruitment rates as revealed by the biophysical model (5 and 7% greater than control respectively). However, when increased temperature occurred in combination with elevated CO2 levels, respiration was not significantly increased relative to control conditions and development of competency is minimally impacted. This resulted in a smaller increase in settlers (13% greater than control) and no significant changes in connectivity patterns. The post-settlement phase was similarly impacted with counteracting effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on recruit growth.

Overall, this dissertation reveals the potential for adaptation to increased temperature in at least one important coral species (Orbicella faveolata) that is greatly diminished when encountered in combination with ocean acidification. These results encourage the reduction of carbon emissions to give coral species the chance to adapt to elevated temperatures through the recruitment of more resilient individuals without the additional stress of ocean acidification.

Continue reading ‘The combined effects of increased temperature and ocean acidification on the early life history stages of Caribbean coral and its implication for the recovery potential of Florida reefs’

Common reef-building coral in the Northern Red Sea resistant to elevated temperature and acidification

Coral reefs are currently experiencing substantial ecological impoverishment as a result of anthropogenic stressors, and the majority of reefs are facing immediate risk. Increasing ocean surface temperatures induce frequent coral mass bleaching events—the breakdown of the nutritional photo-symbiosis with intracellular algae (genus: Symbiodinium). Here, we report that Stylophora pistillata from a highly diverse reef in the Gulf of Aqaba showed no signs of bleaching despite spending 1.5 months at 1–2°C above their long-term summer maximum (amounting to 11 degree heating weeks) and a seawater pH of 7.8. Instead, their symbiotic dinoflagellates exhibited improved photochemistry, higher pigmentation and a doubling in net oxygen production, leading to a 51% increase in primary productivity. Nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry imaging revealed subtle cellular-level shifts in carbon and nitrogen metabolism under elevated temperatures, but overall host and symbiont biomass proxies were not significantly affected. Now living well below their thermal threshold in the Gulf of Aqaba, these corals have been evolutionarily selected for heat tolerance during their migration through the warm Southern Red Sea after the last ice age. This may allow them to withstand future warming for a longer period of time, provided that successful environmental conservation measures are enacted across national boundaries in the region.

Continue reading ‘Common reef-building coral in the Northern Red Sea resistant to elevated temperature and acidification’

The regulation of coralline algal physiology, an in-situ study of Corallina officinalis (Corallinales, Rhodophyta)

Calcified macroalgae are critical components of marine ecosystems worldwide, but face considerable threat both from climate change (increasing water temperatures) and ocean acidification (decreasing ocean pH and carbonate saturation). It is thus fundamental to constrain the relationships between key abiotic stressors and the physiological processes that govern coralline algal growth and survival. Here we characterize the complex relationships between the abiotic environment of rock pool habitats, and the physiology of the geniculate red coralline alga, Corallina officinalis (Corallinales, Rhodophyta). Paired assessment of irradiance, water temperature and carbonate chemistry, with C. officinalis net production (NP), respiration (R) and net calcification (NG) was performed in a south-west UK field site, at multiple temporal scales (seasonal, diurnal and tidal). Strong seasonality was observed in NP and night-time R, with a Pmax of 22.35 μmol DIC gDW−1 h−1, Ek of 300 μmol photons m−2 s−1 and R of 3.29 μmol DIC gDW−1 −1 determined across the complete annual cycle. NP showed a significant exponential relationship with irradiance (R2 = 0.67), although was temperature dependent given ambient irradiance > Ek for the majority of the annual cycle. Over tidal emersion periods, dynamics in NP highlighted the ability of C. officinalis to acquire inorganic carbon despite significant fluctuations in carbonate chemistry. Across all data, NG was highly predictable (R2 = 0.80) by irradiance, water temperature and carbonate chemistry, providing a NGmax of 3.94  μmol CaCO3 gDW−1 h−1, and Ek of 113 μmol photons m−2 s−1. Light-NG showed strong seasonality and significant coupling to NP (R2 = 0.65), as opposed to rock pool water carbonate saturation. In contrast, the direction of dark-NG (dissolution vs. precipitation) was strongly related to carbonate saturation, mimicking abiotic precipitation dynamics. Data demonstrated that C. officinalis is adapted to both long-term (seasonal) and short-term (tidal) variability in environmental stressors, although the balance between metabolic processes and the external environment may be significantly impacted by future climate change.

Continue reading ‘The regulation of coralline algal physiology, an in-situ study of Corallina officinalis (Corallinales, Rhodophyta)’

Computing the carbonate chemistry of the coral calcifying medium and its response to ocean acidification

Critical to determining vulnerability or resilience of reef corals to Ocean Acidification (OA) is a clearer understanding of the extent to which corals can control carbonate chemistry in their Extracellular Calcifying Medium (ECM) where the CaCO3 skeleton is produced. Here, we employ a mathematical framework to calculate ECM aragonite saturation state (Ωarag.(ECM)) and carbonate system ion concentration using measurements of calcification rate, seawater characteristics (temperature, salinity and pH) and ECM pH (pH(ECM)). Our calculations of ECM carbonate chemistry at current-day seawater pH, indicate that Ωarag.(ECM) ranges from ∼10 to 38 (mean 20.41), i.e. about 5 to 6-fold higher than seawater. Accordingly, Dissolved Inorganic Carbon (DIC) and Total Alkalinity (TA) were calculated to be around 3 times higher in the ECM than in seawater. We also assessed the effects of acidification on ECM chemical properties of the coral Stylophora pistillata. At reduced seawater pH our calculations indicate that Ωarag.(ECM) remains almost constant. DIC(ECM) and TA(ECM) gradually increase as seawater pH declines, reaching values about 5 to 6-fold higher than in seawater, respectively for DIC and TA. We propose that these ECM characteristics buffer the effect of acidification and explain why certain corals continue to produce CaCO3 even when seawater chemistry is less favourable.

Continue reading ‘Computing the carbonate chemistry of the coral calcifying medium and its response to ocean acidification’

Primary life stage boron isotope and trace elements incorporation in aposymbiotic Acropora millepora coral under ocean acidification and warming

Early-life stages of reef-building corals are vital to coral existence and reef maintenance. It is therefore crucial to study juvenile coral response to future climate change pressures. Moreover, corals are known to be reliable recorders of environmental conditions in their skeletal materials. Aposymbiotic Acropora millepora larvae were cultured in different seawater temperature (27 and 29ºC) and pCO2 (390 and 750 µatm) conditions to understand the impacts of ‘end of century’ ocean acidification (OA) and ocean warming (OW) conditions on skeletal morphology and geochemistry. The experimental conditions impacted primary polyp juvenile coral skeletal morphology and growth resulting in asymmetric translucent appearances with brittle skeleton features. The impact of OA resulted in microstructure differences with decreased precipitation or lengthening of fasciculi and disorganized aragonite crystals that led to more concentrations of centers of calcifications. The coral skeletal δ11B composition measured by laser ablation MC-ICP-MS was significantly affected by pCO2 (p = 0.0024) and water temperature (p = 1.46 x 10-5). Reconstructed pH of the primary polyp skeleton using the δ11B proxy suggests a difference in coral calcification site and seawater pH consistent with previously observed coral pH up-regulation. Similarly, trace element results measured by laser ablation ICP-MS indicate the impact of pCO2. Primary polyp juvenile Sr/Ca ratio indicates a bias in reconstructed sea surface temperature (SST) under higher pCO2 conditions. Coral microstructure content changes (center of calcification and fasciculi) due to OA possibly contributed to the variability in B/Ca ratios. Our results imply that increasing OA and OW may lead to coral acclimation issues and species-specific inaccuracies of the commonly used Sr/Ca-SST proxy.

Continue reading ‘Primary life stage boron isotope and trace elements incorporation in aposymbiotic Acropora millepora coral under ocean acidification and warming’

Lipid consumption in coral larvae differs among sites: a consideration of environmental history in a global ocean change scenario

The success of early life-history stages is an environmentally sensitive bottleneck for many marine invertebrates. Responses of larvae to environmental stress may vary due to differences in maternal investment of energy stores and acclimatization/adaptation of a population to local environmental conditions. In this study, we compared two populations from sites with different environmental regimes (Moorea and Taiwan). We assessed the responses of Pocillopora damicornis larvae to two future co-occurring environmental stressors: elevated temperature and ocean acidification. Larvae from Taiwan were more sensitive to temperature, producing fewer energy-storage lipids under high temperature. In general, planulae in Moorea and Taiwan responded similarly to pCO2. Additionally, corals in the study sites with different environments produced larvae with different initial traits, which may have shaped the different physiological responses observed. Notably, under ambient conditions, planulae in Taiwan increased their stores of wax ester and triacylglycerol in general over the first 24 h of their dispersal, whereas planulae from Moorea consumed energy-storage lipids in all cases. Comparisons of physiological responses of P. damicornis larvae to conditions of ocean acidification and warming between sites across the species’ biogeographic range illuminates the variety of physiological responses maintained within P. damicornis, which may enhance the overall persistence of this species in the light of global climate change.

Continue reading ‘Lipid consumption in coral larvae differs among sites: a consideration of environmental history in a global ocean change scenario’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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