Posts Tagged 'corals'



Abundance, size, and survival of recruits of the reef coral Pocillopora acuta under ocean warming and acidification

Ocean warming and acidification are among the greatest threats to coral reefs. Massive coral bleaching events are becoming increasingly common and are predicted to be more severe and frequent in the near future, putting corals reefs in danger of ecological collapse. This study quantified the abundance, size, and survival of the coral Pocillopora acuta under future projections of ocean warming and acidification. Flow-through mesocosms were exposed to current and future projections of ocean warming and acidification in a factorial design for 22 months. Neither ocean warming or acidification, nor their combination, influenced the size or abundance of P. acuta recruits, but heating impacted subsequent health and survival of the recruits. During annual maximum temperatures, coral recruits in heated tanks experienced higher levels of bleaching and subsequent mortality. Results of this study indicate that P. acuta is able to recruit under projected levels of ocean warming and acidification but are susceptible to bleaching and mortality during the warmest months.

Continue reading ‘Abundance, size, and survival of recruits of the reef coral Pocillopora acuta under ocean warming and acidification’

Regulation of calcification site pH is a polyphyletic but not always governing response to ocean acidification

The response of marine-calcifying organisms to ocean acidification (OA) is highly variable, although the mechanisms behind this variability are not well understood. Here, we use the boron isotopic composition (δ11B) of biogenic calcium carbonate to investigate the extent to which organisms’ ability to regulate pH at their site of calcification (pHCF) determines their calcification responses to OA. We report comparative δ11B analyses of 10 species with divergent calcification responses (positive, parabolic, threshold, and negative) to OA. Although the pHCF is closely coupled to calcification responses only in 3 of the 10 species, all 10 species elevate pHCF above pHsw under elevated pCO2. This result suggests that these species may expend additional energy regulating pHCF under future OA. This strategy of elevating pHCF above pHsw appears to be a polyphyletic, if not universal, response to OA among marine calcifiers—although not always the principal factor governing a species’ response to OA.

Continue reading ‘Regulation of calcification site pH is a polyphyletic but not always governing response to ocean acidification’

Contrasting changes in diel variations of net community calcification support that carbonate dissolution can be more sensitive to ocean acidification than coral calcification

Previous studies have found that calcification in coral reefs is generally stronger during the day, whereas dissolution is prevalent at night. On the basis of these contrasting patterns, the diel variations of net community calcification (NCC) were monitored to examine the relative sensitivity of CaCO3 production (calcification) and dissolution in coral reefs to ocean acidification (OA), using two mesocosms that replicated a typical subtropical coral reef ecosystem in southern Taiwan. The results revealed that the daytime NCC remained unchanged, whereas the nighttime NCC decreased between the control (ambient) and treatment (OA) conditions, suggesting that carbonate dissolution could be more sensitive to OA than coral calcification. The average sensitivity of the integrated daily NCC to changes in the seawater saturation state (Ωa) was estimated to be a reduction of 54% in NCC per unit change in Ωa, which is consistent with the global average. In summary, our results support the prevailing anticipation that OA would lead to a reduction in the overall accretion of coral reef ecosystems. However, increased CaCO3 dissolution rather than decreased coral calcification could be the dominant driving force responsible for this OA-induced reduction in NCC.

Continue reading ‘Contrasting changes in diel variations of net community calcification support that carbonate dissolution can be more sensitive to ocean acidification than coral calcification’

Paradise lost: end‐of‐century warming and acidification under business‐as‐usual emissions have severe consequences for symbiotic corals

Despite recent efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, current global emission trajectories are still following the business‐as‐usual RCP8.5 emission pathway. The resulting ocean warming and acidification have transformative impacts on coral reef ecosystems, detrimentally affecting coral physiology and health, and these impacts are predicted to worsen in the near future. In this study, we kept fragments of the symbiotic corals Acropora intermedia (thermally sensitive) and Porites lobata (thermally tolerant) for 7 weeks under an orthogonal design of predicted end‐of‐century RCP8.5 conditions for temperature and pCO2 (3.5 °C and 570 ppm above present‐day respectively) to unravel how temperature and acidification, individually or interactively, influence metabolic and physiological performance. Our results pinpoint thermal stress as the dominant driver of deteriorating health in both species because of its propensity to destabilize coral‐dinoflagellate symbiosis (bleaching). Acidification had no influence on metabolism but had a significant negative effect on skeleton growth, particularly when photosynthesis was absent such as in bleached corals or under dark conditions. Total loss of photosynthesis after bleaching caused an exhaustion of protein and lipid stores and collapse of calcification that ultimately led to A. intermedia mortality. Despite complete loss of symbionts from its tissue, P. lobata maintained small amounts of photosynthesis and experienced a weaker decline in lipid and protein reserves that presumably contributed to higher survival of this species. Our results indicate that ocean warming and acidification under business‐as‐usual CO2 emission scenarios will likely extirpate thermally‐sensitive coral species before the end of the century, while slowing the recovery of more thermally‐tolerant species from increasingly severe mass coral bleaching and mortality. This could ultimately lead to the gradual disappearance of tropical coral reefs globally, and a shift on surviving reefs to only the most resilient coral species.

Continue reading ‘Paradise lost: end‐of‐century warming and acidification under business‐as‐usual emissions have severe consequences for symbiotic corals’

A framework for experimental scenarios of global change in marine systems using coral reefs as a case study

Understanding the consequences of rising CO2 and warming on marine ecosystems is a pressing issue in ecology. Manipulative experiments that assess responses of biota to future ocean warming and acidification conditions form a necessary basis for expectations on how marine taxa may respond. Although designing experiments in the context of local variability is most appropriate, local temperature and CO2 characteristics are often unknown as such measures necessitate significant resources, and even less is known about local future scenarios. To help address these issues, we summarize current uncertainties in CO2 emission trajectories and climate sensitivity, examine region-specific changes in the ocean, and present a straightforward global framework to guide experimental designs. We advocate for the inclusion of multiple plausible future scenarios of predicted levels of ocean warming and acidification in forthcoming experimental research. Growing a robust experimental base is crucial to understanding the prospect form and function of marine ecosystems in the Anthropocene.

Continue reading ‘A framework for experimental scenarios of global change in marine systems using coral reefs as a case study’

From science to solutions: ocean acidification impacts on select coral reefs

Ocean acidification (OA), often called “the other CO2 problem” (Doney et al., 2009), is a consequence of an increased release of anthropogenic carbon dioxide. Man-made CO2 does not only accumulate in the atmosphere, it also dissolves readily in seawater to form bicarbonate ions, thereby releasing protons () and increasing seawater acidity. The acidity of the oceans has increased by about 30% since the beginning of the industrial period, and may increase by more than 150% by the end of the century. This increase in acidity impacts the lives and well-being of many marine organisms and can also disrupt coastal and marine ecosystems and the services they provide.

In October 2008, the Monaco Declaration, drafted at the request of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, had a global impact far beyond the scientific community. Since this Declaration, the Principality of Monaco and its various institutions (IAEA, CSM, FPA2, IOM1 ) have developed even more intensive work in this field, bringing the Principality of Monaco to the forefront in defending the oceans against this problem. This collaboration took shape in 2015 with the creation of a Monegasque Association for Ocean Acidification (AMAO), bringing together the FPA2, the Monegasque Government, the Oceanographic Institute, the CSM and the IAEA. In September 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) held its 51 session in the Principality of Monaco to launch the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate Context (SROCC), which assessed the physical processes and impacts of climate change on ocean, coastal, polar and mountain ecosystems.

Continue reading ‘From science to solutions: ocean acidification impacts on select coral reefs’

Effects of low pH and feeding on calcification rates of the cold-water coral Desmophyllum dianthus

Cold-Water Corals (CWCs), and most marine calcifiers, are especially threatened by ocean acidification (OA) and the decrease in the carbonate saturation state of seawater. The vulnerability of these organisms, however, also involves other global stressors like warming, deoxygenation or changes in sea surface productivity and, hence, food supply via the downward transport of organic matter to the deep ocean. This study examined the response of the CWC Desmophyllum dianthus to low pH under different feeding regimes through a long-term incubation experiment. For this experiment, 152 polyps were incubated at pH 8.1, 7.8, 7.5 and 7.2 and two feeding regimes for 14 months. Mean calcification rates over the entire duration of the experiment ranged between −0.3 and 0.3 mg CaCO3 g−1d−1. Polyps incubated at pH 7.2 were the most affected and 30% mortality was observed in this treatment. In addition, many of the surviving polyps at pH 7.2 showed negative calcification rates indicating that, in the long term, CWCs may have difficulty thriving in such aragonite undersaturated waters. The feeding regime had a significant effect on skeletal growth of corals, with high feeding frequency resulting in more positive and variable calcification rates. This was especially evident in corals reared at pH 7.5 (ΩA = 0.8) compared to the low frequency feeding treatment. Early life-stages, which are essential for the recruitment and maintenance of coral communities and their associated biodiversity, were revealed to be at highest risk. Overall, this study demonstrates the vulnerability of D. dianthus corals to low pH and low food availability. Future projected pH decreases and related changes in zooplankton communities may potentially compromise the viability of CWC populations.

Continue reading ‘Effects of low pH and feeding on calcification rates of the cold-water coral Desmophyllum dianthus’


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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

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