Future reef decalcification under a business-as-usual CO2 emission scenario.
ABSTRACT: Increasing atmospheric partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2) is a major threat to coral reefs, but some argue that the threat is mitigated by factors such as the variability in the response of coral calcification to acidification, differences in bleaching susceptibility, and the potential for rapid adaptation to anthropogenic warming. However the evidence for these mitigating factors tends to involve experimental studies on corals, as opposed to coral reefs, and rarely includes the influence of multiple variables (e.g., temperature and acidification) within regimes that include diurnal and seasonal variability. Here, we demonstrate that the inclusion of all these factors results in the decalcification of patch-reefs under business-as-usual scenarios and reduced, although positive, calcification under reduced-emission scenarios. Primary productivity was found to remain constant across all scenarios, despite significant bleaching and coral mortality under both future scenarios. Daylight calcification decreased and nocturnal decalcification increased sharply from the preindustrial and control conditions to the future scenarios of low (reduced emissions) and high (business-as-usual) increases in pCO2. These changes coincided with deeply negative carbonate budgets, a shift toward smaller carbonate sediments, and an increase in the abundance of sediment microbes under the business-as-usual emission scenario. Experimental coral reefs demonstrated highest net calcification rates and lowest rates of coral mortality under preindustrial conditions, suggesting that reef processes may not have been able to keep pace with the relatively minor environmental changes that have occurred during the last century. Taken together, our results have serious implications for the future of coral reefs under business-as-usual environmental changes projected for the coming decades and century.
Project description:Rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations threaten coral reefs globally by causing ocean acidification (OA) and warming. Yet, the combined effects of elevated pCO2 and temperature on coral physiology and resilience remain poorly understood. While coral calcification and energy reserves are important health indicators, no studies to date have measured energy reserve pools (i.e., lipid, protein, and carbohydrate) together with calcification under OA conditions under different temperature scenarios. Four coral species, Acropora millepora, Montipora monasteriata, Pocillopora damicornis, Turbinaria reniformis, were reared under a total of six conditions for 3.5 weeks, representing three pCO2 levels (382, 607, 741 µatm), and two temperature regimes (26.5, 29.0 °C) within each pCO2 level. After one month under experimental conditions, only A. millepora decreased calcification (-53%) in response to seawater pCO2 expected by the end of this century, whereas the other three species maintained calcification rates even when both pCO2 and temperature were elevated. Coral energy reserves showed mixed responses to elevated pCO2 and temperature, and were either unaffected or displayed nonlinear responses with both the lowest and highest concentrations often observed at the mid-pCO2 level of 607 µatm. Biweekly feeding may have helped corals maintain calcification rates and energy reserves under these conditions. Temperature often modulated the response of many aspects of coral physiology to OA, and both mitigated and worsened pCO2 effects. This demonstrates for the first time that coral energy reserves are generally not metabolized to sustain calcification under OA, which has important implications for coral health and bleaching resilience in a high-CO2 world. Overall, these findings suggest that some corals could be more resistant to simultaneously warming and acidifying oceans than previously expected.
Project description:Rising atmospheric CO2 is causing the oceans to both warm and acidify, which could reduce the calcification rates of corals globally. Successful coral recruitment and high rates of juvenile calcification are critical to the replenishment and ultimate viability of coral reef ecosystems. Although elevated Pco2 (partial pressure of CO2) has been shown to reduce the skeletal weight of coral recruits, the structural changes caused by acidification during initial skeletal deposition are unknown. We show, using high-resolution three-dimensional x-ray microscopy, that ocean acidification (Pco2 ~900 ?atm, pH ~7.7) not only causes reduced overall mineral deposition but also a deformed and porous skeletal structure in newly settled coral recruits. In contrast, elevated temperature (+3°C) had little effect on skeletal formation except to partially mitigate the effects of elevated Pco2. The striking structural deformities we observed show that new recruits are at significant risk, being unable to effectively build their skeletons in the Pco2 conditions predicted to occur for open ocean surface waters under a "business-as-usual" emissions scenario [RCP (representative concentration pathway) 8.5] by the year 2100.
Project description:By the end of the century coral reefs likely will be affected negatively by ocean acidification (OA), but both the effects of OA on coral communities and the crossed effects of OA with other physical environmental variables are lacking. One of the least considered physical parameters is water flow, which is surprising considering its strong role in modulating the physiology of reef organisms and communities. In the present study, the effects of flow were tested on coral reef communities maintained in outdoor flumes under ambient pCO2 and high pCO2 (1300 μatm). Net calcification of coral communities, including sediments, was affected by both flow and pCO2 with calcification correlated positively with flow under both pCO2 treatments. The effect of flow was less evident for sediments where dissolution exceeded precipitation of calcium carbonate under all flow speeds at high pCO2. For corals and calcifying algae there was a strong flow effect, particularly at high pCO2 where positive net calcification was maintained at night in the high flow treatment. Our results demonstrate the importance of water flow in modulating the coral reef community response to OA and highlight the need to consider this parameter when assessing the effects of OA on coral reefs.
Project description:Turf algae are a very important component of coral reefs, featuring high growth and turnover rates, whilst covering large areas of substrate. As food for many organisms, turf algae have an important role in the ecosystem. Farming damselfish can modify the species composition and productivity of such algal assemblages, while defending them against intruders. Like all organisms however, turf algae and damselfishes have the potential to be affected by future changes in seawater (SW) temperature and pCO2. In this study, algal assemblages, in the presence and absence of farming Pomacentrus wardi were exposed to two combinations of SW temperature and pCO2 levels projected for the austral spring of 2100 (the B1 "reduced" and the A1FI "business-as-usual" CO2 emission scenarios) at Heron Island (GBR, Australia). These assemblages were dominated by the presence of red algae and non-epiphytic cyanobacteria, i.e. cyanobacteria that grow attached to the substrate rather than on filamentous algae. The endpoint algal composition was mostly controlled by the presence/absence of farming damselfish, despite a large variability found between the algal assemblages of individual fish. Different scenarios appeared to be responsible for a mild, species specific change in community composition, observable in some brown and green algae, but only in the absence of farming fish. Farming fish appeared unaffected by the conditions to which they were exposed. Algal biomass reductions were found under "reduced" CO2 emission, but not "business-as-usual" scenarios. This suggests that action taken to limit CO2 emissions may, if the majority of algae behave similarly across all seasons, reduce the potential for phase shifts that lead to algal dominated communities. At the same time the availability of food resources to damselfish and other herbivores would be smaller under "reduced" emission scenarios.
Project description:Ocean acidification (OA) is predicted to reduce reef coral calcification rates and threaten the long-term growth of coral reefs under climate change. Reduced coral growth at elevated pCO2 may be buffered by sufficiently high irradiances; however, the interactive effects of OA and irradiance on other fundamental aspects of coral physiology, such as the composition and energetics of coral biomass, remain largely unexplored. This study tested the effects of two light treatments (7.5 versus 15.7?mol?photons?m-2?d-1) at ambient or elevated pCO2 (435 versus 957?µatm) on calcification, photopigment and symbiont densities, biomass reserves (lipids, carbohydrates, proteins), and biomass energy content (kJ) of the reef coral Pocillopora acuta from K?ne'ohe Bay, Hawai'i. While pCO2 and light had no effect on either area- or biomass-normalized calcification, tissue lipids gdw-1 and kJ?gdw-1 were reduced 15% and 14% at high pCO2, and carbohydrate content increased 15% under high light. The combination of high light and high pCO2 reduced protein biomass (per unit area) by approximately 20%. Thus, under ecologically relevant irradiances, P. acuta in K?ne'ohe Bay does not exhibit OA-driven reductions in calcification reported for other corals; however, reductions in tissue lipids, energy content and protein biomass suggest OA induced an energetic deficit and compensatory catabolism of tissue biomass. The null effects of OA on calcification at two irradiances support a growing body of work concluding some reef corals may be able to employ compensatory physiological mechanisms that maintain present-day levels of calcification under OA. However, negative effects of OA on P. acuta biomass composition and energy content may impact the long-term performance and scope for growth of this species in a high pCO2 world.
Project description:Coral reefs are facing major global and local threats due to climate change-induced increases in dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and because of land-derived increases in organic and inorganic nutrients. Recent research revealed that high availability of labile dissolved organic carbon (DOC) negatively affects scleractinian corals. Studies on the interplay of these factors, however, are lacking, but urgently needed to understand coral reef functioning under present and near future conditions. This experimental study investigated the individual and combined effects of ambient and high DIC (pCO2 403 ?atm/ pHTotal 8.2 and 996 ?atm/pHTotal 7.8) and DOC (added as Glucose 0 and 294 ?mol L-1, background DOC concentration of 83 ?mol L-1) availability on the physiology (net and gross photosynthesis, respiration, dark and light calcification, and growth) of the scleractinian coral Acropora millepora (Ehrenberg, 1834) from the Great Barrier Reef over a 16 day interval. High DIC availability did not affect photosynthesis, respiration and light calcification, but significantly reduced dark calcification and growth by 50 and 23%, respectively. High DOC availability reduced net and gross photosynthesis by 51% and 39%, respectively, but did not affect respiration. DOC addition did not influence calcification, but significantly increased growth by 42%. Combination of high DIC and high DOC availability did not affect photosynthesis, light calcification, respiration or growth, but significantly decreased dark calcification when compared to both controls and DIC treatments. On the ecosystem level, high DIC concentrations may lead to reduced accretion and growth of reefs dominated by Acropora that under elevated DOC concentrations will likely exhibit reduced primary production rates, ultimately leading to loss of hard substrate and reef erosion. It is therefore important to consider the potential impacts of elevated DOC and DIC simultaneously to assess real world scenarios, as multiple rather than single factors influence key physiological processes in coral reefs.
Project description:The Anthropocene climate has largely been defined by a rapid increase in atmospheric CO2, causing global climate change (warming) and ocean acidification (OA, a reduction in oceanic pH). OA is of particular concern for coral reefs, as the associated reduction in carbonate ion availability impairs biogenic calcification and promotes dissolution of carbonate substrata. While these trends ultimately affect ecosystem calcification, scaling experimental analyses of the response of organisms to OA to consider the response of ecosystems to OA has proved difficult. The benchmark of ecosystem-level experiments to study the effects of OA is provided through Free Ocean CO2 Enrichment (FOCE), which we use in the present analyses for a 21-d experiment on the back reef of Mo'orea, French Polynesia. Two natural coral reef communities were incubated in situ, with one exposed to ambient pCO2 (393 µatm), and one to high pCO2 (949 µatm). Our results show a decrease in 24-h net community calcification (NCC) under high pCO2, and a reduction in nighttime NCC that attenuated and eventually reversed over 21-d. This effect was not observed in daytime NCC, and it occurred without any effect of high pCO2 on net community production (NCP). These results contribute to previous studies on ecosystem-level responses of coral reefs to the OA conditions projected for the end of the century, and they highlight potential attenuation of high pCO2 effects on nighttime net community calcification.
Project description:Thermal-stress events are changing the composition of many coral reefs worldwide. Yet, determining the rates of coral recovery and their long-term responses to increasing sea-surface temperatures is challenging. To do so, we first estimated coral recovery rates following past disturbances on reefs in southern Japan and Western Australia. Recovery rates varied between regions, with the reefs in southern Japan showing more rapid recovery rates (intrinsic rate of increase, r?=?0.38 year-1) than reefs in Western Australia (r?=?0.17 year-1). Second, we input these recovery rates into a novel, nonlinear hybrid-stochastic-dynamical system to predict the responses of Indo-Pacific coral populations to complex inter-annual temperature cycles into the year 2100. The coral recovery rates were overlaid on background increases in global sea-surface temperatures, under three different climate-change scenarios. The models predicted rapid recovery at both localities with the infrequent and low-magnitude temperature anomalies expected under a conservative climate-change scenario, Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 4.5. With moderate increases in ocean temperatures (RCP 6.0) the coral populations showed a bimodal response, with model runs showing either recovery or collapse. Under a business-as-usual climate-change scenario (RCP 8.5), with frequent and intense temperature anomalies, coral recovery was unlikely.
Project description:With the increasing anthropogenic CO2 concentration, ocean acidification (OA) can have dramatic effects on coral reefs. However, the effects of OA on coral physiology and the associated microbes remain largely unknown. In the present study, reef-building coral Acropora gemmifera collected from a reef flat with highly fluctuating environmental condition in the South China Sea were exposed to three levels of partial pressure of carbon dioxide (pCO2) (i.e., 421, 923, and 2070??atm) for four weeks. The microbial community structures associated with A. gemmifera under these treatments were analyzed using 16S rRNA gene barcode sequencing. The results revealed that the microbial community associated with A. gemmifera was highly diverse at the genus level and dominated by Alphaproteobacteria. More importantly, the microbial community structure remained rather stable under different pCO2 treatments. Photosynthesis and calcification in A. gemmifera, as indicated by enrichment of ?18O and increased depletion of ?13C in the coral skeleton, were significantly impaired only at the high pCO2 (2070??atm). These results suggest that A. gemmifera can maintain a high degree of stable microbial communities despite of significant physiological changes in response to extremely high pCO2.
Project description:While research on ocean acidification (OA) impacts on coral reefs has focused on calcification, relatively little is known about effects on coral photosynthesis and respiration, despite these being among the most plastic metabolic processes corals may use to acclimatize to adverse conditions. Here, we present data collected between 2016 and 2018 at three natural CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea where we measured the metabolic flexibility (i.e. in hospite photosynthesis and dark respiration) of 12 coral species. Despite some species-specific variability, metabolic rates as measured by net oxygen flux tended to be higher at high pCO2 (ca 1200 µatm), with increases in photosynthesis exceeding those of respiration, suggesting greater productivity of Symbiodiniaceae photosynthesis in hospite, and indicating the potential for metabolic flexibility that may enable these species to thrive in environments with high pCO2. However, laboratory and field observations of coral mortality under high CO2 conditions associated with coral bleaching suggests that this metabolic subsidy does not result in coral higher resistance to extreme thermal stress. Therefore, the combined effects of OA and global warming may lead to a strong decrease in coral diversity despite the stimulating effect on coral productivity of OA alone.