MEPS 521:49-61 (2015)  -  DOI:

Decreased light availability can amplify negative impacts of ocean acidification on calcifying coral reef organisms

N. Vogel1,2,3,*, F. W. Meyer2,3, C. Wild2,3, S. Uthicke1

1Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB 3, Townsville MC, 4810 Queensland, Australia
2Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology, Fahrenheitstraße 6, 28359 Bremen, Germany
3Faculty of Biology and Chemistry (FB 2), University of Bremen, 28359 Bremen, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Coral reef organisms are increasingly and simultaneously affected by global and local stressors such as ocean acidification (OA) and reduced light availability. However, knowledge of the interplay between OA and light availability is scarce. We exposed 2 calcifying coral reef species (the scleractinian coral Acropora millepora and the green alga Halimeda opuntia) to combinations of ambient and increased pCO2 (427 and 1073 µatm, respectively), and 2 light intensities (35 and 150 µmol photons m-2 s-1) for 16 d. We evaluated the individual and combined effects of these 2 stressors on weight increase, calcification rates, O2 fluxes and chlorophyll a content for the species investigated. Weight increase of A. millepora was significantly reduced by OA (48%) and low light intensity (96%) compared to controls. While OA did not affect coral calcification in the light, it decreased calcification in the dark by 155%, leading to dissolution of the skeleton. H. opuntia weight increase was not affected by OA, but decreased (40%) at low light. OA did not affect algae calcification in the light, but decreased calcification in the dark by 164%, leading to dissolution. Low light significantly reduced gross photosynthesis (56 and 57%), net photosynthesis (62 and 60%) and respiration (43 and 48%) of A. millepora and H. opuntia, respectively. In contrast to A. millepora, H. opuntia significantly increased chlorophyll content by 15% over the course of the experiment. No interactive effects of OA and low light intensity were found on any response variable for either organism. However, A. millepora exhibited additive effects of OA and low light, while H. opuntia was only affected by low light. Thus, this study suggests that negative effects of low light and OA are additive on corals, which may have implications for management of river discharge into coastal coral reefs.

KEY WORDS: pH · Turbidity · Calcification · Dissolution · Photosynthesis · Corals · Algae · Acropora millepora · Halimeda opuntia

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Cite this article as: Vogel N, Meyer FW, Wild C, Uthicke S (2015) Decreased light availability can amplify negative impacts of ocean acidification on calcifying coral reef organisms. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 521:49-61.

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