Ocean acidification and warming decrease calcification in the crustose coralline alga Hydrolithon onkodes and increases susceptibility to grazing.
Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Anthropogenic CO2 emissions have exacerbated two environmental stressors, global climate warming and ocean acidification (OA), that have serious implications for marine ecosystems. Coral reefs are vulnerable to climate change yet few studies have explored the potential for interactive effects of warming temperature and OA on an important coral reef calcifier, crustose coralline algae (CCA). Coralline algae serve many important ecosystem functions on coral reefs and are one of the most sensitive organisms to ocean acidification. We investigated the effects of elevated pCO2 and temperature on calcification of Hydrolithon onkodes, an important species of reef-building coralline algae, and the subsequent effects on susceptibility to grazing by sea urchins. H. onkodes was exposed to a fully factorial combination of pCO2 (420, 530, 830 μatm) and temperature (26, 29°C) treatments, and calcification was measured by the change in buoyant weight after 21 days of treatment exposure. Temperature and pCO2 had a significant interactive effect on net calcification of H. onkodes that was driven by the increased calcification response to moderately elevated pCO2. We demonstrate that the CCA calcification response was variable and non-linear, and that there was a trend for highest calcification at ambient temperature. H. onkodes then was exposed to grazing by the sea urchin Echinothrix diadema, and grazing was quantified by the change in CCA buoyant weight from grazing trials. E. diadema removed 60% more CaCO3 from H. onkodes grown at high temperature and high pCO2 than at ambient temperature and low pCO2. The increased susceptibility to grazing in the high pCO2 treatment is among the first evidence indicating the potential for cascading effects of OA and temperature on coral reef organisms and their ecological interactions.