Respiration of Mediterranean cold-water corals is not affected by ocean acidification as projected for the end of the century
Abstract. The rise of CO2 has been identified as a major threat to life in the ocean. About one-third of the anthropogenic CO2 produced in the last 200 yr has been taken up by the ocean, leading to ocean acidification. Surface seawater pH is projected to decrease by about 0.4 units between the pre-industrial revolution and 2100. The branching cold-water corals Madrepora oculata and Lophelia pertusa are important, habitat-forming species in the deep Mediterranean Sea. Although previous research has investigated the abundance and distribution of these species, little is known regarding their ecophysiology and potential responses to global environmental change. A previous study indicated that the rate of calcification of these two species remained constant up to 1000 μatm CO2, a value that is at the upper end of changes projected to occur by 2100. We examined whether the ability to maintain calcification rates in the face of rising pCO2 affected the energetic requirements of these corals. Over the course of three months, rates of respiration were measured at a pCO2 ranging between 350 and 1100 μatm to distinguish between short-term response and longer-term acclimation. Respiration rates ranged from 0.074 to 0.266 μmol O2 (g skeletal dry weight)−1 h−1 and 0.095 to 0.725 μmol O2 (g skeletal dry weight)−1 h−1 for L. pertusa and M. oculata, respectively, and were independent of pCO2. Respiration increased with time likely due to regular feeding, which may have provided an increased energy supply to sustain coral metabolism. Future studies are needed to confirm whether the insensitivity of respiration to increasing pCO2 is a general feature of deep-sea corals in other regions.