Relative roles of endolithic algae and carbonate chemistry variability in the skeletal dissolution of crustose coralline algae
- 1School of Biological Sciences and Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia
- 2Griffith School of Environment, Australian Rivers Institute – Coast and Estuaries, and Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland 4111, Australia
Abstract. The susceptibility of crustose coralline algae (CCA) skeletons to dissolution is predicted to increase as oceans warm and acidify. Skeletal dissolution is caused by bioerosion from endolithic microorganisms and by chemical processes associated with undersaturation of carbonate minerals in seawater. Yet, the relative contribution of algal microborers and seawater carbonate chemistry to the dissolution of organisms that cement reefs under projected pCO2 and temperature (pCO2-T) scenarios have not been quantified. We exposed CCA skeletons (Porolithon onkodes) to four pCO2-T treatments (pre-industrial, present-day, SRES-B1 "reduced" pCO2, and SRES-A1FI "business-as-usual" pCO2 emission scenarios) under natural light cycles vs. constant dark conditions for 8 weeks. Dissolution rates of skeletons without photo-endoliths were dramatically higher (200%) than those colonized by endolithic algae across all pCO2-T scenarios. This suggests that daytime photosynthesis by microborers counteract dissolution by reduced saturation states resulting in lower net erosion rates over day–night cycles. Regardless of the presence or absence of phototrophic microborers, skeletal dissolution increased significantly under the spring A1FI "business-as-usual" scenario, confirming the CCA sensitivity to future oceans. Projected ocean acidity and temperature may significantly disturb the stability of reef frameworks cemented by CCA, but surficial substrates harbouring photosynthetic microborers will be less impacted than those without algal endoliths.