Ocean acidification does not affect magnesium composition or dolomite formation in living crustose coralline algae, Porolithon onkodes in an experimental system
Abstract. There are concerns that Mg-calcite crustose coralline algae (CCA), which are key reef builders on coral reefs, will be most susceptible to increased rates of dissolution under higher pCO2 and ocean acidification. Due to the higher solubility of Mg-calcite, it has been hypothesised that magnesium concentrations in CCA Mg-calcite will decrease as the ocean acidifies, and that this decrease will make their skeletons more chemically stable. In addition to Mg-calcite, CCA Porolithon onkodes, the predominant encrusting species on tropical reefs, can have dolomite (Ca0.5Mg0.5CO3) infilling cell spaces which increases their stability. However, nothing is known about how bio-mineralised dolomite formation responds to higher pCO2. Using P. onkodes grown for 3 and 6 months in tank experiments, we aimed to determine (1) if mol % MgCO3 in new crust and new settlement was affected by increasing CO2 levels (365, 444, 676 and 904 μatm), (2) whether bio-mineralised dolomite formed within these time frames, and (3) if so, whether this was effected by CO2. Our results show that there was no significant effect of CO2 on mol % MgCO3 in any sample set, indicating an absence of a plastic response under a wide range of experimental conditions. Dolomite within the CCA cells formed within 3 months and dolomite abundance did not vary significantly with CO2 treatment. While evidence mounts that climate change will impact many sensitive coral and CCA species, the results from this study indicate that reef-building P. onkodes will continue to form stabilising dolomite infill under near-future acidification conditions, thereby retaining its higher resistance to dissolution.