An investigation of the calcification response of the scleractinian coral Astrangia poculata to elevated pCO2 and the effects of nutrients, zooxanthellae and gender
Abstract. The effects of nutrients and pCO2 on zooxanthellate and azooxanthellate colonies of the temperate scleractinian coral Astrangia poculata (Ellis and Solander, 1786) were investigated at two different temperatures (16 °C and 24 °C). Corals exposed to elevated pCO2 tended to have lower relative calcification rates, as estimated from changes in buoyant weights. Experimental nutrient enrichments had no significant effect nor did there appear to be any interaction between pCO2 and nutrients. Elevated pCO2 appeared to have a similar effect on coral calcification whether zooxanthellae were present or absent at 16 °C. However, at 24 °C, the interpretation of the results is complicated by a significant interaction between gender and pCO2 for spawning corals.
At 16 °C, gamete release was not observed, and no gender differences in calcification rates were observed – female and male corals showed similar reductions in calcification rates in response to elevated CO2 (15% and 19% respectively). Corals grown at 24 °C spawned repeatedly and male and female corals exhibited two different growth rate patterns – female corals grown at 24 °C and exposed to CO2 had calcification rates 39% lower than females grown at ambient CO2, while males showed a non-significant decline of 5% under elevated CO2. The increased sensitivity of females to elevated pCO2 may reflect a greater investment of energy in reproduction (egg production) relative to males (sperm production). These results suggest that both gender and spawning are important factors in determining the sensitivity of corals to ocean acidification, and considering these factors in future research may be critical to predicting how the population structures of marine calcifiers will change in response to ocean acidification.