Why corals care about ocean acidification : uncovering the mechanism

dc.contributor.author Cohen, Anne L.
dc.contributor.author Holcomb, Michael
dc.date.accessioned 2010-02-25T18:56:17Z
dc.date.available 2010-02-25T18:56:17Z
dc.date.issued 2009-12
dc.description Author Posting. © Oceanography Society, 2009. This article is posted here by permission of Oceanography Society for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Oceanography 22 no. 4 (2009): 118-127. en_US
dc.description.abstract Stony corals build hard skeletons of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) by combining calcium with carbonate ions derived, ultimately, from seawater. The concentration of carbonate ions relative to other carbonate species in seawater is rather low, so corals expend energy to raise the pH of seawater sequestered in an isolated, extracellular compartment where crystal growth occurs. This action converts plentiful bicarbonate ions to the carbonate ions required for calcification, allowing corals to produce CaCO3 about 100 times faster than it could otherwise form. It is this rapid and efficient production of CaCO3 crystals that enables corals to build coral reefs. Ocean acidification reduces the pH and thus the abundance of carbonate ions in seawater. Corals living in acidified seawater continue to produce CaCO3 and expend as much energy as their counterparts in normal seawater to raise the pH of the calcifying fluid. However, in acidified seawater, corals are unable to elevate the concentration of carbonate ions to the level required for normal skeletal growth. In several experiments, we found that boosting the energetic status of corals by enhanced heterotrophic feeding or moderate increases in inorganic nutrients helped to offset the negative impact of ocean acidification. However, this built-in defense is unlikely to benefit corals as levels of CO2 in the atmosphere continue to rise. Most climate models predict that the availability of inorganic nutrients and plankton in the surface waters where corals live will decrease as a consequence of global warming. Thus, corals and coral reefs may be significantly more vulnerable to ocean acidification than previously thought. en_US
dc.description.sponsorship Anne L. Cohen acknowledges support from the WHOI Directorate for our Marine Calcification and Culture Labs, from WHOI’s Ocean Life and Tropical Research Institutes, and from NSF CO-0648157. Michael Holcomb’s graduate research was supported in part by an NSF graduate student fellowship, an MIT Presidential Award, and an International Coral Reef Society fellowship. en_US
dc.format.mimetype application/pdf
dc.identifier.citation Oceanography 22 no. 4 (2009): 118-127 en_US
dc.identifier.doi 10.5670/oceanog.2009.102
dc.identifier.uri https://hdl.handle.net/1912/3179
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.publisher Oceanography Society en_US
dc.relation.uri https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2009.102
dc.title Why corals care about ocean acidification : uncovering the mechanism en_US
dc.type Article en_US
dspace.entity.type Publication
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relation.isAuthorOfPublication.latestForDiscovery f02e695b-f221-4c38-ab6e-cfba3605f7fd
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