End of the century pCO₂ levels do not impact calcification in Mediterranean cold-water corals.PLoS One. 2013; 8(4):e62655.Plos
Ocean acidification caused by anthropogenic uptake of CO₂ is perceived to be a major threat to calcifying organisms. Cold-water corals were thought to be strongly affected by a decrease in ocean pH due to their abundance in deep and cold waters which, in contrast to tropical coral reef waters, will soon become corrosive to calcium carbonate. Calcification rates of two Mediterranean cold-water coral species, Lophelia pertusa and Madrepora oculata, were measured under variable partial pressure of CO₂ (pCO₂) that ranged between 380 µatm for present-day conditions and 930 µatm for the end of the century. The present study addressed both short- and long-term responses by repeatedly determining calcification rates on the same specimens over a period of 9 months. Besides studying the direct, short-term response to elevated pCO₂ levels, the study aimed to elucidate the potential for acclimation of calcification of cold-water corals to ocean acidification. Net calcification of both species was unaffected by the levels of pCO₂ investigated and revealed no short-term shock and, therefore, no long-term acclimation in calcification to changes in the carbonate chemistry. There was an effect of time during repeated experiments with increasing net calcification rates for both species, however, as this pattern was found in all treatments, there is no indication that acclimation of calcification to ocean acidification occurred. The use of controls (initial and ambient net calcification rates) indicated that this increase was not caused by acclimation in calcification response to higher pCO₂. An extrapolation of these data suggests that calcification of these two cold-water corals will not be affected by the pCO₂ level projected at the end of the century.