Benthic buffers and boosters of ocean acidification on coral reefs

TitleBenthic buffers and boosters of ocean acidification on coral reefs
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsAnthony KRN, Diaz-Pulido G, Verlinden N., Tilbrook B., Andersson AJ
Date Published2013/07
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1726-4170
Accession NumberWOS:000322242700032
KeywordsAlgae; barrier-reef; calcification; carbon-dioxide; co2; flow; marine organisms; mass-transfer; photosynthesis; Primary productivity

Ocean acidification is a threat to marine ecosystems globally. In shallow-water systems, however, ocean acidification can be masked by benthic carbon fluxes, depending on community composition, seawater residence time, and the magnitude and balance of net community production (NCP) and calcification (NCC). Here, we examine how six benthic groups from a coral reef environment on Heron Reef (Great Barrier Reef, Australia) contribute to changes in the seawater aragonite saturation state (Omega(a)). Results of flume studies using intact reef habitats (1.2m by 0.4 m), showed a hierarchy of responses across groups, depending on CO2 level, time of day and water flow. At low CO2 (350-450 mu atm), macroalgae (Chnoospora implexa), turfs and sand elevated Omega(a) of the flume water by around 0.10 to 1.20 h(-1) - normalised to contributions from 1m(2) of benthos to a 1m deep water column. The rate of Omega(a) increase in these groups was doubled under acidification (560-700 mu atm) and high flow (35 compared to 8 cm s(-1)). In contrast, branching corals (Acropora aspera) increased Omega(a) by 0.25 h(-1) at ambient CO2 (350-450 mu atm) during the day, but reduced Omega(a) under acidification and high flow. Nighttime changes in Omega(a) by corals were highly negative (0.6-0.8 h(-1)) and exacerbated by acidification. Calcifying macroalgae (Halimeda spp.) raised Omega(a) by day (by around 0.13 h(-1)), but lowered Omega(a) by a similar or higher amount at night. Analyses of carbon flux contributions from benthic communities with four different compositions to the reef water carbon chemistry across Heron Reef flat and lagoon indicated that the net lowering of Omega(a) by coral-dominated areas can to some extent be countered by long water-residence times in neighbouring areas dominated by turfs, macroalgae and carbonate sand.

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