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Keywords:

  • calcification;
  • corals;
  • ocean acidification;
  • temperature

Abstract

This study tested the hypothesis that the response of corals to temperature and pCO 2 is consistent between taxa. Juvenile massive Porites spp. and branches of P. rus from the back reef of Moorea were incubated for 1 month under combinations of temperature (29.3 °C and 25.6 °C) and pCO 2 (41.6 Pa and 81.5 Pa) at an irradiance of 599 μmol quanta m−2 s−1. Using microcosms and CO2 gas mixing technology, treatments were created in a partly nested design (tanks) with two between-plot factors (temperature and pCO 2), and one within-plot factor (taxon); calcification was used as a dependent variable. pCO 2 and temperature independently affected calcification, but the response differed between taxa. Massive Porites spp. was largely unaffected by the treatments, but P. rus grew 50% faster at 29.3 °C compared with 25.6 °C, and 28% slower at 81.5 Pa vs. 41.6 Pa CO2. A compilation of studies placed the present results in a broader context and tested the hypothesis that calcification for individual coral genera is independent of pH, [HCO3 ], and [CO3 2−]. Unlike recent reviews, this analysis was restricted to studies reporting calcification in units that could be converted to nmol CaCO3 cm−2 h−1. The compilation revealed a high degree of variation in calcification as a function of pH, [HCO3 ], and [CO3 2−], and supported three conclusions: (1) studies of the effects of ocean acidification on corals need to pay closer attention to reducing variance in experimental outcomes to achieve stronger synthetic capacity, (2) coral genera respond in dissimilar ways to pH, [HCO3 ], and [CO3 2−], and (3) calcification of massive Porites spp. is relatively resistant to short exposures of increased pCO 2, similar to that expected within 100 y.