Differential modification of seawater carbonate chemistry by major coral reef benthic communities

Page, HN, Andersson AJ, Jokiel PL, Rodgers K’uleiS, Lebrato M, Yeakel K, Davidson C, D’Angelo S, Bahr KD.  2016.  Differential modification of seawater carbonate chemistry by major coral reef benthic communities. Coral Reefs. :1-15.

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Ocean acidification (OA) resulting from uptake of anthropogenic CO2 may negatively affect coral reefs by causing decreased rates of biogenic calcification and increased rates of CaCO3 dissolution and bioerosion. However, in addition to the gradual decrease in seawater pH and Ω a resulting from anthropogenic activities, seawater carbonate chemistry in these coastal ecosystems is also strongly influenced by the benthic metabolism which can either exacerbate or alleviate OA through net community calcification (NCC = calcification – CaCO3 dissolution) and net community organic carbon production (NCP = primary production − respiration). Therefore, to project OA on coral reefs, it is necessary to understand how different benthic communities modify the reef seawater carbonate chemistry. In this study, we used flow-through mesocosms to investigate the modification of seawater carbonate chemistry by benthic metabolism of five distinct reef communities [carbonate sand, crustose coralline algae (CCA), corals, fleshy algae, and a mixed community] under ambient and acidified conditions during summer and winter. The results showed that different communities had distinct influences on carbonate chemistry related to the relative importance of NCC and NCP. Sand, CCA, and corals exerted relatively small influences on seawater pH and Ω a over diel cycles due to closely balanced NCC and NCP rates, whereas fleshy algae and mixed communities strongly elevated daytime pH and Ω a due to high NCP rates. Interestingly, the influence on seawater pH at night was relatively small and quite similar across communities. NCC and NCP rates were not significantly affected by short-term acidification, but larger diel variability in pH was observed due to decreased seawater buffering capacity. Except for corals, increased net dissolution was observed at night for all communities under OA, partially buffering against nighttime acidification. Thus, algal-dominated areas of coral reefs and increased net CaCO3 dissolution may partially counteract reductions in seawater pH associated with anthropogenic OA at the local scale.






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