Skeletal trade-offs in coralline algae in response to ocean acidification

28 November 2014, 1.00 PM - 28 November 2014, 2.00 PM

Reynolds Lecture Theatre (G25), School of Earth Sciences, Wills Memorial Building

In this Palaeo Discussion Group meeting, we are pleased to welcome our very own Dr Federica Ragazzola.

All staff and students welcome


Ocean acidification is changing the marine environment, with potentially serious consequences for many organisms. Much of our understanding of ocean acidification e ects comes from laboratory experiments, which demonstrate physiological responses over relatively short timescales. Observational studies and, more recently, experimental studies in natural systems suggest that ocean acidification will alter the structure of seaweed communities. Here, we provide a mechanistic understanding of altered competitive dynamics among a group of seaweeds, the crustose coralline algae (CCA). We compare CCA from historical experiments (1981–1997) with specimens from recent, identical experiments (2012) to describe morphological changes over this time period, which coincides with acidification of seawater in the Northeastern Pacific. Traditionally thick species decreased in thickness by a factor of 2.0–2.3, but did not experience a change in internal skeletal metrics. In contrast, traditionally thin species remained approximately the same thickness but reduced their total carbonate tissue by making thinner inter-filament cell walls. These changes represent alternative mechanisms for the reduction of calcium carbonate production in CCA and suggest energetic trade-off related to the cost of building and maintaining a calcium carbonate skeleton as pH declines. Our classification of stress response by morphological type may be generalizable to CCA at other sites, as well as to other calcifying organisms with species-specific di fferences in morphological types.

Contact information

For further information please contact Dr. Kirsty Edgar

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