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Measuring gross and net calcification of a reef coral under ocean acidification conditions: methodological considerations

Author(s): S. Cohen | M. Fine

Journal: Biogeosciences Discussions
ISSN 1810-6277

Volume: 9;
Issue: 7;
Start page: 8241;
Date: 2012;
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Ongoing ocean acidification (OA) is rapidly altering carbonate chemistry in the oceans. The projected changes will likely have deleterious consequences for coral reefs by negatively affecting their growth. Nonetheless, diverse responses of reef-building corals calcification to OA hinder our ability to decipher reef susceptibility to elevated pCO2. Some of the inconsistencies between studies originate in measuring net calcification (NC), which does not always consider the proportions of the "real" (gross) calcification (GC) and gross dissolution in the observed response. Here we show that microcolonies of Stylophora pistillata (entirely covered by tissue), incubated under normal (8.2) and reduced (7.6) pH conditions for 16 months, survived and added new skeletal CaCO3, despite low (1.25) Ωarg conditions. Moreover, corals maintained their NC and GC rates under reduced (7.6) pH conditions and displayed positive NC rates at the low-end (7.3) pH treatment while bare coral skeleton underwent marked dissolution. Our findings suggest that S. pistillata may fall into the "low sensitivity" group with respect to OA and that their overlying tissue may be a key determinant in setting their tolerance to reduced pH by limiting dissolution and allowing them to calcify. This study is the first to measure GC and NC rates for a tropical scleractinian corals under OA conditions. We provide a detailed, realistic assessment of the problematic nature of previously accepted methods for measuring calcification (total alkalinity and 45Ca).
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