Save Our Seas Supported Project Leader Jason Hall-Spencer recently (co-) authored several interesing papers. One of them describes increased growth in sea anemones because of the higher CO2 content in seawater.
The abstract of the paper tells us:
Increased seawater pCO2, and in turn ‘ocean acidiﬁcation’ (OA), is predicted to profoundly impact marine ecosystem diversity and function this century. Much research has already focussed on calcifying reef-forming corals (Class: Anthozoa) that appear particularly susceptible to OA via reduced net calciﬁcation. However, here we show that OA-like conditions can simultaneously enhance the ecological success of non-calcifying anthozoans, which not only play key ecological and biogeochemical roles in present day benthic ecosystems but also represent a model organism should calcifying anthozoans exist as less calciﬁed (soft-bodied) forms in future oceans. Increased growth (abundance and size) of the sea anemone (Anemonia viridis) population was observed along a natural CO2 gradient at Vulcano, Italy. Both gross photosynthesis (PG) and respiration (R) increased with pCO2 indicating that the increased growth was, at least in part, fuelled by bottom up (CO2 stimulation) of metabolism. The increase of PG outweighed that of R and the genetic identity of the symbiotic microalgae (Symbiodinium spp.) remained unchanged (type A19) suggesting proximity to the vent site relieved CO2 limitation of the anemones’ symbiotic microalgal population. Our observations of enhanced productivity with pCO2, which are consistent with previous reports for some calcifying corals, convey an increase in ﬁtness that may enable non-calcifying anthozoans to thrive in future environments, i.e. higher seawater pCO2. Understanding how CO2-enhanced productivity of non- (and less-) calcifying anthozoans applies more widely to tropical ecosystems is a priority where such organisms can dominate benthic ecosystems, in particular following localized anthropogenic stress.
The paper ends with an extensive conclusion, that states a.o.:
Understanding how this group of organisms responds to longer term climatic change, and the combination of factor(s) that drives ‘success’ alongside elevated pCO2 , will be an essential component of conﬁdently predicting the future form and function of benthic ecosystems.
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