Losers and winners in coral reefs acclimatized to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations

Katharina E. Fabricius, Chris Langdon, Sven Uthicke, Craig Humphrey, Sam Noonan, Glenn De'ath, Remy Okazaki, Nancy Muehllehner, Martin S. Glas, Janice M. Lough

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

545 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Experiments have shown that ocean acidification due to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations has deleterious effects on the performance of many marine organisms. However, few empirical or modelling studies have addressed the long-term consequences of ocean acidification for marine ecosystems. Here we show that as pH declines from 8.1 to 7.8 (the change expected if atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase from 390 to 750 ppm, consistent with some scenarios for the end of this century) some organisms benefit, but many more lose out. We investigated coral reefs, seagrasses and sediments that are acclimatized to low pH at three cool and shallow volcanic carbon dioxide seeps in Papua New Guinea. At reduced pH, we observed reductions in coral diversity, recruitment and abundances of structurally complex framework builders, and shifts in competitive interactions between taxa. However, coral cover remained constant between pH 8.1 and ∼7.8, because massive Porites corals established dominance over structural corals, despite low rates of calcification. Reef development ceased below pH 7.7. Our empirical data from this unique field setting confirm model predictions that ocean acidification, together with temperature stress, will probably lead to severely reduced diversity, structural complexity and resilience of Indo-Pacific coral reefs within this century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-169
Number of pages5
JournalNature Climate Change
Volume1
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011

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coral reef
coral
carbon dioxide
Papua-New Guinea
resilience
scenario
calcification
experiment
interaction
marine ecosystem
performance
reef
prediction
sediment
modeling
ocean acidification
temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Fabricius, K. E., Langdon, C., Uthicke, S., Humphrey, C., Noonan, S., De'ath, G., ... Lough, J. M. (2011). Losers and winners in coral reefs acclimatized to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. Nature Climate Change, 1(3), 165-169. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1122

Losers and winners in coral reefs acclimatized to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. / Fabricius, Katharina E.; Langdon, Chris; Uthicke, Sven; Humphrey, Craig; Noonan, Sam; De'ath, Glenn; Okazaki, Remy; Muehllehner, Nancy; Glas, Martin S.; Lough, Janice M.

In: Nature Climate Change, Vol. 1, No. 3, 01.06.2011, p. 165-169.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Fabricius, KE, Langdon, C, Uthicke, S, Humphrey, C, Noonan, S, De'ath, G, Okazaki, R, Muehllehner, N, Glas, MS & Lough, JM 2011, 'Losers and winners in coral reefs acclimatized to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations', Nature Climate Change, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 165-169. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1122
Fabricius, Katharina E. ; Langdon, Chris ; Uthicke, Sven ; Humphrey, Craig ; Noonan, Sam ; De'ath, Glenn ; Okazaki, Remy ; Muehllehner, Nancy ; Glas, Martin S. ; Lough, Janice M. / Losers and winners in coral reefs acclimatized to elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. In: Nature Climate Change. 2011 ; Vol. 1, No. 3. pp. 165-169.
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