Presence of competitors influences photosynthesis, but not growth, of the hard coral Porites cylindrica at elevated seawater CO2

Brien, H.V., Watson, S.-A., and Hoogenboom, M.O. (2015) Presence of competitors influences photosynthesis, but not growth, of the hard coral Porites cylindrica at elevated seawater CO2. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 73 (3). pp. 659-669.

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Abstract

Changes in environmental conditions, such as those caused by elevated carbon dioxide (CO2), potentially alter the outcome of competitive interactions between species. This study aimed to understand howelevated CO2 could influence competitive interactions between hard and soft corals, by investigating growth and photosynthetic activity of Porites cylindrica (a hard coral) under elevated CO2 and in the presence of another hard coral and two soft coral competitors. Coralswere collected from reefs around Orpheus and Pelorus Islands on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. They were then exposed to elevated pCO2 for 4 weeks with two CO2 treatments: intermediate (pCO2 648) and high (pCO2 1003) compared with a control (unmanipulated seawater) treatment (pCO2 358). Porites cylindrica growth did not vary among pCO2 treatments, regardless of the presence and type of competitors, nor was the growth of another hard coral species, Acropora cerealis, affected by pCO2 treatment. Photosynthetic rates of P. cylindrica were sensitive to variations in pCO2, and varied between the side of the fragment facing the competitors vs. the side facing away from the competitor. However, variation in photosynthetic rates depended on pCO2 treatment, competitor identity, and whether the photosynthetic yields were measured as maximum or effective photosynthetic yield. This study suggests that elevated CO2 may impair photosynthetic activity, but not growth, of a hard coral under competition and confirms the hypothesis that soft corals are generally resistant to elevated CO2. Overall, our results indicate that shifts in the species composition in coral communities as a result of elevated CO2 could be more strongly related to the individual tolerance of different species rather than a result of competitive interactions between species.

Item ID: 42093
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: climate change, coral growth, environmentally mediated competition, interspecific competition, photosynthetic efficiency
ISSN: 1095-9289
Funders: ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2016 03:51
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 30%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 50%
06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060202 Community Ecology (excl Invasive Species Ecology) @ 20%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960399 Climate and Climate Change not elsewhere classified @ 50%
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