Article

Sea anemones may thrive in a high CO 2 world

Global Change Biology (Impact Factor: 8.22). 04/2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02767.x

ABSTRACT Increased seawater pCO 2 , 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 CO 2 gradient at Vulcano, Italy. Both gross photosynthesis (P G) and respiration (R) increased with pCO 2 indicating that the increased growth was, at least in part, fuelled by bottom up (CO 2 stimulation) of metabolism. The increase of P G 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 CO 2 limitation of the anemones' symbiotic microalgal population. Our observa-tions of enhanced productivity with pCO 2 , which are consistent with previous reports for some calcifying corals, con-vey an increase in fitness that may enable non-calcifying anthozoans to thrive in future environments, i.e. higher seawater pCO 2 . Understanding how CO 2 -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.

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