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Biomineralization control related to population density under ocean acidification


Anthropogenic CO2 is a major driver of present environmental change in most ecosystems1, and the related ocean acidification is threatening marine biota2. With increasing pCO2, calcification rates of several species decrease3, although cases of upregulation are observed4. Here, we show that biological control over mineralization relates to species abundance along a natural pH gradient. As pCO2 increased, the mineralogy of a scleractinian coral (Balanophyllia europaea) and a mollusc (Vermetus triqueter) did not change. In contrast, two calcifying algae (Padina pavonica and Acetabularia acetabulum) reduced and changed mineralization with increasing pCO2, from aragonite to the less soluble calcium sulphates and whewellite, respectively. As pCO2 increased, the coral and mollusc abundance was severely reduced, with both species disappearing at pH < 7.8. Conversely, the two calcifying and a non-calcifying algae (Lobophora variegata) showed less severe or no reductions with increasing pCO2, and were all found at the lowest pH site. The mineralization response to decreasing pH suggests a link with the degree of control over the biomineralization process by the organism, as only species with lower control managed to thrive in the lowest pH.

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Figure 1: Range in pH total scale and mean percentage of cover for Balanophyllia europaea, Vermetus triqueter, Padina pavonica, Acetabularia acetabulum and Lobophora variegata along the pCO2 gradient.
Figure 2: Scanning electron microscope images of a longitudinal section of Vermetus triqueter shell-tube.
Figure 3: Scanning electron microscope images of Padina pavonica thalli and Acetabularia acetabulum cups.
Figure 4: In situ pictures of Padina pavonica and Acetabularia acetabulum at Sites 1 and 4, showing the reduction of calcified material (white areas) with increasing pCO2.

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I. Berman-Frank helped with alkalinity measurements. B. Basile, F. Sesso, and Eolo Sub diving centre assisted in the field. F. Gizzi and G. Polimeni helped during preparation and participated in field surveys. The Scientific Diving School supplied scientific, technical and logistical support. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement no. [249930 - CoralWarm].

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Authors and Affiliations



S.G., Z.D. and G.F. conceived and designed research. S.G., F.P., E.C. and B.C. collected the samples and performed the diving fieldwork. L.P., S.F., M.R. and G.F. performed the laboratory experiments. S.G., F.P., E.C., B.C., L.P., P.F., M.R., K.E.F. and G.F. analysed the data. All authors wrote the manuscript and participated in the scientific discussion.

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Correspondence to Stefano Goffredo or Giuseppe Falini.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Goffredo, S., Prada, F., Caroselli, E. et al. Biomineralization control related to population density under ocean acidification. Nature Clim Change 4, 593–597 (2014).

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