Some species show higher tolerance than others
For the first time, a new study has revealed that coralline algae, which is essential in the formation and maintenance of coral reefs, is able to adjust its internal chemistry to deal with the increasing acidity in the oceans.
Coralline algae play an important part in the ecosystem – they form calcified skeletons by producing calcium carbonate which helps to bind the reefs together. However, this natural process is threatened by the increasing pH levels in the oceans.
Dr Christopher Cornwall, Dr Steeve Comeau, and Professor Malcolm McCulloch – researchers at the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre at The University of Western Australia – discovered that coralline algae can be severely affected by rising levels of carbon dioxide. However, there are some species that have shown higher tolerance than previously thought.
“Ocean acidification is a major threat to coralline algal dominated reefs in both temperate and tropical ecosystems. This study is the first to try to understand why there is a variation in the way different types of coralline algae respond to ocean acidification. It examines how coralline algae can change its internal chemistry to make it favourable for forming their calcium carbonate skeleton,” said Dr. Cornwall.
In the study, the researchers discovered that all coralline algae showed some form of adaptation to the increasing acidity, with some species displaying a higher tolerance.
“Coralline algae form extensive reefs in northern Western Australia, and also bind together other reefs from the tropics to the poles. The coralline algal species that can retain a high pH within their internal calcifying fluid could continue to calcify in future oceans impacted by ocean acidification. Our findings mean that there is some hope for the future,” said Dr. Cornwall.
More information: www.coralcoe.org.au
See also: Current environment spells bad news for coralline red algae