Acclimation of a Cold-Water Coral to Ocean Acidification

Lophelia pertusa; Image Wikipedia
From CO2 Science: (link)

Form, Armin; Riebesell, Ulf (2011): Seawater carbonate chemistry and calcification rate of cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa during experiments, 2011. doi:10.1594/PANGAEA.778439
Form, Armin; Riebesell, Ulf (2011): Acclimation to ocean acidification during long-term CO2 exposure in the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa. Global Change Biology, 18(3), 843-853, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2011.02583.x
Abstract link - here

The authors write that "ocean acidification, often termed 'the evil twin of global warming,' is caused when the CO2 emitted by human activity dissolves into the oceans," while adding that a major gap in our understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification on life in the sea is our lack of information on "the potential of marine organisms to acclimate and adapt to increasing seawater acidity," noting further, in this regard, that our present understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification on marine life "relies heavily on results from short-term CO2 perturbation studies." Thus, they proceeded to conduct an experiment that they designed to help fill this important knowledge void.

What was learned
The two German researchers found that "short-term (1-week) high CO2 exposure resulted in a decline of calcification by 26-29% for a pH decrease of 0.1 unit and net dissolution of calcium carbonate." In contrast, however, they discovered that "L. pertusa was capable to acclimate to acidified conditions in long-term (6 months) incubations, leading to even slightly enhanced rates of calcification." And they add that in the long-term low-pH treatment, "net growth is sustained even in waters sub-saturated with respect to aragonite."

What it means
In light of the fact that the studied corals were able to acclimate to high-CO2 conditions over but half a year, think of what they could do in the way of evolving over the much longer period of time that would be required to boost earth's atmospheric CO2 concentration to an equivalent level.

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