A corrosive concoction: The combined effects of ocean warming and acidification on the early growth of a stony coral are multiplicative

Holger Anlauf*, Luis D'Croz, Aaron O'Dea

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Survival of coral planulae, and the successful settlement and healthy growth of primary polyps are critical for the dispersal of scleractinian corals and hence the recovery of degraded coral reefs. It is therefore important to explore how the warmer and more acidic oceanic conditions predicted for the future could affect these processes. This study used controlled culture to investigate the effects of a 1. °C increase in temperature and a 0.2-0.25 unit decrease in pH on the settlement and survival of planulae and the growth of primary polyps in the Tropical Eastern Pacific coral Porites panamensis. We found that primary polyp growth was reduced only marginally by more acidic seawater but the combined effect of high temperature and lowered pH caused a significant reduction in growth of primary polyps by almost a third. Elevated temperature was found to significantly reduce the amount of zooxanthellae in primary polyps, and when combined with lowered pH resulted in a significant reduction in biomass of primary polyps. However, survival and settlement of planula larvae were unaffected by increased temperature, lowered acidity or the combination of both. These results indicate that in future scenarios of increased temperature and oceanic acidity coral planulae will be able to disperse and settle successfully but primary polyp growth may be hampered. The recovery of reefs may therefore be impeded by global change even if local stressors are curbed and sufficient sources of planulae are available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-20
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 31 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Bleaching
  • Calcification
  • Planulae
  • Primary polyps
  • Settlement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science


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