Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 26 Issue 03

View Issue TOC
Volume 26, No. 3
Pages 149 - 152


Understanding the Threats of Ocean Acidification to Coral Reefs

Peter J. Edmunds Robert C. CarpenterSteeve Comeau
Table of Contents
Article Abstract Citation References Copyright & Usage
Article Abstract

The Moorea Coral Reef Long Term Ecological Research program affords a unique opportunity to study the implications of ocean acidification (OA) for coral reefs, as ongoing ecological and physical monitoring there provides a context in which the patterns of community change attributed to OA can be detected. We used mesocosms to study the impacts of OA on corals and calcified algae, and conducted experiments to compare multiple species and evaluate how they are affected by changing concentrations of the different forms of dissolved inorganic carbon. Our results reveal taxonomic variation in the response to OA, with some corals and algae showing signs of resistance to OA conditions. This discovery is informing an urgent debate over the form in which coral reefs will survive (if at all) in the future.


Edmunds, P.J., R.C. Carpenter, and S. Comeau. 2013. Understanding the threats of ocean acidification to coral reefs. Oceanography 26(3):149–152, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2013.57.


Allemand, D., É. Tambutté, D. Zoccola, and S. Tambutté. 2011. Coral calcification: Cells to reefs. Pp. 119–150 in Coral Reefs: An Ecosystem in Transition. Zvy Dubinsky and Noga Stambler, eds, Springer Netherlands.

Atkinson, M.J., and R.W. Bilger. 1992. Effects of water velocity on phosphate uptake in coral reef-flat communities. Limnology and Oceanography 37(2):273–279.

Borowitzka, M.A., and A.W.D. Larkum. 1987. Calcification in algae: Mechanisms and the role of metabolism. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 6(1):1–45, https://doi.org/​10.1080/07352688709382246.

Chan, N.C.S., and S.R. Connolly. 2013. Sensitivity of coral calcification to ocean acidification: A meta-analysis. Global Change Biology 19(1):282–290, https://doi.org/​10.1111/gcb.12011.

Comeau, S., P.J. Edmunds, N.B. Spindel, and R.C. Carpenter. 2013a. The responses of eight coral reef calcifiers to increasing partial pressure of CO2 do not exhibit a tipping point. Limnology and Oceanography 58(1):388–398, https://doi.org/10.4319/lo.2013.58.1.0388.

Comeau, S., R.C. Carpenter, and P.J. Edmunds. 2013b. Coral reef calcifiers buffer their response to ocean acidification using both bicarbonate and carbonate. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280(1753):2–22, https://doi.org/​10.1098/rspb.2012.2374.

Doney, S.C., V.J. Fabry, R.A. Feely, and J.A. Kleypas. 2009. Ocean acidification: The other CO2 problem. Annual Review of Marine Science 1(1):169–192, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.marine.010908.163834.

Doney, S.C., M. Ruckelshaus, J.E. Duffy, J.P. Barry, F. Chan, C.A. English, H.M. Galindo, J.M. Grebmeier, A.B. Hollowed, N. Knowlton, and others. 2012. Climate change impacts on marine ecosystems. Annual Review of Marine Science 4(1):11–37, https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-marine-041911-111611.

Dufault, A.M., A. Ninokawa, L. Bramanti, V.R. Cumbo, T.-Y. Fan, and P.J. Edmunds. 2013. The role of light in mediating the effects of ocean acidification on coral calcification. The Journal of Experimental Biology, https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.080549.

Edmunds, P.J., D. Brown, and V. Moriarty. 2012. Interactive effects of ocean acidification and temperature on two scleractinian corals from Moorea, French Polynesia. Global Change Biology 18(7):2,173–2,183, https://doi.org/​10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02695.x.

Erez, J., S. Reynaud, J. Silverman, K. Schneider, and D. Allemand. 2011. Coral calcification under ocean acidification and global change. Pp. 151–176 in Coral Reefs: An Ecosystem in Transition. Z. Dubinsky and N. Stambler, eds, Springer Netherlands.

Feely, R.A., C.L. Sabine, K. Lee, W. Berelson, J. Kleypas, V.J. Fabry, and F.J. Millero. 2004. Impact of anthropogenic CO2 on the CaCO3 system in the oceans. Science 305:362–366, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1097329.

Hoegh-Guldberg, O., P.J. Mumby, A.J. Hooten, R.S. Steneck, P. Greenfield, E. Gomez, C.D. Harvell, P.F. Sale, A.J. Edwards, K. Caldeira, and others. 2007. Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification. Science 318:1,737–1,742, https://doi.org/​10.1126/science.1152509.

Hoegh-Guldberg, O., and J.F. Bruno. 2010. The impact of climate change on the world’s marine ecosystems. Science 328:1,523–1,528, https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1189930.

Kroeker, K.J., R.L. Kordas, R.N. Crim, and G.G. Singh. 2010. Meta-analysis reveals negative yet variable effects of ocean acidification on marine organisms. Ecology Letters 13:1,419–1,434, https://doi.org/​10.1111/j.1461-0248.2010.01518.x.

Langdon, C., and M.J. Atkinson. 2005. Effect of elevated pCO2 on photosynthesis and calcification of corals and interactions with seasonal change in temperature/irradiance and nutrient enrichment. Journal of Geophysical Research 110(C9):C09S07. 

Pespeni, M.H., B.T. Barney, and S.R. Palumbi. 2013. Differences in the regulation of growth and biomineralization genes revealed through long-term common-garden acclimation and experimental genomics in the purple sea urchin. Evolution, https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.12036.

Rodolfo-Metalpa, R., F. Houlbrèque, É. Tambutté, F. Boisson, C. Baggini, F.P. Patti, R. Jeffree, M. Fine, A. Foggo, J.-P. Gattuso, and J.M. Hall-Spencer. 2011. Coral and mollusc resistance to ocean acidification adversely affected by warming. Nature Climate Change 1(6):308–312, https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1200.

Copyright & Usage

This is an open access article made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution, and reproduction in any medium or format as long as users cite the materials appropriately, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate the changes that were made to the original content. Images, animations, videos, or other third-party material used in articles are included in the Creative Commons license unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If the material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission directly from the license holder to reproduce the material.