Cohen Lab

Nutrition and Coral Calcification

An Investigation of the Role of Nutrition in the Coral Calcification Response to Ocean Acidification

PI: Anne Cohen (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) Co-PIs Daniel McCorkle, Ann Tarrant (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), Samantha dePutron (Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences)

It's predicted that ocean acidification could drive up to 80% decline in coral calcification rates by the end of this century. We are investigating how the energetic status of the coral host might influence this outcome. Corals derive energy from photosynthesis carried out by symbiotic, unicellular algae that live within the coral cells as well as by heterotrophic feeding, using stinging cells in their tentacles to capture and paralyze prey. Corals utilize this energy for daily metabolic needs, for tissue growth, for skeletal growth and for production of eggs and sperm. Processes that deplete coral energetic reserve, such as bleaching and spawning, negatively impact calcification. Therefore, we asked the question: how important is coral energetic reserve in maintaining calcification under ocean acidification? To address this question, we are using a laboratory CO2 manipulation experiments combined with various levels of heterotrophic feeding and light manipulation.  The experiments provide a framework within which to understand and interpret data we collect from the field. To date we have characterized water chemistry and collected coral samples at 17 reef sites across the Pacific basin. Our Pacific transect provides a natural gradient in ocean acidification along which to test our hypothesis of the role of nutrition in the coral calcification response to ocean acidification.

Funding for this research is provided by The National Science Foundation (NSF OCE -1041106) and a WHOI Ocean Life Institute Post-Doctoral Fellowship to Kathryn Shamberger.

Last updated: June 17, 2013