Coral and mollusc resistance to ocean acidification adversely affected by warming

R. Rodolfo-Metalpa*, F. Houlbrèque, É Tambutté, F. Boisson, C. Baggini, F. P. Patti, R. Jeffree, M. Fine, A. Foggo, J. P. Gattuso, J. M. Hall-Spencer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

384 Scopus citations


Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO 2) concentrations are expectedto decrease surface ocean pH by 0.3-0.5 units by 2100 (refs,), lowering the carbonate ion concentration of surfacewaters. This rapid acidification is predicted to dramatically decrease calcification in many marine organisms. Reduced skeletal growth under increased CO 2 levels has already been shown for corals, molluscs and many other marine organisms. The impact of acidification on the ability of individual species to calcify has remained elusive, however, as measuring net calcification fails to disentangle the relative contributions of gross calcification and dissolution rates on growth. Here, we show that corals and molluscs transplanted along gradients of carbonate saturation state at Mediterranean CO 2 vents are able to calcify and grow at even faster than normal rates when exposed to the high CO 2 levels projected for the next 300 years. Calcifiers remain at risk, however, owing to the dissolution of exposed shells and skeletons that occurs as pH levels fall. Our results show that tissues and external organic layers play a major role in protecting shells and skeletons from corrosive sea water, limiting dissolution and allowing organisms to calcify. Our combined field and laboratory results demonstrate that the adverse effects of global warming are exacerbated when high temperatures coincide with acidification.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)308-312
Number of pages5
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank all collaborators from Stazione Zoologica ‘A. Dohrn’ for their help during fieldwork, D. Allemand and C. Ferrier-Pagès for helpful discussions, and J-F. Comanducci, F. Oberhänsli and J-L. Teyssié for their help during radiotracer experiments. Comments by P. Mumby and J. Ries improved this manuscript. This work was funded by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA-NAML, Monaco, which is grateful to the Government of the Principality of Monaco for the support provided to its Environment Laboratories), Save our Seas Foundation, an EU MARES studentship and the EU ‘Mediterranean Sea Acidification under a changing climate’ project (MedSeA; grant agreement 265103). The work contributes to the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA; grant agreement 211384).


Dive into the research topics of 'Coral and mollusc resistance to ocean acidification adversely affected by warming'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this