Rebecca Albright is a Ph.D. candidate at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science of the University of Miami. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Duke University in 2003. She is currently writing her dissertation, entitled ‘The impacts of ocean acidification on early life history stages of Caribbean corals.’
To determine whether ocean acidification (OA) threatens the successful sexual recruitment of reef-building corals, I conducted a series of experiments to investigate the effects of OA on sequential early life history stages that are pre-requisites of recruitment: fertilization, settlement, and post-settlement growth. Experiments examined the responses of several species of Caribbean coral at a range of pCO2 increases that are expected to occur this century [380 µatm (present day), 560 µatm (mid-century), and 800 µatm (end of century)]. In all experiments, seawater chemistry was manipulated via direct bubbling with carbon dioxide-enriched air. Fertilization, settlement and growth were all negatively impacted by increasing pCO2; impairment of fertilization was exacerbated at lower sperm concentrations. These results indicate that OA has the potential to impact multiple, sequential early life history stages of reef-building coral species. The compounding nature of sequential declines suggests that OA may severely compromise sexual recruitment and the ability of coral reefs to recover from future disturbance.