High CO2 detrimentally affects tissue regeneration of Red Sea corals

Rael Horwitz, Maoz Fine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ocean acidification (OA) from rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is threatening the future of coral reef ecosystems. Mounting experimental evidence suggests that OA negatively impacts fundamental life functions of scleractinian corals, including growth and sexual reproduction. Although regeneration is regarded as a chief life function in scleractinian corals and essential to maintain the colony's integrity, the effect of OA on regeneration processes has not yet been investigated. To evaluate the effects of OA on regeneration, the common Indo-Pacific corals Porites sp., Favia favus, Acropora eurystoma, and Stylophora pistillata were inflicted with lesions (314-350 mm2, depending on species) and incubated in different pCO2: (1) ambient seawater (400 μatm, pH 8.1), (2) intermediate (1,800 μatm, pH 7.6), and (3) high (4,000 μatm, pH 7.3) for extended periods of time (60-120 d). While all coral species after 60 d had significantly higher tissue regeneration in ambient conditions as compared to the intermediate and high treatments, reduction in regeneration rate was more pronounced in the slow-growing massive Porites sp. and F. favus than the relatively fast-growing, branching S. pistillata and A. eurystoma. This coincided with reduced tissue biomass of Porites sp., F. favus, and A. eurystoma in higher pCO2, but not in S. pistillata. Porites sp., F. favus, and S. pistillata also experienced a decrease in Symbiodinium density in higher pCO2, while in A. eurystoma there was no change. We hypothesize that a lowered regenerative capacity under elevated pCO2 may be related to resource trade-offs, energy cost of acid/base regulation, and/or decrease in total energy budget. This is the first study to demonstrate that elevated pCO2 could have a compounding influence on coral regeneration following injury, potentially affecting the capacity of reef corals to recover following physical disturbance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819-829
Number of pages11
JournalCoral Reefs
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments The authors wish to thank E. Foran, G. Lavy, and O. Kolesnikov for technical assistance and the staff of the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat. This study was partially supported by an Israel Science Foundation Grant to M. Fine.


  • Global change
  • Ocean acidification
  • Red Sea
  • Regeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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