The effects of decreased pH, caused by carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolution in seawater (known as ocean acidification (OA)), on the development of newly fertilized eggs of the Caribbean reef-building coral, Acropora palmata, was tested in three experiments conducted during the summers of 2008 and 2009 (two repeats). Three levels of CO2 enrichment were used: present day conditions (400 µatm, pH 8.1) and two CO2-enriched conditions (700 µatm, pH 7.9, and 1000 µatm, pH 7.7). No effects on the progression or timing of development, or embryo and larval size, were detected in any of the three experimental runs. The results show that the embryos and larvae of A. palmata are able to develop normally under seawater pH of at least 0.4 pH units lower than the present levels. Acropora palmata larvae do not usually begin to calcify after settlement, so this study only examined the non-calcifying part of the life cycle of this species. Most of the concern about the effects of OA on marine organisms centers on its effect on calcification. Negative effects of OA on the embryonic development of this species were not found and they may not manifest until the newly settled polyps begin to calcify.
Medina-Rosas P., Szmant A. M. & Whitehead R. F., in press. CO2 enrichment and reduced seawater pH had no effect on the embryonic development of Acropora palmata (Anthozoa, Scleractinia). Invertebrate Reproduction & Development. doi: 10.1080/07924259.2012.704407. Article (subscription required).