Increasing anthropogenic pCO2 alters seawater chemistry, with potentially severe consequences for coral reef growth and health. Octocorals are the second most important faunistic component in many reefs, often occupying 50% or more of the available substrate. Three species of octocorals from two families were studied in Eilat (Gulf of Aqaba), comprising the zooxanthellate Ovabunda macrospiculata and Heteroxenia fuscescens (family Xeniidae), and Sarcophyton sp. (family Alcyoniidae). They were maintained under normal (8.2) and reduced (7.6 and 7.3) pH conditions for up to 5 months. Their biolological features, including protein concentration, polyp weight, density of zooxanthellae, and their chlorophyll concentration per cell, as well as polyp pulsation rate, were examined under conditions more acidic than normal, in order to test the hypothesis that rising pCO2 would affect octocorals. The results indicate no statistically significant difference between the octocorals exposed to reduced pH values compared to the control. It is therefore suggested that the octocorals’ tissue may act as a protective barrier against adverse pH conditions, thus maintaining them unharmed at high levels of pCO2.
Gabay Y., Benayahu Y. & Fine, M., in press. Does elevated pCO2 affect reef octocorals?. Ecology and Evolution. Article.