Gains and losses of coral skeletal porosity changes with ocean acidification acclimation

Paola Fantazzini, Stefano Mengoli, Luca Pasquini, Villiam Bortolotti, Leonardo Brizi, Manuel Mariani, Matteo Di Giosia, Simona Fermani, Bruno Capaccioni, Erik Caroselli, Fiorella Prada, Francesco Zaccanti, Oren Levy, Zvy Dubinsky, Jaap A. Kaandorp, Pirom Konglerd, Jörg U. Hammel, Yannicke Dauphin, Jean Pierre Cuif, James C. WeaverKatharina E. Fabricius, Wolfgang Wagermaier, Peter Fratzl, Giuseppe Falini, Stefano Goffredo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Ocean acidification is predicted to impact ecosystems reliant on calcifying organisms, potentially reducing the socioeconomic benefits these habitats provide. Here we investigate the acclimation potential of stony corals living along a pH gradient caused by a Mediterranean CO2 vent that serves as a natural long-term experimental setting. We show that in response to reduced skeletal mineralization at lower pH, corals increase their skeletal macroporosity (features >10 μm) in order to maintain constant linear extension rate, an important criterion for reproductive output. At the nanoscale, the coral skeleton's structural features are not altered. However, higher skeletal porosity, and reduced bulk density and stiffness may contribute to reduce population density and increase damage susceptibility under low pH conditions. Based on these observations, the almost universally employed measure of coral biomineralization, the rate of linear extension, might not be a reliable metric for assessing coral health and resilience in a warming and acidifying ocean.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7785
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - 17 Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited.


The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013)/ ERC grant agreement n° 249930—CoralWarm: Corals and global warming: the Mediterranean versus the Red Sea. Bartolo Basile, Francesco Sesso and Eolo Sub diving center assisted in the field. Francesca Gizzi and Giorgia Polimeni helped during preparation and participated in field surveys. The Scientific Diving School collaborated with the underwater activities. We are grateful to Ingrid Zenke (MPI Potsdam) for help with the SAXS measurements, Michela Reggi for sample preparation, Gianni Neto and Francesco Sesso for the images in the Panarea site.

FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme249930
European Research Council
Seventh Framework Programme


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