The bioeroding sponge Cliona orientalis will not tolerate future projected ocean warming

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Ramsby, BD, Hoogenboom, MO, Smith, HA, Whalan, S & Webster, NS 2018, 'The bioeroding sponge Cliona orientalis will not tolerate future projected ocean warming', Scientific Reports, vol. 8.

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Coral reefs face many stressors associated with global climate change, including increasing sea surface temperature and ocean acidification. Excavating sponges, such as Cliona spp., are expected to break down reef substrata more quickly as seawater becomes more acidic. However, increased bioerosion requires that Cliona spp. maintain physiological performance and health under continuing ocean warming. In this study, we exposed C. orientalis to temperature increments increasing from 23 to 32 °C. At 32 °C, or 3 °C above the maximum monthly mean (MMM) temperature, sponges bleached and the photosynthetic capacity of Symbiodinium was compromised, consistent with sympatric corals. Cliona orientalis demonstrated little capacity to recover from thermal stress, remaining bleached with reduced Symbiodinium density and energy reserves after one month at reduced temperature. In comparison, C. orientalis was not observed to bleach during the 2017 coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef, when temperatures did not reach the 32 °C threshold. While C. orientalis can withstand current temperature extremes (<3 >°C above MMM) under laboratory and natural conditions, this species would not survive ocean temperatures projected for 2100 without acclimatisation or adaptation (≥3 °C above MMM). Hence, as ocean temperatures increase above local thermal thresholds, C. orientalis will have a negligible impact on reef erosion.

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