Coral resistance to ocean acidification linked to increased calcium at the site of calcification

Proc Biol Sci. 2018 May 16;285(1878):20180564. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.0564.


Ocean acidification threatens the persistence of biogenic calcium carbonate (CaCO3) production on coral reefs. However, some coral genera show resistance to declines in seawater pH, potentially achieved by modulating the chemistry of the fluid where calcification occurs. We use two novel geochemical techniques based on boron systematics and Raman spectroscopy, which together provide the first constraints on the sensitivity of coral calcifying fluid calcium concentrations ([Formula: see text]) to changing seawater pH. In response to simulated end-of-century pH conditions, Pocillopora damicornis increased [Formula: see text] to as much as 25% above that of seawater and maintained constant calcification rates. Conversely, Acropora youngei displayed less control over [Formula: see text], and its calcification rates strongly declined at lower seawater pH. Although the role of [Formula: see text] in driving calcification has often been neglected, increasing [Formula: see text] may be a key mechanism enabling more resistant corals to cope with ocean acidification and continue to build CaCO3 skeletons in a high-CO2 world.

Keywords: calcification; calcium; coral; ocean acidification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / physiology*
  • Boron / analysis*
  • Calcification, Physiologic*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Calcium Carbonate / chemistry
  • Carbon Dioxide / chemistry
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Seawater / chemistry*
  • Spectrum Analysis, Raman*


  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Boron
  • Calcium

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4068788