Will Coralline algae reef mitigate climate change effects on associated fauna?

  • Ragazzola, Federica (PI)
  • Pipitone, Carlo (CoI)

Project Details


Royal Society Travel grant:
The aim of this proposal is to study the mitigation effects of the biogenic coralline
algae reef on its associated fauna under 2100 future climate change scenario
(IPCC 2014). In order to achieve this we will: 1) design and develop 3D artificial
biogenic reefs ('mimics') simulating biogenic coralline algae reefs; 2) study the
suitability of the reef mimics as habitat providers and biodiversity facilitator in
natural environments; 3) analyse the fauna responses to future climate changes in
both natural and 'mimic' reefs.

Layman's description

Will coralline algae reef protect marine biodiversity against climate changes?
Scientific evidence for Climate changes (CC) are already unequivocal, but how
marine ecosystems will be affected (from single organism to species communities)
and if some of these ecosystems will be able to mitigate CC effects (i.e. buffer) on
organisms habits and functions are still open questions.
Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2 ) and other Green House Gases in the
atmosphere since the pre-industrial revolution are causing wide-ranging impacts,
including rising sea levels, melting snow and ice, more extreme heat events,
storms, rainfall and floods.
And what's about the Oceans? CO2 increase in the atmosphere have two major
effects on our Seas: global warming (GW) and ocean acidification (OA). And the
combination of these two main threats is affecting marine life.
What is still unclear is the role of some species as 'sources' against CC. Among
marine plants, some species are supposed to be able to mitigate OA effects
(buffer) and create more favourable conditions for other organisms, including
fauna which lives in association with them (i.e. associated fauna).
In a small and confined seas like the Mediterranean Sea, these potential 'buffers'
are among the dominant organisms. Coralline algae bioconstructions belong
these groups of organism that may play an important role in buffering the pH
decrease thus creating a micro-environment that may help some species to resist
under future CC. In the Mediterranean Sea, coralline algae (algae with calcium
carbonate structure) form extended reefs (bioconstructions) and, like buildings,
are able to host different species to settle on, to hide and protect, and thus create
highly diverse and complex environments.
Because of their calcium carbonate structures, coralline algae are extremely
vulnerable to climate change, in particular to OA, since their skeleton is made with
a calcium carbonate forms that is very soluble to low pH conditions. Thus, their
survival and, as cascading effect, the survival of the associated species is at risk.
The aim of this proposal is to study the capability of coralline algae
bioconstructions to mitigate the effects of CC on their associated fauna. 3D
artificial reef proto-types, resembling structures of natural coralline
bioconstructions, will be designed and realized. Successively, mimics will be
transplanted for 3,6 and 12 months in the sea close to coralline algae reefs in
order to make them available for organisms associated to the natural reefs. After
12 months, natural reefs and mimics with their associated fauna will be exposed
to combined OA and GW effects (future condition projected for the 2100) under
controlled conditions.
Our research will allow to clarify the function of the coralline algae reef as a buffer
for diversity, abundance, reproductive, ecological and structural characteristics of
the associated fauna. As a consequence, our results will be important for the
planning of future protection and management strategies involving coralline algae
Effective start/end date1/09/1631/08/18