Environmental legacy effects and acclimatization of a crustose coralline alga to ocean acidification

Maggie D. Johnson, Lucia M.Rodriguez Bravo, Noelle Lucey, Andrew H. Altieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Prior exposure to variable environmental conditions is predicted to influence the resilience of marine organisms to global change. We conducted complementary 4-month field and laboratory experiments to understand how a dynamic, and sometimes extreme, environment influences growth rates of a tropical reef-building crustose coralline alga and its responses to ocean acidification (OA). Using a reciprocal transplant design, we quantified calcification rates of the Caribbean coralline Lithophyllum sp. at sites with a history of either extreme or moderate oxygen, temperature, and pH regimes. Calcification rates of in situ corallines at the extreme site were 90% lower than those at the moderate site, regardless of origin. Negative effects of corallines originating from the extreme site persisted even after transplanting to more optimal conditions for 20 weeks. In the laboratory, we tested the separate and combined effects of stress and variability by exposing corallines from the same sites to either ambient (Amb: pH 8.04) or acidified (OA: pH 7.70) stable conditions or variable (Var: pH 7.80-8.10) or acidified variable (OA-Var: pH 7.45–7.75) conditions. There was a negative effect of all pH treatments on Lithophyllum sp. calcification rates relative to the control, with lower calcification rates in corallines from the extreme site than from the moderate site in each treatment, indicative of a legacy effect of site origin on subsequent response to laboratory treatment. Our study provides ecologically relevant context to understanding the nuanced effects of OA on crustose coralline algae, and illustrates how local environmental regimes may influence the effects of global change.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalClimate Change Ecology
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


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