Climate change and tropical sponges: The effect of elevated pCO and temperature on the sponge holobiont

by Holly Bennett

Institution: Victoria University of Wellington
Year: 2017
Keywords: Sponge; Climate change; Ocean warming; Ocean acidification
Posted: 02/01/2018
Record ID: 2154920
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10063/6240


As atmospheric CO concentrations rise, associated ocean warming (OW) and ocean acidification (OA) are predicted to cause declines in reef-building corals globally, shifting reefs from coral-dominated systems to those dominated by less sensitive species. Sponges are important structural and functional components of coral reef ecosystems, but despite increasing field-based evidence that sponges may be winners in response to environmental degradation, our understanding of how they respond to the combined effects of OW and OA is limited. This PhD thesis explores the response of four abundant Great Barrier Reef species the phototrophic Carteriospongia foliascens and Cymbastela coralliophila and the heterotrophic Stylissa flabelliformis and Rhopaloeides odorabile to OW and OA levels predicted for 2100, under two CO Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs). The overall aim of this research is to bridge gaps in our understanding of how these important coral reef organisms will respond to projected climate change, to begin to explore whether a sponge dominated state is a possible future trajectory for coral reefs.To determine the tolerance of adult sponges to climate change, these four species were exposed to OW and OA in the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences (AIMS) National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) in a 3-month experimental study. The first data chapter explores the physiological responses of these sponges to OW and OA to gain a broad understanding of sponge holobiont survival and functioning under these conditions. In this chapter I also address the hypothesis that phototrophic and heterotrophic sponges will exhibit differential responses to climate change. In the second and third data chapters I explore the cellular lipid and fatty acid composition of sponges, and how these biochemical constituents vary with OW and OA. Lipids and fatty acids are not only vital energy stores, they form the major components of cell membranes, and the structure and composition of these biochemical constituents ultimately determines the integrity and physiological competency of a cell. Therefore through these analyses I aimed to determine how OW and OA affects the metabolic balance of sponges, and to understand mechanisms underpinning observed systemic sponge responses. Finally, to provide greater insight into the population level impacts of climate change on tropical sponges, in the last data chapter I explore the response of the phototrophic species Carteriospongia foliascens to OW/OA throughout its developmental stages. I found that while sponges can generally tolerate climate change scenarios predicted under the RCP6.0 conditions for 2100 (30C/ pH 7.8), environmental projections for the end of this century under the RCP8.5 (31.5C/ pH 7.6) will have significant implications for their survival. Temperature effects were much stronger than OA effects for all species; however, phototrophic and heterotrophic species responded differently to OA. Elevated pCO exacerbated temperature stress in heterotrophic sponges butAdvisors/Committee Members: Bell, James, Davy, Simon, Webster, Nicole.