Cold water corals in a changing environment: Potential impacts of global climate change across coral life history stages

  • Estado
  • Nome
    Maria Rakka
  • Entidade de acolhimento
    Centro Okeanos


Cold-water coral (CWC) ecosystems are recognized as important deep-sea biodiversity hotspots, that are increasingly vulnerable to global climate change impacts. These impacts include elevated temperature, ocean acidification (OA) and potential changes in hydrodynamics and food supply to benthic ecosystems. However, the current limited knowledge on the basic biology and ecology of CWCs limits our abillity to properly assess the potential responses of these species, and the ecosystems they form, to climate change-related impacts. Furthermore, most of our present knowledge is related to adult stages of CWC, whereas very little is known on their early life history stages. The main aim of this PhD proposal is to advance our knowledge on the larval development, feeding biology and potential effects of climate change stressors on the physiology of key CWC species across different life history stages. This goal will be achieved through the accomplishment of three specific objectives: (1) rear larvae in aquaria in order to describe the early life history stages of three targeted species: the octocorals Dentomuricea meteor, Primnoa resedaeformis and the antipatharian Antipathella wollastoni and determine possible impacts of climate change to their dispersal; (2) perform aquaria experiments to study their feeding biology and the physiological responses to different food sources; and (3) assess the effect of elevated temperature and CO2 concentration on the physiology of different CWC life history stages. This approach will fill an important gap to the current understanding on CWCs biology and ecophysiology, especially concerning their early life history stages. Furthermore, it will allow a more complete assessment of the potential impacts of climate change to such vulnerable marine ecosystems.