Ocean-warming and acidification are predicted to reduce coral reef biodiversity, but the combined effects of these stressors on overall biodiversity are largely unmeasured. Here, we examined the individual and combined effects of elevated temperature (+2 °C) and reduced pH (−0.2 units) on the biodiversity of coral reef communities that developed on standardized sampling units over a 2-y mesocosm experiment. Biodiversity and species composition were measured using amplicon sequencing libraries targeting the cytochrome oxidase I (COI) barcoding gene. Ocean-warming significantly increased species richness relative to present-day control conditions, whereas acidification significantly reduced richness. Contrary to expectations, species richness in the combined future ocean treatment with both warming and acidification was not significantly different from the present-day control treatment. Rather than the predicted collapse of biodiversity under the dual stressors, we find significant changes in the relative abundance but not in the occurrence of species, resulting in a shuffling of coral reef community structure among the highly species-rich cryptobenthic community. The ultimate outcome of altered community structure for coral reef ecosystems will depend on species-specific ecological functions and community interactions. Given that most species on coral reefs are members of the understudied cryptobenthos, holistic research on reef communities is needed to accurately predict diversity–function relationships and ecosystem responses to future climate conditions.
In order to allow full comparability with other ocean acidification data sets, the R package seacarb (Gattuso et al, 2021) was used to compute a complete and consistent set of carbonate system variables, as described by Nisumaa et al. (2010). In this dataset the original values were archived in addition with the recalculated parameters (see related PI). The date of carbonate chemistry calculation by seacarb is 2022-03-30.