The stratified Chilean Comau Fjord sustains a dense population of the cold-water coral (CWC) Desmophyllum dianthus in aragonite supersaturated shallow and aragonite undersaturated deep water. This provides a rare opportunity to evaluate CWC fitness trade-offs in response to physico-chemical drivers and their variability. Here, we combined year-long reciprocal transplantation experiments along natural oceanographic gradients with an in situ assessment of CWC fitness. Following transplantation, corals acclimated fast to the novel environment with no discernible difference between native and novel (i.e. cross-transplanted) corals, demonstrating high phenotypic plasticity. Surprisingly, corals exposed to lowest aragonite saturation (Omega arag < 1) and temperature (T < 12.0 °C), but stable environmental conditions, at the deep station grew fastest and expressed the fittest phenotype. We found an inverse relationship between CWC fitness and environmental variability and propose to consider the high frequency fluctuations of abiotic and biotic factors to better predict the future of CWCs in a changing ocean.
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 2022-12-02.