The growth rate of Acropora cervicornis branch tips maintained in the laboratory was measured before, during, and after exposure to elevated nitrate (5 and 10 mu M NO3-), phosphate (2 and 4 mu M P-PO43) and/or PCO2 (CO2 similar to 700 to 800 mu atm). The effect of increased PCO2 was greater than that of nutrient enrichment alone. High concentrations of nitrate or phosphate resulted in significant decreases in growth rate, in both the presence and absence of increased PCO2. The effect of nitrate and phosphate enrichment combined was additive or antagonistic relative to nutrient concentration and PCO2 level. Growth rate recovery was greater after exposure to increased nutrients or CO2 compared to increased nutrients and CO2. If these results accurately predict coral response in the natural environment, it is reasonable to speculate that the survival and reef-building potential of this species will be significantly negatively impacted by continued coastal nutrification and projected PCO2 increases.
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