Manipulative studies have demonstrated that ocean acidification (OA) is a threat to coral reefs, yet no experiments have employed diurnal variations in pCO(2) that are ecologically relevant to many shallow reefs. Two experiments were conducted to test the response of coral recruits (less than 6 days old) to diurnally oscillating pCO(2); one exposing recruits for 3 days to ambient (440 µatm), high (663 µatm) and diurnally oscillating pCO(2) on a natural phase (420-596 µatm), and another exposing recruits for 6 days to ambient (456 µatm), high (837 µatm) and diurnally oscillating pCO(2) on either a natural or a reverse phase (448-845 µatm). In experiment I, recruits exposed to natural-phased diurnally oscillating pCO(2) grew 6-19% larger than those in ambient or high pCO(2). In experiment II, recruits in both high and natural-phased diurnally oscillating pCO(2) grew 16 per cent larger than those at ambient pCO(2), and this was accompanied by 13-18% higher survivorship; the stimulatory effect on growth of oscillatory pCO(2) was diminished by administering high pCO(2) during the day (i.e. reverse-phased). These results demonstrate that coral recruits can benefit from ecologically relevant fluctuations in pCO(2) and we hypothesize that the mechanism underlying this response is highly pCO(2)-mediated, night-time storage of dissolved inorganic carbon that fuels daytime calcification.
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