Ocean acidification making life difficult for corals

08-20-2015

Dr. Nichole Price and Emily Donham were part of new research published in Nature Climate Change that provides a stark look into the future of ocean acidification and how it is making it difficult for coral to build skeletons and easier for other plants and animals to erode them.

The new research published online August 10 assessed how ocean acidification - the absorption by the global oceans of increasing amounts of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions--may drive ecosystem shifts on coral reefs. The researchers documented a shift from coral communities to algae-covered rocks (pictured above) near a carbon dioxide spewing volcano nestled within the Pacific islands of Maug.

The research was conducted on Maug, an uninhabited volcanic island group in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands about 450 miles from Guam. This location allowed scientists to single out a small geographic area that has consistently been experiencing for some time carbon dioxide levels predicted for a hundred years in the future due to volcanic activity, providing a unique window to the future. Maug is an area with few other man-made stressors for coral, such as overfishing and pollution from land, that otherwise has optimal present-day water quality conditions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Harold Alfond Foundation funded the investigation, which was led by the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Read [140]more. Image: A volcanically acidified algae-dominated habitat at Maug Island, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Credit: M. Fox.