Increased Erosion at Acidified Coral ReefsCoral ecologist Ian Enochs dives in the carbon dioxide bubbles of Maug's coral reefs (credit: Stephani Gordon/Open Boat Films/NOAA)
Corals live and thrive by maintaining a careful balance between their growth rate and the rate of erosion. Scientists already know the projected increases in carbon dioxide in our global oceans, known as ocean acidification, will slow the rate at which corals build the hard calcium carbonate skeletons that are the foundation of their habitat. A new study published online today in PLOS ONE demonstrates that in naturally highly acidified waters, these coral skeletons will also face increased erosion from microscopic organisms, called bioerosion. The result is accelerated breakdown and loss of reef structures, and potentially the loss of essential habitat.
Blocks of calcium carbonate at a test site in Maug. (credit: NOAA)
A team led by coral ecologist Ian Enochs at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami confirmed the results during a study at the remote Pacific island of Maug, in the Northern Marianas Islands. The region contains natural carbon dioxide seeps that bubble from the ocean floor, lowering the pH of the surrounding waters and providing a natural laboratory