Who We Are
What We Do
Our research aims to identify corals that are more resilient in the presence of stressors like warming oceans, ocean acidification, and spread of novel diseases. Informing coral selection by managers and enhancing tools available to maximize coral resilience allows resource managers to be more effective with their restoration plans, especially when out-planting corals to the reef.
Areas of Research
A Bold and Unprecedented New Effort to Tackle the Vast Threats to Marine Ecosystems
November 15, 2023
NOAA announced $4.2 million in funding awarded to a collaborative project entitled the Florida Regional Ecosystems Stressors Collaborative Assessment (FRESCA), co-led by NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) and the University of Miami, and involving seven different academic and research institutions.
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Research Impacts & Key Findings
The long-term and comprehensive study of coral reef ecosystems improves understanding of how coral reefs respond to changes in the environment over time and predict how they will fare when exposed to increasing sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification, fishing, disease and pollution from land. AOML’s Coral Program has collected years of data and leads the in-situ climate change and ocean acidification monitoring for the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico.
AOML’s Coral Program is an integrated and focused monitoring effort developing and maintaining strong partnerships with federal, state/territory, academic and other partners across the U.S. The program collaborates with partners such as NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries, NOAA Fisheries, NOAA Coral Reef Watch, NOAA National Centers for Ocean and Coastal Science, the University of Virgin Islands, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental Moorings International, and and the National Park Service.
AOML’s Coral Program provides consistent, sustained, and long‐term measurements of key indicators that gauge the status and trends of coral reef health providing a greater understanding of how a changing climate is impacting the nation’s coral reef ecosystems.
AOML’s Coral Restoration and Resilience research has found that corals exposed to variable temperature treatment in the laboratory for 90 days were better able to withstand the warmer ocean temperatures caused by climate change. The temperature-treated corals were also less likely to succumb to bleaching, while untreated corals experienced more rapid tissue loss and necrosis. These findings offer coral restoration scientists with a new approach to potentially increase the success rate of planting nursery-raised staghorn coral onto degraded reefs. Currently, tens of thousands of acroporid colonies are raised and outplanted on Florida’s coral reef every year, with >70% survivorship observed one year after outplanting.
AOML’s coral scientists have led 16 National Coral Reef Monitoring Program cruises to six field sites in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico gathering valuable data used to provide a comprehensive view of the effects of climate change on coral reef ecosystems. Over 3000 water samples have been processed. This data has been used to examine coral response to precise, controlled changes in environmental conditions and determine coral resilience to stressors such as rising temperatures, ocean acidification, and nutrient flux.
The influences of diurnal variability and ocean acidification on the bioerosion rates of two reef-dwelling Caribbean sponges
Morris, J., Enochs, I., Webb, A., de Bakker, D., Soderberg, N., Kolodziej, G., & Manzello, D. (2022). The influences of diurnal variability and ocean acidification on the bioerosion rates of two reef‐dwelling Caribbean sponges. Global Change Biology.
Abstract: Ocean acidification (OA) is expected to modify the structure and function of coral reef ecosystems by reducing calcification, increasing bioerosion, and altering the physiology of many marine organisms. Much of our understanding of these relationships is based on experiments with static OA treatments, although evidence suggests that the magnitude of diurnal fluctuations in carbonate chemistry may modulate the calcification response to OA. These light-mediated swings in seawater pH are projected to become more extreme with OA, yet their impact on bioerosion remains unknown. We evaluated the influence of diurnal carbonate chemistry variability on the bioerosion rates of two Caribbean sponges: the zooxanthellate Cliona varians and azooxanthellate Cliothosa delitrix. Replicate fragments from multiple colonies of each species were exposed to four precisely controlled pH treatments: contemporary static (8.05 ± 0.00; mean pH ± diurnal pH oscillation), contemporary variable (8.05 ± 0.10), future OA static (7.80 ± 0.00), and future OA variable (7.80 ± 0.10)…
Coral City Camera
In collaboration with Coral Morphologic, a coral-themed art studio based in Miami, we have assisted in the deployment of the Coral City Camera (CCC), an underwater camera streaming live from an urban coral reef in Miami, Florida. The CCC is a public art and scientific research project led primarily by Coral Morphologic, and produced with Bridge Initiative and Bas Fisher Invitational.