The new research published online August 10 in Nature Climate Change provides a stark look into the future of ocean acidification – the absorption by the global oceans of increasing amounts of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists predict that elevated carbon dioxide absorbed by the global oceans will drive similar ecosystem shifts, making it difficult for coral to build skeletons and easier for other plants and animals to erode them.
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.
On May 13th, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy introduced the National Microbiome Initiative, an effort to support multi-agency research to help sample and better understand communities of microorganisms that are critical to both human health and the world’s ecosystems. As the nation’s premier ocean science agency, NOAA is leading interdisciplinary research to improve observation and assessment of marine microbiomes. To support this national initiative, NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) received nearly $2 million in funding this year to conduct a number of projects that integrate genetic sampling techniques and technologies to help advance the understanding of the ocean’s microbiomes.
A new study published in the journal Nature Microbiology highlights how emerging, devastating outbreaks of Vibrio infection in Latin America might be linked to El Niño, a climate pattern that periodically causes surface temperatures to warm throughout the equatorial Pacific Ocean. A researcher with the University of Miami’s Cooperative Institute of Marine & Atmospheric Studies at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Lab was part of an international research team that used microbiological, genomic, and bioinformatic tools to demonstrate how El Niño provides a mechanism for the transport of disease from Asia into the Americas.
During the months of March and April, AOML joined an international team of oceanographers to actively sample the Indian Ocean in support of the Global Ocean Ship-Based Hydrographic Investigation Program (GO-SHIP), an initiative to measure and investigate the ocean basins from coast to coast and from top to bottom. Aboard the R/V Roger Revelle, the team transected the Indian Ocean from the Antarctic northward into the Bay of Bengal, collecting seawater samples at 113 stations as part of a multi-decadal effort to measure various ocean properties, including temperature, salinity, nutrients, carbon and other gases.
For the third time in recorded history, a massive coral bleaching event is unfolding throughout the world’s oceans, stretching from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean. Above average sea surface temperatures exacerbated by a strong El Niño could result in the planet losing up to 4,500 square miles of coral this year alone, according to NOAA. The global event is predicted to continue to impact reefs into the spring of 2016.
Scientists from NOAA and the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies at the University of Miami have documented a dramatic shift from vibrant coral communities to carpets of algae in remote Pacific Ocean waters where an undersea volcano spews carbon dioxide.
A team of researchers, including scientists from AOML and the University of Miami, set sail June 19th on a research cruise aboard the NOAA ship Gordon Gunter to provide increased understanding of ocean acidification and its drivers along the U.S. East coast. The cruise, which is part of a larger effort supported by NOAA’s Ocean Acidification Program, investigated near-shore and deep waters, and provided researchers with more detailed information about changing ocean chemistry in different environments.
The earth is warming, but temperatures in the atmosphere and at the sea surface that steadily rose in the last half-century have leveled off and slowed in the past decade, causing the appearance of an imbalance in Earth’s heat budget. Scientists are looking into the deep ocean to determine where this additional heat energy could be stored, and recently traced a pathway that leads to the Indian Ocean.
A research vessel ploughs through the waves, braving the strong westerly winds of the Roaring Forties in the Southern Ocean in order to measure levels of dissolved carbon dioxide in the surface of the ocean. (Nicolas Metzl, LOCEAN/IPSL Laboratory).