NOAA contributed to a study published today in the journal Nature that compares the upward growth rates of coral reefs with predicted rates of sea-level rise and found many reefs would be submerged in water so deep it will hamper their growth and survival. The study was done by an international team of scientists led by the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.
A recent study by AOML and partners identified coral communities at Cheeca Rocks in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary that appear to be more resilient than other nearby reefs to coral bleaching after back to back record breaking hot summers in 2014 and 2015 and increasingly warmer waters. This local case study provides a small, tempered degree of optimism that some Caribbean coral communities may be able to acclimate to warming waters.
AOML coral researchers conducted a number of reef monitoring activities during the month of October at Cheeca Rocks off of Islamorada, Florida. Among the activities was the installation of new sensors to measure pH and photosynthetic light levels at the on-site MapCO2 buoy. The team also conducted benthic surveys and deployed a pH sensor at an inshore patch reef where they are conducting an experiment to examine the impacts of bleaching across Florida Keys reefs. They were also joined by a colleague from the University of Miami who conducted photo mosaic surveys of the reefs. A photo mosaic is a tool used by researchers to map reefscapes and involves the stitching together of hundreds of photos taken simultaneously across the reef to form one giant image. Photo mosaics provide coral researchers with an important tool to more accurately document community-wide changes in reef health.
While tropical cyclones can dramatically impact coral reefs, a recent study reveals their passage also exacerbates ocean acidification, rendering reef structures even more vulnerable to damage. Calcifying marine organisms such as corals that thrive in alkaline-rich waters are increasingly imperiled as seawater becomes more acidic due to the ocean’s uptake of carbon dioxide. The detrimental effects upon these organisms have been documented, but less is known about how reefs might react to ocean acidification when coupled with an additional stress factor such as a tropical cyclone.