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.
When Barack Obama becomes the first president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge, his visit will highlight not only a new course in international relations, but showcase on-going scientific opportunities with the country only 90 miles off the Florida coast.
AOML’s Coral Health and Monitoring Program (CHAMP) rolled out a new data source in October as part of its online data query tool. Optimally Interpolated Sea Surface Temperatures, or OISSTs, are data from microwave satellite observation platforms, products that are sourced from Remote Sensing Systems. Whereas other sea surface temperature sources might be missing data due to orbital gaps or non-ideal environmental conditions such as cloud cover or rainfall, the OISST platform corrects for these errors to provide a complete, daily sea surface temperature map that can benefit coral health and monitoring efforts worldwide.
Members of AOML’s Acidification, Climate, and Coral Reef Ecosystems Team (ACCRETE) recently traveled to two remote reef locations to expand the National Coral Reef Monitoring Program’s (NCRMP) network of sentinel climate and ocean acidification monitoring sites. The newly established sites, located in the Flower Garden Banks and the Dry Tortugas, will provide researchers with additional data and insights into the ocean’s changing chemistry and the progression of ocean acidification, as well as the ecological impacts of these variables across the Caribbean basin and the Gulf of Mexico.
This summer, AOML will be diving into a new outreach initiative with the Central Caribbean Marine Institute, a coral reef research organization based in the Cayman Islands. From June through August, NOAA oceanographers from AOML will give a series of talks on various oceanographic topics to the institute’s staff and students participating in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the institute’s Little Cayman Research Centre (LCRC).
A study of Galápagos’ coral reefs provides evidence that reefs exposed to lower pH and higher nutrient levels may be the most affected and least resilient to changes in climate and ocean chemistry.
2014 was a relatively warm summer in South Florida, and local divers noticed the effects of this sustained weather pattern. Below the ocean surface, corals were bleaching. In the month of August, the Coral Bleaching Early Warning Network, jointly supported by Mote Marine Lab and NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, received 34 reports describing paling or partial bleaching and an additional 19 reports indicating significant bleaching. Scientists continue to monitor the impact of this severe bleaching event to determine the extent of coral mortality.
Maug is a unique natural laboratory that allows us to study how ocean acidification affects coral reef ecosystems. We know of no other area like this in U.S. waters. Increasing carbon dioxide in seawater is a global issue because it makes it harder for animals like corals to build skeletons.
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.