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.
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.
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.