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.
Photos from Little Cayman CREWS Station deployed by NOAA AOML.
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.
NOAA oceanographers traveled to Saipan this spring to refurbish the Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) station in Lao Lao Bay and conduct site surveys for the potential location of a moored autonomous pCO2 (MApCO2) buoy. Staff from the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS) program in Honolulu joined them during the site visit hosted by the Division of Environmental Quality (DEQ) of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).