Nav: Home

New study shows ocean acidification accelerates erosion of coral reefs

November 21, 2016

MIAMI -- Scientists studying naturally high carbon dioxide coral reefs in Papua New Guinea found that erosion of essential habitat is accelerated in these highly acidified waters, even as coral growth continues to slow. The new research by the University of Miami Rosenstiel School's Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS), NOAA, and the Australian Institute of Marine Science has important implications for coral reefs around the world as the ocean become more acidic as a result of global change.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, measured changes in the structural habitat at two reefs situated in volcanically acidified water off remote Papau New Guinea and, for the first time, found increased activity of worms and other organisms that bore into the reef structure, resulting in a loss of the framework that is the foundation of coral reef ecosystems.

These 'champagne reefs' are natural analogs of how coral reefs may look in 100 years if carbon dioxide continues to rise and ocean acidification conditions continue to worsen.

"This is the first study to demonstrate that ocean acidification is a two-front assault on coral reefs, simultaneously slowing the growth of skeleton, and speeding up the rate at which old reef habitats are eroded, said Ian Enochs, a coral ecologist at CIMAS and NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and lead author of the study."

Enochs placed pieces of coral skeleton alongside these 'champagne reefs' for two years to allow diverse coral reef communities to settle on them and to understand how reefs respond to ocean acidification conditions.

Using high-resolution CT scans similar to those taken at hospitals, the scientists created 3-D models of the coral skeletons to peer inside the coral skeletons and to see the bore holes left by worms and other organisms. These scans allowed them to measure the difference between new coral material added by calcifying organisms and coral material lost through bio-erosion.

The analysis found that a net loss of coral reef skeletons was occurring due to increased bio-erosion and at the pH tipping point of 7.8, reef frameworks in this region will begin to dissolve away.

"At these reefs, carbon dioxide from subterranean volcanic sources bubble up through the water, creating conditions that approximate what the rest of the world's oceans will experience due to ocean acidification," said Enochs. "This is the first study to piece together all of the separate coral reef ocean acidification processes, simultaneously looking at the different organisms that grow and erode reef habitats, and their net effects on one another over time."
-end-
The study, titled "Enhanced macroboring and depressed calcification drive net dissolution at high-CO2 coral reefs," was published in the Nov. 15 issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The study's co-authors include: Enochs, Graham Kolodziej, Lauren Valentino from UM/CIMAS; Derek P. Manzello from NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratories; and Sam H. C. Noonan and Katharina E. Fabricius from the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

(Click here to view a 3D animation of the coral cat scan showing erosion and accretion in naturally acidified waters)

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

Related Coral Reefs Articles:

Can coral reefs 'have it all'?
A new study outlines how strategic placement of no-fishing marine reserves can help coral reef fish communities thrive.
Coral reefs 'weathering' the pressure of globalization
More information about the effects human activities have on Southeast Asian coral reefs has been revealed, with researchers looking at how large-scale global pressures, combined with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate pattern, can detrimentally impact these delicate marine ecosystems.
Coral reefs: Centuries of human impact
In her AAAS talk, ASU researcher Katie Cramer outlines the evidence of the long-ago human footprints that set the stage for the recent coral reef die-offs we are witnessing today.
Large 'herbivores of the sea' help keep coral reefs healthy
Selective fishing can disrupt the delicate balance maintained between corals and algae in embattled Caribbean coral reefs.
How microbes reflect the health of coral reefs
Microorganisms play important roles in the health and protection of coral reefs, yet exploring these connections can be difficult due to the lack of unspoiled reef systems throughout the global ocean.
3-D printed coral could help endangered reefs
Threats to coral reefs are everywhere--rising water temperatures, ocean acidification, coral bleaching, fishing and other human activities.
Actions to save coral reefs could benefit all ecosystems
Scientists say bolder actions to protect the world's coral reefs will benefit all ecosystems, human livelihoods and improve food security.
Coral reefs shifting away from equator
Coral reefs are retreating from equatorial waters and establishing new reefs in more temperate regions, according to new research in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.
Protecting coral reefs in a deteriorating environment
A new report examines novel approaches for saving coral reefs imperiled by climate change, and how local decision-makers can assess the risks and benefits of intervention.
Coral reefs can't return from acid trip
When put to the test, corals and coralline algae are not able to acclimatise to ocean acidification.
More Coral Reefs News and Coral Reefs Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.