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New ocean acidification study shows added danger to already struggling coral reefs

Date:
November 13, 2010
Source:
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
Summary:
Over the next century recruitment of new corals could drop by 73 percent, as rising carbon dioxide levels turn the oceans more acidic. New research findings reveal a new danger to the already threatened Caribbean and Florida reef Elkhorn corals.

Ocean acidification could compromise the successful fertilization, larval settlement and survivorship of Elkhorn corals, new research reveals.
Credit: Evan D'Alessandro, University of Miami

Over the next century, recruitment of new corals could drop by 73 percent, as rising carbon dioxide levels turn the oceans more acidic, suggests a new study led by scientists at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. The research findings reveal a new danger to the already threatened Caribbean and Florida reef Elkhorn corals.

"Ocean acidification is widely viewed as an emerging threat to coral reefs," said Rosenstiel School graduate student Rebecca Albright. "Our study is one of the first to document the impacts of ocean acidification on coral recruitment."

Albright and colleagues report that ocean acidification could compromise the successful fertilization, larval settlement and survivorship of Elkhorn corals. The research results suggest that ocean acidification could severely impact the ability of coral reefs to recover from disturbance, said the authors.

Elkhorn coral, known as Acropora palmata, is recognized as a critical reef-building species that once dominated tropical coral reef ecosystems. In 2006, Elkhorn was included on the U.S. Endangered Species List largely due to severe population declines over the past several decades.

The absorption of carbon dioxide by seawater, which results in a decline in pH level, is termed ocean acidification. The increased acidity in the seawater is felt throughout the marine food web as calcifying organisms, such as corals, oysters and sea urchins, find it more difficult to build their shells and skeletons making them more susceptible to predation and damage.

Recent studies, such as this one conducted by Albright and colleagues, are beginning to reveal how ocean acidification affects non-calcifying stages of marine organisms, such as reproduction.

"Reproductive failure of young coral species is an increasing concern since reefs are already highly stressed from bleaching, hurricanes, disease and poor water quality," said Chris Langdon, associate professor at the Rosenstiel School and co-author of the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Rebecca Albright, Benjamin Mason, Margaret Miller, Chris Langdon. Ocean acidification compromises recruitment success of the threatened Caribbean coral Acropora palmata. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1007273107

Cite This Page:

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "New ocean acidification study shows added danger to already struggling coral reefs." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 November 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101108151328.htm>.
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. (2010, November 13). New ocean acidification study shows added danger to already struggling coral reefs. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101108151328.htm
University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "New ocean acidification study shows added danger to already struggling coral reefs." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/11/101108151328.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

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