Ocean Science

Eyeing Ojos for Coral Clues

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Science  16 Dec 2011:
Vol. 334, Issue 6062, pp. 1473
DOI: 10.1126/science.334.6062.1473-c
CREDIT: CROOK ET AL., CORAL REEFS 10.1007/S00338-011-0839-Y (2011)

As the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere rises, so too does the amount of CO2 that is dissolved in the surface ocean. This dissolution lowers the pH and the carbonate saturation state of those waters, which can affect the viability of calcifying marine organisms such as coral reefs. It is difficult to project how severe will be the consequences of this acidification on the physiology of susceptible species, because as the process has not been occurring for long enough to foster accurate projections, and laboratory studies have a number of weaknesses that preclude convincing detailed predictions. Crook et al. wade into this issue by studying the marine biology of locations with naturally low carbonate saturation and low pH (called ojos), formed by the discharge of groundwater at localized submarine springs. They find that only three scleractinian coral species occur in these environments, none of which are common in Caribbean reefs. The reef ecosystems that occur in ojos may provide insights into potential long-term responses of corals to the low saturation conditions that now are becoming more common and more extreme.

Coral Reefs 10.1007/s00338-011-0839-y (2011).

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