Ever seen a coral polyp up close?

Coral and ocean acidification

A coral polyp and it’s skeleton (Photo by Liz Drenkard, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Today’s Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution picture of the day catches a coral polyp early in it’s life (three-weeks-old) at left and its delicate skeleton at right.

MIT-WHOI Joint Program student Liz Drenkard studies the way corals respond to increasing ocean acidification, which can impede their ability to build their calcium carbonate skeletons.

Drenkard recently reported that:

Under both normal and high carbon dioxide levels, baby corals that she fed well built larger skeletons and thus calcified more rapidly than unfed corals, which obtained nutrition primarily from their photosynthesizing symbiotic algae.

Drenkard’s results suggest that corals living where there is ample food may withstand the effects of ocean acidification better than corals living where food is scarce.

Ocean Acidification (Courtesy of NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Carbon Dioxide Program)

What causes ocean acidification you ask?

The explanation is simple, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Science Brief entitled “Carbon Dioxide and Our Ocean Legacy” does a good job. In brief:

Ocean acidification is a straightforward consequence of increasing carbon dioxide emissions due to human activities…

In particular, climate change will impact our oceans in several ways:

Global warming is increasing ocean temperatures and raising sea levels. New scientific research shows that our oceans are beginning to face yet another threat due to global warming related emissions – their basic chemistry is changing because of the uptake of carbon dioxide released by human activities.

Scientists estimate that the ocean uptakes about 1/3 of atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions, so as concentrations increase in the atmosphere they do in the ocean as well.

Want to know more about the ocean’s relationship to carbon dioxide and the atmosophere? Find NOAA’s science brief here in case the link above doesn’t work: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/pubs/PDF/feel2899/feel2899.pdf

Feely, RA, Sabine, CL, Fabry, VJ. “Carbon Dioxide and Our Ocean Legacy.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. April 2006.

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One thought on “Ever seen a coral polyp up close?

  1. Pingback: Inspire future young shoalers by supporting Acid Horizon | Lyman V. Rutledge Marine Laboratory

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