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Corals and Climate Change

Lab offers new way to look at bleaching, ocean acidity, and global warming

A modest new lab at the Rosenstiel School is the first of its kind to tackle the global problem of climate change impacts on corals. Fully operational this month, this new lab has begun to study how corals respond to the combined stress of greenhouse warming and ocean acidification. The lab is the first to maintain corals under precisely controlled temperature and carbon dioxide conditions while exposing them to natural light conditions.

Using two Caribbean coral species as its study subjects, Montastraea faveolata (mountainous star coral) and Porites furcata (finger coral), the research team will study how the world's increasingly acidic oceans (caused by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide) affect these corals when accompanied with increasing ocean temperatures as well.

“I was interested in stressing corals at differing levels of carbon dioxide and temperatures much like they would experience in the next 50 to 100 years to see if skeletal development is affected,” said Dr. Chris Langdon, one of the lab's creators and the scientist who developed a similar lab at the University of Hawaii studying corals at varying carbon dioxide changes alone.

Dr. Andrew Baker, co-creator and also a Rosenstiel School faculty, has spent much of his career looking at climate change impacts on corals and has geared his perspective towards understanding whether corals can adapt to any of these changes. “I's clear that corals of the future will see much warmer, more acidic oceans than we have now,” Baker said. “By mimicking these same changes in the laboratory we get a much clearer idea of how these corals will respond.”

The National Science Foundation, the Packard Foundation, Conservation International and the Wildlife Conservation Society have made the new lab possible through their funding of research and the actual facilities and instrumentation necessary to ensure precise monitoring.

Located at the school's hatchery on Virginia Key, the lab provides research opportunities for a dozen faculty, staff, and students.

Rosenstiel School is part of the University of Miami and, since its founding in the 1940s, has grown into one of the world's premier marine and atmospheric research institutions.

Media Contact:
Ivy Kupec
Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
305.421.4704 (o)

Ivy F. Kupec | EurekAlert!
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