Coral reefs persist in a balance between reef construction and reef breakdown. As corals grow, they construct the complex calcium carbonate framework that provides habitat for fish and other reef organisms.
Simultaneously, bioeroders, such as parrotfish and boring marine worms, breakdown the reef structure into rubble and the sand that nourishes our beaches. For reefs to persist, rates of reef construction must exceed reef breakdown.
This is an image of µCT scan showing the outside (top) and inside (bottom) of an experimental coral block after a one-year deployment in Kāne'ohe Bay, Hawai'i. Note the bioerosion scars inside the block.
Credit: Nyssa Silbiger at UH Mānoa and Mark Riccio at the Cornell Unversity µCT Facility for Imaging and Preclinical Research
This balance is threatened by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, which causes ocean acidification (decreasing ocean pH). Prior research has largely focused on the negative impacts of ocean acidification on reef growth, but new research this week from scientists at the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), based at the University of Hawai'i - Mānoa (UHM), demonstrates that lower ocean pH also enhances reef breakdown: a double-whammy for coral reefs in a changing climate.
To measure bioerosion, researchers deployed small blocks of calcium carbonate (dead coral skeleton) onto the reef for one year. Traditionally, these blocks are weighed before and after deployment on the reef; however, HIMB scientists used microCT (a high-resolution CT scan) to create before and after 3-D images of each block. According to Nyssa Silbiger, lead author of the study and doctoral candidate at HIMB, this novel technique provides a more accurate measurement of accretion and erosion rates.
The researchers placed the bioerosion blocks along a 100-ft transect on shallow coral reef in Kāne'ohe Bay, Hawai'i, taking advantage of natural variability of pH in coastal reefs. The study compared the influence of pH, resource availability, temperature, distance from shore, and depth on accretion-erosion balance. Among all measured variables, pH was the strongest predictor of accretion-erosion. Reefs shifted towards higher rates of erosion in more acidic water - a condition that will become increasingly common over the next century of climate change.
This study also highlights the impact of fine-scale variation in coastal ocean chemistry on coral reefs. Current models from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predict changes in pH for the open ocean, but these predictions are problematic for coral reefs, which are embedded in highly variable coastal ecosystems. The study found dramatic differences in ocean pH and in the daily variability of pH across a short distance.
"It was surprising to discover that small-scale changes in the environment can influence ecosystem-level reef processes," said Silbiger. "We saw changes in pH on the order of meters and those small pH changes drove the patterns in reef accretion-erosion."
Silbiger and colleagues are learning all they can from the microCT scans, as this is the first time before-and-after microCT scans were used as a measure of accretion-erosion on coral reefs. In ongoing work, they are using this technology to distinguish between accretion and erosion and to single out erosion scars from specific bioeroder groups (e.g., holes from boring worms versus bioeroding sponges). The researchers are also using this technology to investigate the drivers of the accretion-erosion balance over the much larger area of the Hawaiian Archipelago.
NJ Silbiger, O Guadoyal, FIM Thomas, MJ Donahue (2014) Reefs shift from net accretion to net erosion along a natural environmental gradient. Marine Ecology Progress Series, vol. 515, doi: 10.3354/meps10999
The School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa was established by the Board of Regents of the University of Hawai'i in 1988 in recognition of the need to realign and further strengthen the excellent education and research resources available within the University. SOEST brings together four academic departments, three research institutes, several federal cooperative programs, and support facilities of the highest quality in the nation to meet challenges in the ocean, earth and planetary sciences and technologies.
Marcie Grabowski | EurekAlert!
Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF
Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.
A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.
The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering
20.07.2018 | Information Technology
20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences