Climate Change Impacts on Coral Reefs

I came to Hawaii almost two years ago to study marine biology here at UH Manoa. My primary interests have always been on marine mammals, however as a student in science any form of experience in current research was desirable, thus I applied to be an intern for a PhD student at HIMB who was investigating the potential impacts that climate change may pose on coral reefs in Hawaii.

Nearly 30% of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean causing an increase in the acidity. It has been suggested that as the ocean becomes more acidic it can disrupt the natural rate of coral growth, and consequently the rate at which corals are broken down as well. This is because there is a process called bioerosion in which a community of living organisms dissolve calcium, and many of the microorganisms in this community secrete acids to break down calcium structures.

My contribution to this research included collecting coral samples and analyzing water samples to measure if there was a change in the rate of coral growth and bioerosion. We found that in fact, as carbon dioxide and the water acidity increased, there was an impact on the net bioerosion rate.

Thanks to this amazing opportunity, I now am working on a directed research project to see if invasive algae covering coral reefs alter the water chemistry for corals. If we find that the water chemistry is significantly impacted, then we will continue with the project by analyzing if algal coverage has an impact on coral growth, and also would be great support to the algae super sucker project going on in Hawaii.

Justin Miyano

 

Martinez, Jonathan A., C. M. Smith, and R. H. Richmond. 2012. Invasive Algal Mats Degrade Coral Reef Physical Habitat Quality. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science. 99: 42-49.

Neumann, A. C. 1966. Observations on Coastal Erosion in Bermuda and Measurements of the Boring Rate of the Sponge, Cliona Lampa. Limnology and Oceanography. 11(1): 92-108.

Super Sucker: http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/hawaii/explore/super-sucker.xml

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