Coral reefs are vital to the long-term viability of tropical coastal societies, providing economic, recreational, and aesthetic value upon which coastal communities thrive. Coral reefs provide nurseries and habitat for commercially important fish species, production of sand for beaches, and protection from storm waves. These coral reef resources depend on the ability of calcifying organisms to build the three-dimensional structure of a reef as they produce their calcium carbonate skeletons. Ocean acidification can cause a decrease in calcification and dissolution of carbonate sediments that may lead to erosion of reef structure and increase the vulnerability of coastal communities to storms and seafloor habitat loss. Researchers at the USGS St. Petersburg Science Center are working with various government and academic partners to develop comprehensive records of modern and historical coral reef growth and calcification rates relative to changing seawater chemistry resulting from ocean acidification. These records will provide the foundation for predicting future impacts of ocean acidification and sea-level rise on coral reef growth. The USGS Coral Reef Ecosystems Studies (CREST) Project, and the USGS Mendenhall Fellowship Program currently:
Monitor calcification and metabolism rates in living coral reef communities,
Monitor growth rates of individual coral species,
Monitor seawater chemistry associated with ocean acidification,
Measure historic coral growth rates from coral cores relative to historic changes in seawater pH, and
Conduct field experiments to quantify effect of predicted seawater pH and carbon dioxide levels on coral reef growth and accumulation rates.
Louisiana State University, University of Texas at Austin, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Center for Atmospheric Research, U.S. National Park Service, University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Puerto Rico, Columbia University, University of New York.