New research published by the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans reports that tropical cyclones significantly add to acidification problems currently being suffered by coral reefs as the carbon dioxide content of the oceans continues to increase. We know that ocean acidification means the organisms that make up coral reefs cannot get the calcium carbonate they need for their shells (exoskeletons). It turns out that the salinity and pH level of the oceans are dramatically changed by tropical storms and the effects are not short-lived. These affects not only affect living corals but actually can dissolve the existing coral structures, which are the skeletons of past coral generations.
The researchers — Derek Manzello, Ian Enochs, Sylvia Musielwicz, Renée Carlton and Swight Gledhill — used data collected from two coral reefs in the Florida Keys during Tropical Storm (later Hurricane) Isaac, in August of 2012. Special chemical sensors were in the water column at Little Conch Reef and Cheeca Rocks and at a nearby SEAKEYS/C-MAN buoy when the storm passed within approximately 142 km of Cheeca Rocks. What they found was that tropical storms intensified the already high CO2 conditions at these reefs. Their report details the various different chemical and physical processes that occurred in the storm and their effects on the overall reef chemistry.
The researchers’ conclusion is alarming. They note that “the existence of coral reefs beyond this century is in jeopardy. The concern has gone from the drastic declines in living coral cover [Gardner et al., 2003], to fear that the very framework of coral reefs will erode away [Hoegh-Guldberg et al., 2007; Manzello et al., 2008; Perry et al., 2013].” They note that given the likely increasing frequency of the strongest storms, in combination with ocean acidification, “will have serious consequences for the persistence of coral reef framework structures, which is far more alarming than the loss of living coral.”
Ask your librarian to get a copy of the study for you. You can see an abstract of it at this link .
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