Ocean Acidification: Building a Skeleton in A Changing Ocean

Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to ocean acidification due to their calcium carbonate “skeletons,” yet little is known about how ocean acidification will affect coral recruitment. In this exercise, students will examine a species of stony or hard coral belonging to the Order Scleractinia, Favia fragum, and examine how ocean acidification and changes in seawater saturation state (carbonate ion concentration) can affect the calcification process of new recruits of this coral species in Bermuda. After a brief introduction to coral reproduction and recruitment, as well as the chemistry behind calcification and acidification, students will go on to understand the experimental design, obtain and manipulate real data, and analyze the dataset.

See also:
Observed Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity
Introduction to Climate Change
The Global Carbon Cycle: The Chemistry of Climate Change

Themes: Ecology for Conservation, Conservation Tools

Language: English

Regions: Global, Caribbean

Keywords: climate change, data analysis, marine, tools

Components: 3

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Recommended Resource: Science Bulletin: Acid Oceans

Date created: December 2008

Source: AMNH Science Bulletins

If you’re an ocean creature with a hard shell—like a sea urchin, a hermit crab, or a coral polyp—you prefer ocean water with a pH of about 8.2. This chemistry makes it easy to assemble your armor from carbon-based building blocks dissolved in the ocean. Since the beginning of the industrial age, though, the ocean has been absorbing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the air. The increase in carbon dioxide has made the ocean’s pH more acidic, dropping to 8.05 on average. Biologists like Gretchen Hofmann are realizing that this tiny change is hampering the development of hard-shelled marine creatures, leaving them more vulnerable to environmental stressors. To learn more, Hofmann’s team has recreated an acidic ocean in a lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is testing how the change affects sea urchins.


Exercise: Building a Skeleton in A Changing Ocean

4 files

Author: K. Baird, S. de Putron, A. Cohen



Solutions: Building a Skeleton in A Changing Ocean

2 files

Author: K. Baird, S. de Putron, A. Cohen