Coral reefs are the ‘canary in the coal mine' - BIOS

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  • Bermuda's coral reefs are the 'canary in the coalmine' according to BIOS.

    Bermuda's coral reefs are the 'canary in the coalmine' according to BIOS.

The Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences has described Bermuda's coral reefs as a”‘canary in the coal mine” for increased ocean acidity.

And though ocean acidity has in the past been directly linked to reduced coral growth, a new study has suggested that the connection may be more complex than previously thought.

Increased acidity in the ocean, caused by carbon dioxide in the air being absorbed into the water, has been linked to a drop in the ability of coral polyps to create exoskeletons, leaving the microorganisms unprotected.

However, research by BIOS scientist Samantha de Putron and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute now indicates that the connection between acidity and calcification were not linear.

This reveals that the coral calcification response to ocean acidification is variable and complex, Dr de Putron said.

Because of Bermuda's placement as the most northerly region with coral growth, Dr de Putron said local corals are more susceptible to changes in the environment. “It is of great importance that we are able to get a better understanding of the effects of the changing ocean on our corals so that we are able to protect our coral reef ecosystems,” she said.

“If we are able to crystallise our understandings of the processes involved in calcification for our corals here in Bermuda where species are more sensitive, we have a good chance of preventing damage to corals in other parts of the world before it becomes more significant.”

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Published Jan 24, 2011 at 8:48 am (Updated Jan 24, 2011 at 8:46 am)

Coral reefs are the ‘canary in the coal mine' - BIOS

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