Visitors to Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary may notice a recent addition to the reef near Cheeca Rocks: a sophisticated new monitoring buoy. NOAA scientists from the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and partners from the University of Miami’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies deployed the buoy in December 2011 under permit from the sanctuary. The large yellow ‘MApCO2’ buoy sits roughly three feet above the waterline and along with subsurface instruments, simultaneously measures the concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and ocean. Divers and boaters are asked to keep clear of the buoy.
Ocean researchers are studying ocean acidification — changes in ocean chemistry resulting from rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere then absorbed by the ocean. The Cheeca Rocks buoy is part of the Atlantic Ocean Acidification Test Bed,funded by NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program.
This test bed includes studies of coral community productivity and calcification rates,along with coral growth and bioerosion rates, and tests advanced technologies for monitoring ocean acidification and the impacts to coral reef ecosystems. Understanding how coral reef communities interact with the surrounding chemical environment is critical towards improving understanding of how ocean acidification unfolds within local ecosystems.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, 24 January 2011. Web site.