Ocean acidification – Category 1: the molecular basis of ocean acidification effects on calcification in zooxanthellate corals

Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Dates: September 2010 – August 2011

Project Description

Ocean acidification (the decrease in seawater pH) is driven by the increase in atmospheric CO2. This is expected to have a dramatic effect on organisms that precipitate calcium carbonate. Coral reefs are formed and maintained by calcifying organisms, particularly reef-building corals. Current predictions are that coral species will be negatively impacted; however the limited number of available measurements exhibit significant variability for reasons that are not understood. This is critically important as coral reef ecosystems hold significant cultural and economic values both nationally and internationally. This program is therefore focused on the molecular basis for calcification in corals in order to understand how corals will respond to ocean acidification in the next century.

Rutgers University has a state-of-art coral culture facility that will be used to simulate future ocean conditions. The work will utilize a unique set of coral tissue cultures that will allow scientists to assess the cellular biology that underlies the reponses of corals to ocean acidification. The laboratory measurements will also determine how geochemical signatures of corals are affected by varying environmental conditions. These results are important because coral geochemical signatures are used to understand how corals have responded to changes in the ocean pH in the historical past. The project will be conducted by a research team at Rutgers, in collaboration with scientists in Taiwan and Israel. The program will also engage K-12 teachers in order to develop lesson plans that highlight coral biology and ocean biogeochemistry.


Paul Falkowski (Principal Investigator)
Robert Sherrell (Co-Principal Investigator)
Oscar Schofield (Co-Principal Investigator)
Yair Rosenthal (Co-Principal Investigator)

Rutgers Coastal Ocean Observation Lab
, July 2011. Web site.

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