BIOACID Science Portrait – Janina Büscher, “Cold-water corals: tough beauties of the deep”

Janina Büscher, marine biologist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, focuses on a beauty from the cold and dark depths of the ocean: The cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa. This species can be found all over the globe – and it seems to be less susceptible to ocean acidificationthan scientists had expected.

Germany’s only manned research submersible JAGO took Janina Büscher to Lophelia reefs off the coast of Norway. “Is is of course totally exciting to sit in such a small submersible”, remembers the young researcher from Kiel. “It gets ever darker and then you are at the sea floor, go up the slope and then you see these massive cold-water coral reefs which spread over hundreds of metres.”

Janina Büscher brought samples from these massive reefs to her laboratory in Kiel and tested if the corals were able to cope with rising water temperatures and increasing carbon dioxide concentrations. She was surprised how well the organisms got along. But the dead coral skeleton that forms the base of the reef, started to dissolve. This might reduce its stability and put the complete reef at risk.

“We do have to act now to keep climate change in check and keep the impacts to a minimum”, thinks the marine biologist. “If we were to wait until we have all the research results, it may well be too late to do anything.”

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