The first coral reef climate lab was recently opened near Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to study the effects of different variables from climate change on corals in a controlled setting. The state-of-the-art lab will run controlled experiments to see how mini-coral reefs will react to acidification and warming similar to what’s predicted over the next 50 to 100 years by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The reef climate lab features 72 aquariums and 12 miniature coral reefs that allow researches to raise and lower both the temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and gauge the responses against the real-time conditions in the nearby Wistari channel near Brisbane, Australia. The lab was developed and built at the University of Queensland’s Heron Island Research Station as a part of the Climate Change Mesocosm (CCM) project.
“While similar to the Free Ocean Carbon Enrichment (FOCE) project, recently featured in Sir David Attenborough’s documentary ‘Death of the Oceans,’ the CCM differs in that it regulates the temperature, in addition to the acidification levels above and below the current ambient conditions of water on the reef,” said Sophie Dove, who leads the lab, in a statement.
Using four nearly 2,000-gallon airtight sumps, the research team can fine-tune the temperature and CO2 levels the coral mini-reefs are exposed to. Interestingly the research team will also be experimenting with the effects of four ocean conditions: A preindustrial ocean state, the current or control ocean conditions, higher CO2 and higher temperatures, and extremely high CO2 and extremely high temperatures.
An interesting observation resulted from the FOCE project, where corals exposed to the higher CO2 levels during an eight-month period appeared different and grew slower with different types of algae growing on them.
“We expect to see similar results from the CCM experiments where reefal organisms respond to the dual influences of acidification and temperature,” said David Kline, co-leader of the project.
[via Our Amazing Planet]
All images courtesy of and property of David Kline