As the oceans absorb more carbon on a planet increasingly choked by greenhouse gases, scientists worry its reefs — the great storm-deflecting rampart for much of the tropics — will crumble and fall.
But for the first time, a new study by the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a team of international scientists has found that at least one soft coral, the shrub-like sea rod found throughout South Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the Bahamas, is more resilient to ocean acidification fueled by carbon than previously thought. Unlike hard corals and other marine animals with shells that need less acidic water to build calcified skins, corals with interior skeletons like the sea rod can survive.
For marine biologists, it’s a bit of good news in a growing catalog of risks as they race to manage oceans 30 percent more acidic than a century ago.
“We had thought this coral was on the front line,” said co-author Chris Langdon, director of Rosenstiel’s Coral Reefs and Climate Change Laboratory. “It’s reasonable to think this will [apply] to a lot of other things.”