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08 September: Coral bleaching – How much does ocean acidification contribute?

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07 September 2015

Coral bleaching, caused by a rise in sea surface temperature, is one of the major contributors to coral loss worldwide. But what happens when corals are exposed to both warmer oceans and carbon dioxide driven changes in the seawater chemistry commonly referred to as “ocean acidification”?

In a paper recently published in the ICES Journal of Marine Biology, AIMS scientists examined the interactive effects of these changes on the bleaching sensitivity of tropical corals.

The combined field observations and experimental data showed that exposure to predicted levels of ocean acidification did not elevate the bleaching susceptibility of some of the most sensitive species of corals.

While ocean acidification is a significant threat to marine life in its own right, these results suggest that it is not likely to cause an increase in the incidence of thermal bleaching of corals.

This work also underpins the significance of AIMS’ state-of-the-art infrastructure. With access to both the National Sea Simulator (SeaSim), a unique experimental aquarium, and a modern research fleet, AIMS scientists have unparalleled capability to combine experimental data with field data to deliver the science needed to better understand and protect Australia’s tropical waters.


Article: Noonan, S.H.C and Fabricius, K.E. (2015) "Ocean acidification affects productivity but not the severity of thermal bleaching in some tropical corals." ICES J. Mar. Sci. doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsv127