NOT SO BORING EFFECTS OF BIVALVES
How climate change may change coral reef erosion
Graduate Student: Lauren Valentino
Humans are increasingly emitting carbon
dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and the ocean. When more CO2 enters the ocean,
it affects the seawater chemistry and decreases ocean pH. Coral reef ecosystems
will be particularly sensitive to this decline in ocean pH known as ocean acidification (OA).
Many studies focus on how OA will affect
the process of reef construction such as how fast coral reef
organisms grow. However, the exact opposite process of reef
destruction is just as important and a critical part of reef
balance. It is predicted that OA will expedite rates destructive
processes such as dissolution and erosion, which would have negative
implications for future reefs.
Lauren Valentino studies bioerosion, which is the breakdown of coral into rubble
and sand by living organisms. She specifically studies a type of bioeroding bivalve that burrows
into living coral. Lauren tested the effects of OA on the boring capacity of Lithophaga
laevigata living within living massive Porites (a type of mounding coral). L. laevigata
is abundant within massive Porites on the back reef of Moorea, French Polynesia. She
conducted a month-long experiments in aquaria where coral cores with and without Lithophaga,
were incubated in current and future predicted pCO2 levels. Bioerosion rates of Lithophaga
in coral cores were compared (based on changes in weight), and tested the hypothesis that OA
increases the ability of bivalves to bioerode in elevated pCO2 conditions. A better understanding
of this abundant and active bioeroder under simulated future environmental conditions can provide
insight to the poorly understood effects of OA on bioerosion.
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