SLOW AND STEADY DOES NOT ALWAYS WIN THE RACE
Climate change impacts on coral-algal competition
Graduate Student: Maureen Ho
Maureen got her B.S. in marine biology
at California State University, Long Beach. She is currently in her
first year of graduate studies at California State University, Northridge.
Benthic algae (commonly known as seaweed)
are algae that grow on the bottom floor of the ocean. They interact, compete, and
share a variety of resources with corals (a marine invertebrate) in a reef ecosystem.
The different relationships between the algae and corals occur frequently, but can be
very harmful to corals. Benthic algae that dominate coral reefs are increasingly destroying
their habitat, resulting in coral death and diseases. This algal overgrowth brings concern
to rising competition between macroalgae (large algae) and coral.
With the concern of algal overgrowth, global disturbances like ocean acidification
(OA) pose another threat to coral mortality. OA is the process where the excess
carbon dioxide being released by fossil fuels are absorbed by the ocean, changing
the seawater chemistry. OA affects corals by decreasing their ability to calcify
(form skeletons for their bodies).
Maureen Ho hopes to study algal-coral interactions,
focusing on the fleshy brown macroalgae, Dictyota bartayresiana found on the
back reef of Mo'orea. Ultimately, she wants to test the effects of competition
between benthic algae and live coral by altering seawater chemistry to see how
it affects coral calcification.
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