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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