How climate change may influence coral competition

Graduate Student: Nick Evensen


Coral reefs represent one of the most diverse and densely populated ecosystems on the planet. The high degree of competitive interactions is one of the processes responsible for some of the high levels of diversity in these communities. However coral reefs have recently come under threat due to an increase in CO2 being absorbed by the oceans, causing the ocean to become more acidic, a process known as ocean acidification. This has been shown to affect the ability of corals to grow, however little research has been done to assess how it affects the ability of corals to compete for space on the reef.


Nicolas' research focuses on how ocean acidification affects the competitive interactions between corals. Experiments were carried out in Moorea and Japan to see if certain corals were more heavily affected by ocean acidification than others. Corals were paired up with each other and placed in normal or more acidic conditions, with the linear extension (how far a coral grows outwards) measured from photographs. These experiments showed that some of the faster growing corals were more harmed by ocean acidification, suggesting that coral reefs of the future could look different to the ones of today with some corals less able to deal with changing conditions than others.

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