Member Highlight: Protecting Coral Reefs with Bubbles

2016-06-28T19:24:20+00:00 March 25, 2016|
An oyster reef in the Baruch Marine Field Laboratory on the South Carolina coast. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Jonathan Wilker/Purdue University)

(Click to enlarge) An oyster reef in the Baruch Marine Field Laboratory on the South Carolina coast. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Jonathan Wilker/Purdue University)

Blowing tiny bubbles through seawater could help protect coral reefs and oyster farms from oceans turned increasingly acidic through human activities by stripping carbon dioxide (CO2) from coastal marine environments and transferring it to the atmosphere, Stanford scientists say.

(From ScienceDaily) — The technique, outlined in a study published online in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, could provide a relatively inexpensive solution to one of the biggest threats facing coral reefs today. An estimated 30 to 60 percent of all the coral reefs have died since the Industrial Revolution as the oceans absorbs more CO2 and become increasingly acidic. Ocean acidification harms a variety of marine organisms, but especially those that use calcium carbonate to assemble their skeletons and shells, such as coral, mussels, and oysters.

“Ocean acidification is particularly troublesome for coral reefs because the entire structure of the ecosystems is built upon the calcium carbonate skeletal remains of dead coral,” said lead author David Koweek, a doctoral candidate at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “Ocean acidification makes it difficult for corals to calcify and makes it easier to erode these skeletal remains, threatening the integrity of the entire reef.”

A further loss of coral reefs would be significant. Worldwide, coral reefs provide an estimated $30 billion net economic benefit each year. A healthy coral reef provides a home to thousands of organisms, which island subsistence communities rely on for the bulk of their diet. A reef’s mere presence can quell the waves whipped up by a surging storm, thereby guarding low-lying coastal towns from flooding.

In the new study, Koweek and his coauthors demonstrated that bubbling air through seawater for a few hours in the early morning can enhance the transfer rate of CO2 between the ocean and the air up to 30 times faster than natural processes, resulting in a significant reduction in local marine concentrations of the greenhouse gas.

Read the full article here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160323115620.htm