Mo'orea Coral Reef. Courtesy NSF Mo'orea Coral Reef LTER Site
Mo’orea Coral Reef. Courtesy NSF Mo’orea Coral Reef LTER Site
Mo’orea Coral Reef. Courtesy NSF Mo’orea Coral Reef LTER Site

The National Science Foundation has granted Cal State Northridge $1.9 million for research on how increasing ocean acidification — caused by climate change — influences the reef ecosystem, the school announced Monday.

The four-year award will support the work of CSUN marine biologists Robert Carpenter and Peter Edmunds, who base their research in the coral reefs of French Polynesia near Tahiti. The funding provides the scientists with resources to undertake a yearlong experiment, monitoring outdoor flumes — water tables built around coral reef communities — controlled with different treatments of carbon dioxide. Research has previously been limited to laboratory settings or analysis of individual organisms, rather than entire ecosystems.

“Until we can truly demonstrate what is going on in the field, there is going to be skeptics that what we’re seeing as a response is the true response,” Carpenter said in an official release

Coral reefs can serve as “the canary in the coal mine,” forewarning the effects of ocean acidification on a larger scale, according to Carpenter.

“The more negative of our colleagues say that reefs will dissolve and disappear. We’ve felt for a long time that that’s not a true reflection of the full range of possibilities,” Edmunds said. “We hope to gain insight into the possibility that in 50 years’ or 100 years’ time, there will be a subset of corals that are still surviving.”


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