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Will we lose reefs of the deep?

Mar 2, 2020, 1:15 pm
MARUM Research Seminar
MARUM I, room 2070

Sebastian Hennige

Cold-water coral reefs are under threat from ocean acidification, ocean warming and deoxygenation. Tools have been developed to predict the risk of tropical coral bleaching, but there is no similar tool or routine set of measurements that currently exist to assess cold-water coral reef health. Cold-water corals (CWCs) create a complex, 3-dimensional habitat comprising of dead coral skeleton supporting live corals, and this supports a diversity and abundance of marine life. The dead coral skeleton contributes the majority of mass to CWC reefs, and it is this portion that is at particular risk of dissolution from ocean acidification. Through micromechanical, microscopy and synchrotron radiation computed tomography data from long-term experiments and in situ samples, I will explore the mechanism, time scale and outlook of this potential loss. Increases in porosity leads to risk of skeletal structural failure resulting in habitat loss over rapid timescales, raising questions on when such changes would occur, whether we have seen this in the past, and how can we assess this in the future. Through understanding these processes, we can quantify the risk as well as timescales of future CWC habitat loss, and model this based upon ocean chemistry to provide routine measurements to assess future CWC reef health.

Sebastian Hennige
Sebastian Hennige