Worldwide, oceans absorb about one-third of all the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which can lead to a reduction in pH and dramatic shifts in seawater carbonate chemistry. Studies have shown that ocean water is more acidic now than in pre-industrial times and is predicted to approach levels not seen in millions of years. This is known as ocean acidification. Ocean acidification is expected to impact organisms that depend upon calcium carbonate to build skeletons and shells, such as corals, some species of phytoplankton, and bivalves.

The Ocean Acidification Program at Mote was created to research and understand responses of ecologically important species — like corals — to projected levels of ocean acidification. The program is currently developing two research facilities, one in Sarasota and one at Mote’s Tropical Research Laboratory on Summerland Key in the Florida Keys for studies of how corals and other reef species will react to changes in pH as well as climate change (ocean temperature). These seawater systems include both flow-through and large mesocosm-based designs.

Studies that provide advance knowledge of potential climate-driven trends in coral growth and health will permit improved modeling for prediction so that resource managers can act to protect key species and ecosystems. Development of the ocean acidification system at Mote’s Tropical Research Laboratory will provide an optimum global research center for examining and modeling effects of ocean acidification on corals as well as other important estuarine and marine species. 

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