Carbon dioxide seeps in Papua New Guinea as a natural laboratory to investigate the effects of ocean acidification on coral reefs

Presented by: Dr. Katharina Fabricius, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville

When: Thursday 22nd of August 2013; 12:00 to 13:00 hrs.

Where: Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building), Room #106 (upstairs), JCU, Townsville; video-linked to the University of Queensland (GCI Boardroom, Level 7, Gehrmann Building 60).

Abstract: The ecological consequences of ocean acidification (OA) from rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) on marine communities are still largely unknown. While controlled laboratory experiments are critically important to understand the physiological effects of OA, ecological effects are best investigated in the field. We have been studying three shallow volcanic carbon dioxide seeps in Papua New Guinea, where fine streams of CO2 bubble out of the sea floor, exposing communities to a partial pressure of CO2 levels of up to 1000 micro-atmospheres. Sessile and poorly dispersive organisms will have been exposed to high CO2 for most of their lives, providing us with the opportunity to investigate ecological changes, as well as physiological acclimatization and thresholds of organism groups. This seminar will provide an overview of some of the key results and recent findings from our work at the seeps. I will show that not only the direct physiological effects of high CO2, but also profound ecological changes will determine the future of shallow-water tropical marine communities in a high CO2 world.

Biography: Katharina Fabricius is a coral reef ecologist, and works as Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in Townsville. She came to Australia in 1988 to do her Masters’ research on the Great Barrier Reef at AIMS, and then stayed for most of her PhD and beyond. A major focus of her research is to understand the effects of disturbances (especially water quality, ocean acidification and climate change with all of its consequences) on ecological processes in coral reefs. She presently leads a study to investigate long-term adaptation and acclimatisation of coral reefs to ocean acidification at volcanic CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea. Katharina has published >100 journal articles and book chapters.

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