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Coral Reef Carbonate Chemistry Reveals Interannual, Seasonal, and Spatial Impacts on Ocean Acidification Off Florida

Citation: Palacio-Castro, A. M., Enochs, I. C., Besemer, N., Boyd, A., Jankulak, M., Kolodziej, G., et al. (2023). Coral reef carbonate chemistry reveals interannual, seasonal, and spatial impacts on ocean acidification off Florida. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 37, e2023GB007789.

Ocean acidification (OA) threatens coral reef persistence by decreasing calcification and accelerating the dissolution of reef frameworks. The carbonate chemistry of coastal areas where many reefs exist is strongly influenced by the metabolic activity of the underlying benthic community, contributing to high spatiotemporal variability. While characterizing this variability is difficult, it has important implications for the progression of OA and the persistence of the ecosystems. Here, we characterized the carbonate chemistry at 38 permanent stations located along 10 inshore-offshore transects spanning 250 km of the Florida Coral Reef (FCR), which encompass four major biogeographic regions (Biscayne Bay, Upper Keys, Middle Keys, and Lower Keys) and four shelf zones (inshore, mid-channel, offshore, and oceanic). Data have been collected since 2010, with approximately bi-monthly periodicity starting in 2015. Increasing OA, driven by increasing DIC, was detected in the mid-channel, offshore, and oceanic zones in every biogeographic region. In the inshore zone, however, increasing TA counteracted any measurable OA trend. Strong seasonal variability occurred at inshore sites and included periods of both exacerbated and mitigated OA. Seasonality was region-dependent, with greater variability in the Lower and Middle Keys. Elevated pH and aragonite saturation states (ΩAr) were observed in the Upper and Middle Keys, which could favor reef habitat persistence in these regions. Offshore reefs in the FCR could be more susceptible to global OA by experiencing open-ocean-like water chemistry conditions. By contrast, higher seasonal variability at inshore reefs could offer a temporary OA refuge during periods of enhanced primary production.

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The NOAA Ocean Acidification Program (OAP) works to prepare society to adapt to the consequences of ocean acidification and conserve marine ecosystems as acidification occurs. Learn more about the human connections and adaptation strategies from these efforts.

Adaptation approaches fostered by the OAP include:


Using models and research to understand the sensitivity of organisms and ecosystems to ocean acidification to make predictions about the future, allowing communities and industries to prepare


Using these models and predictions as tools to facilitate management strategies that will protect marine resources and communities from future changes


Developing innovative tools to help monitor ocean acidification and mitigate changing ocean chemistry locally


On the Road

Drive fuel-efficient vehicles or choose public transportation. Choose your bike or walk! Don't sit idle for more than 30 seconds. Keep your tires properly inflated.

With your Food Choices

Eat local- this helps cut down on production and transport! Reduce your meat and dairy. Compost to avoid food waste ending up in the landfill

With your Food Choices

Make energy-efficient choices for your appliances and lighting. Heat and cool efficiently! Change your air filters and program your thermostat, seal and insulate your home, and support clean energy sources

By Reducing Coastal Acidification

Reduce your use of fertilizers, Improve sewage treatment and run off, and Protect and restore coastal habitats

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You've taken the first step to learn more about ocean acidification - why not spread this knowledge to your community?

Every community has their unique culture, economy and ecology and what’s at stake from ocean acidification may be different depending on where you live.  As a community member, you can take a larger role in educating the public about ocean acidification. Creating awareness is the first step to taking action.  As communities gain traction, neighboring regions that share marine resources can build larger coalitions to address ocean acidification.  Here are some ideas to get started:

  1. Work with informal educators, such as aquarium outreach programs and local non-profits, to teach the public about ocean acidification. Visit our Education & Outreach page to find the newest tools!
  2. Participate in habitat restoration efforts to restore habitats that help mitigate the effects of coastal acidification
  3. Facilitate conversations with local businesses that might be affected by ocean acidification, building a plan for the future.
  4. Partner with local community efforts to mitigate the driver behind ocean acidification  – excess CO2 – such as community supported agriculture, bike & car shares and other public transportation options.
  5. Contact your regional Coastal Acidification Network (CAN) to learn how OA is affecting your region and more ideas about how you can get involved in your community
       More for Taking Community Action