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Net ecosystem dissolution and respiration dominate metabolic rates at two western Atlantic reef sites

Citation: Meléndez, M., Salisbury, J., Gledhill, D., Langdon, C., Morell, J.M., Manzello, D. and Sutton, A. (2022), Net ecosystem dissolution and respiration dominate metabolic rates at two western Atlantic reef sites. Limnol Oceanogr, 67: 527-539.

Ocean acidification is changing surface water chemistry, but natural variability due to nearshore processes can mask its effects on ecosystem responses. We present an approach of quantitatively resolving net ecosystem metabolism from an array of long-term time series stations, offering perhaps the longest record of such processes over a reef to date. We used 8 and 6 yr of in situ, high-quality frequency observations to characterize the changes in dissolved inorganic carbon and oxygen in La Parguera, Puerto Rico and Cheeca Rocks, Florida, respectively. Net respiration and net dissolution are the dominant metabolic processes at both systems, with a narrow window of ~ 4 months under net calcification. The annual mean net ecosystem calcification (NEC) rates for La Parguera (−0.68 ± 0.91 kg CaCO3 m−2 yr−1) and Cheeca Rocks (−0.48 ± 0.89 kg CaCO3 m−2 yr−1) were on the lower end of typical NEC ranges determined for other reef areas using chemistry- and census-based approaches. At Cheeca Rocks, 53% of the variance in NEC can be explained by net ecosystem production (NEP) and 30% by aragonite saturation state (Ωarag). At La Parguera, NEC is primarily driven by changes in NEP. The linear relationship between NEC and NEP showed a significant slope (± standard error) of 1.00 ± 0.005 and 0.88 ± 0.04 for La Parguera and Cheeca Rocks, respectively. These results suggest that NEP appears to play a prominent role on NEC, and Ωarag probably is not the most informative measure to monitor when attempting to resolve the long-term impacts of ocean acidification.

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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