Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Upwelling and the persistence of coral-reef frameworks in the eastern tropical Pacific

Citation: Enochs, I. C., L. T. Toth, A. Kirkland, D. P. Manzello, G. Kolodziej, J. T. Morris, D. M. Holstein, A. Schlenz, C. J. Randall, J. L. Maté, J. J. Leichter, and R. B. Aronson. 2021. Upwelling and the persistence of coral-reef frameworks in the eastern tropical Pacific. Ecological Monographs 91(4):e01482. 10.1002/ecm.1482

In an era of global change, the fate and form of reef habitats will depend on shifting assemblages of organisms and their responses to multiple stressors. Multiphyletic assemblages of calcifying and bioeroding species contribute to a dynamic balance between constructive and erosive processes, and reef-framework growth occurs only when calcium-carbonate deposition exceeds erosion. Each contributing species exhibits a unique combination of environmental sensitivities, trophic needs, and competitive abilities, making the net outcome of their habitat-altering behavior difficult to predict. In this study, standardized blocks of clean, massive Porites were placed at six reef sites in the eastern tropical Pacific, in the strongly and more-weakly upwelling Gulfs of Panamá (GoP) and Chiriquí (GoC), respectively. Sites were chosen to characterize the unique thermal and carbonate-chemistry conditions of each gulf. Satellite products were used to examine differences in sea-surface productivity, and surveys were conducted to quantify the abundance of important grazing taxa. After two years in situ, the Porites blocks were collected and scanned using high-resolution computed tomography to volumetrically quantify both endolithic and epilithic habitat alteration. Scan-volumes were further classified into functional groups according to morphology to quantify external bioerosion by fish and sea urchins, as well as the calcifying and bioeroding activity of crustose coralline algae, scleractinian corals, mollusks, annelids, and barnacles. The GoP, which has higher productivity, cooler temperatures, and periodically lower pH conditions, had higher rates of macroboring, but also higher rates of calcification. These unexpectedly higher rates of calcification in the GoP were a result of high recruitment of suspension-feeding taxa, particularly barnacles and vermiform fauna that have poor reef-forming potential. External bioerosion by grazers was the dominant process influencing these dead coral substrates across both gulfs, contributing to higher rates of net erosion in the GoC and underscoring the important roles that urchins and fish play in not just removing algae on reefs, but also eroding reef habitat. Ultimately these findings reveal that the trophic requirements of habitat-altering taxa are closely tied to reef-framework stability, and that environmental conditions conducive to carbonate precipitation are not necessarily those that will lead to habitat persistence.

Analytical instrumentation was acquired with funding from NOAA, with support from the Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) and the Ocean Acidification Program (OAP).

Scroll to Top


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

Previous slide
Next slide


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