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Imagine swimming in a bottle of champagne or being bathed in your favourite type of soda. Interestingly, Dr Cardenas from the University of Texas Jackson School of Geosciences has just experienced the following sensation as he stumbled across a remarkable and unique marine environment where high concentrations of bubbling carbon dioxide was found in the Verde Island Passage located in the Philippines (Starr, 2020). He originally had been studying the effects of groundwater runoff into the ocean but instead found a carbon dioxide hideaway named “Soda Springs”. The astonishingly high levels of carbon dioxide (as high as 95,000 ppm) is not the product of human activity but of volcanic gases being expelled from the ocean floor (Starr, 2020).
Below is a following link to footage of the “Soda Springs” (The University of Texas Jackson School of Geoscience, 2020).
The Verde Island Passage is home to a huge network of different marine organisms and is extremely biodiverse. There is notably a range of healthy and developing corals in this environment (Starr, 2020). This may be surprising to many as ocean acidification (due to higher levels of carbon dioxide) has been a concern for many hard corals, commonly suffering from weaker skeletons due to carbonate ions reacting with hydrogen ions instead of calcium. The implications of this discovery will impact the research of ocean acidification and its affects on calcium producing organisms like corals and molluscs (Corbett, 2020). It opens research opportunities into the future effects of climate change on marine life and can be used to study how corals may adapt to high carbon dioxide levels. The thriving corals in this region can be studied closely to see what characteristics and mechanisms are being used to prevent processes such as coral bleaching and weakening of coral reefs. These are important questions that need to be considered as coral reefs are habitats to numerous marine species, contributors to the biodiversity in marine ecosystems and valuable for recreation and tourism.
The Verde Island corals have shown evidence of being quite resilient to climate change compared to places such as the Great Barrier Reef, where the health of corals are deteriorating from bleaching and acidification (Vera-Ruiz, 2018). Researchers have concluded that this resilience is probably because of the diverse “micro-habitats” and species, strong currents and nutrient rich foods that prevent stagnant water environments that are paired with bleaching (Vera-Ruiz, 2018). This highlights factors that might make some marine ecosystems more resilient to climate change than others. If we identify these protective factors, this will help our marine management in other environments who are more susceptible to processes like bleaching.
Although the effects of ocean acidification on corals is most definitely a concern, the happy corals living in the “Soda Springs” may provide evidence that its impacts on corals may not be the biggest concern of the ocean right now as this article offers some marine regions in the world that are healthy despite the acidification threats. It ignites hope for corals elsewhere in the world as they face higher levels of carbon dioxide in the ocean. Furthermore, this article provides an important research opportunity for studying impacts of climate change in marine ecosystems.
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Introduction to Ocean Acidification + Links to Videos
The University of Texas Jackson School of Geoscience. (2020, January 22). Deep Diving Scientists Discover Bubbling CO2 Hotspot [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXHLMiWPR5s&feature=youtu.be
Starr, M. (2020, January 25). Divers Discover a Magical Bubbling Underwater Spring on The Ocean Floor. Science Alert. Retrieved from https://www.sciencealert.com/a-magical-bubbling-underwater-spring-is-carbon-dioxide-seeping-through-the-ocean-floor
Corbett, J. (2020, January 23). Report Details Climate Crisis Impacts on Coral Reefs, Warns of “Human Tragedy”. EcoWatch. Retrieved from https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-crisis-coral-reefs-2644899621.html
Vera-Ruiz, E.D. (2018, October 13). Verde Island Reefs Show Resilience to Climate Change. Manilla Bulletin. Retrieved from https://news.mb.com.ph/2018/10/12/verde-island-reefs-show-resilience-to-climate-change/