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Coral Adaptation and Acclimatization to Global Change: Resilience to Hotter, More Acidic Oceans

Principal Investigator: Robert Toonen

Graduate Student: Christopher Jury

Coral reefs are the rainforests of the sea. Reefs provide critical habitat for fish and thousands of other species, which are important sources of food and income, particularly here in Hawaiʻi. Reefs also protect our shorelines from storms and tsunamis, and generate considerable tourism revenue. A recent estimate valued Hawaiʻi's reefs at over $33 Billion dollars annually for the American public. Thus, protecting them is important for the livelihoods of people here in Hawaiʻi, as well as millions of other people around the world. Human activities are releasing carbon dioxide to the environment, making the oceans hotter and more acidic. Corals become stressed by elevated heat and acidity and grow more slowly or can even die as a result, destroying reefs. However, some corals may be better able to tolerate hotter, more acidic conditions than others. This study will follow on our previous Sea Grant supported research to investigate the factors which apparently allow some corals to acclimatize or adapt to conditions in the future. Understanding the effects of these factors on coral health and growth helps us to project how coral reefs will change in the future, and inform resource managers how best to conserve them.