World’s first climate change observatory

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World’s first climate change observatory

December 10, 2010 - 10:35
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The Coral Reef Ecology Lab of the Global Change Institute has developed the world’s first climate change observatory on Heron Island. Researchers from the Hoegh-Guldberg/Dove Coral Reef Ecology lab, have installed a new experimental system on the Heron Island reef flat to study the impacts of future predicted levels of CO2 on coral reef communities.

Reef Aquaria supplied with conditioned water.

The Coral Proto Free Ocean Carbon Enrichment (CP-FOCE) system was designed to add low pH water into experimental chambers on the reef to stimulate pH levels predicted to occur on coral reefs in the next 50-100 years. The experimental system has four chambers that will be used for well replicated, long term studies of climate change impacts on coral reefs.

Additionally the system includes a network of over 20 high precision instruments that will allow the monitoring of the already changing water chemistry conditions on coral reefs. The development of this climate change observatory is being led by Dr. David Kline, Aaron Chai and Thomas Miard of the Hoegh-Guldberg/Dove lab and Malcolm Marker from UQ engineering.

Climate change and ocean acidification are widely recognized as key threats to Australia’s natural ecosystems, yet we are currently ill-equipped to respond due to poor knowledge of the scale/nature of the impacts.

The Heron Island Climate Change Observatory will establish key infrastructure that will rapidly improve our understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification which is important to local communities and the nation given that coral reefs support over $6 billion in revenue (and employ 60,000 people) each year. This critically important information is essential to the management and protection of Australia’s coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef.

The Heron Island Climate Change Observatory was funded by an ARC LIEF grant to examine the impact of rising CO2 levels in the coral reef environment for the first time.

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