Advancing Ocean Monitoring Near Coral Reefs



Corals, the foundation of tropical marine ecosystems, exist in a symbiotic relationship with zooxanthellae (algae). The corals obtain much of their energy by consuming compounds derived from photosynthesis by these microorganisms; the microorganisms, which reside in the coral tissue, in turn use waste products from the corals to sustain photosynthesis. This symbiosis is very sensitive to subtle changes in environment, such as increased ocean acidity, temperature, and light. When unduly stressed, the colorful algae are expelled from the corals, causing the corals to “bleach” and potentially die [e.g., van Oppen and Lough, 2009].