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Deep sea corals record ocean climate change
This story entered on 19th Jun, 2007 01:10:28 PM PST

The NOAA Undersea Research Program (NURP) is embarking on its first expedition to comprehensively collect bamboo coral off the California coast (from depths of 500 to 2500 m) to help model past climate records. Bamboo corals live for hundreds of years and secrete their skeleton in annual layers, much like tree rings. Similar to tree rings, the bamboo coral’s annual layers reflect chemical conditions of the ocean over time. Thus, bamboo corals can serve as a tool to separate natural oscillations from anthropogenic effects.

The expedition led by Tessa Hill and Howard Spero of the University of California, Davis (UCD) and David Clague of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) is utilizing MBARI’s R/V Western Flyer and the remotely operated vehicle, Tiburon. The expedition represents a multidisciplinary team of scientists and student from UCD, MBARI, University of the Pacific, Mills College, Stanford University, and California State University, Long Beach.

Bamboo corals will be collected from five California seamounts (i.e., extinct volcanoes) and tested for several environmental parameters including water temperature, salinity, pH, oxygen and carbon isotopic compositions. These parameters will be used to validate models of skeleton growth on these corals. This novel approach will provide the first quantitative benthic habitat surveys; establish a baseline of biogeography and biodiversity on the five California seamounts; provide the first collection of several novel species that have only been identified by video recordings; and provide new geologic samples that will assist scientist with understanding California’s present day shape.

More information:

Contact information:
Name: David Christie
Tel: (907) 474-7836

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Updated: June 20, 2007