Can we measure the response of corals to global change without damaging them in the process?
Living corals on tropical reefs build up calcium in soft tissue to form the hard skeleton of the reefs, a process called calcification. The rate of calcification is affected by ocean temperature and acidity, and thus responds strongly to present-day global warming. To monitor the effects of global warming on corals it is therefore important to measure the density of their skeleton. Until now, quantifying this process by efficient and non-intrusive means has not been possible.
We are striving to change that situation by applying ultrasound tissue-recognition techniques. We are currently constructing an "acoustic microscope" that will monitor skeletal production in specimens of living corals grown in the laboratory on glass plates. This innovative non-invasive device will be the first of its kind to measure the calcification of living corals and deliver an accurate report of their condition.