Reef In A Box Copyright David Kline 2010
The Coral Proto is a three-foot-long plastic box with sliding doors. After embedding it in a reef, researchers select a pH on a computer. A pump then squirts pre-acidified seawater from an onshore tank into the box. The Proto’s acidity sensors track levels to maintain the preferred pH. When it’s time to measure how the reef is faring, the researchers slide down the Proto’s doors to create a sealed chamber. They can then check the water inside for oxygen (a marker of photosynthesis) and alkalinity (a marker of coral growth).
Working two hours by ferry from the nearest city presented its share of challenges. When the bumpers that kept the computer afloat exploded from the sun’s heat, “we wound up trading someone a bunch of beers for some hard plastic floats,” says Kent Headley, a team engineer. Fish and sea cucumbers were regular visitors to the site, but so were venomous blue-ringed octopuses and cone snails. In the end, the researchers managed to pull off a weeklong proof of concept. Next, they’re making the Proto more portable and appropriate for deeper waters, where they can monitor other ecosystems, including kelp forests.
And an interesting comment:
Excellent idea. Living coral responds to changing acidity much differently than the dead coral used in laboratory experiments on acidity. Dead coral dissolves when acidity increases (of course). Living coral apparently thrives as acidity increases...at least to a point. Let's document what happens in the laboratory of the natural environment itself.