Sea Cucumbers: Nature’s Calcium Reactor?
By Shane Graber
Research shows that sea cucumbers account for a remarkable half of total nighttime calcium carbonate dissolution for coral reefs. In other words, as cukes sift and process sand through its digestive system, they dissolve a lot of CaCO3 and recycle calcium and carbonate back into the water as nutrients for new coral growth.
Sea cucumbers: Dissolving coral reefs?
Washington, D.C. — Coral reefs are extremely diverse ecosystems that support enormous biodiversity. But they are at risk. Carbon dioxide emissions are acidifying the ocean, threatening reefs and other marine organisms. New research led by Carnegie’s Kenneth Schneider analyzed the role of sea cucumbers in portions of the Great Barrier Reef and determined that their dietary process of dissolving calcium carbonate (CaCO3) from the surrounding reef accounts for about half of at the total nighttime dissolution for the reef. The work is published December 23 by the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Reefs are formed through the biological deposition of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Many of the marine organisms living on and around a reef contribute to either its destruction or construction. Therefore it is crucial that the amount of calcium carbonate remain in balance. When this delicate balance is disrupted, the reef ceases to grow and its foundations can be weakened.