Coral-algal symbioses result in high levels of primary productivity as well as rapid deposition of CaCO3 that builds up to form the rock framework of the reef. In order to maintain a positive carbonate budget for the reef structure, it is necessary to sustain elevated coral calcification rates during prolonged periods of time. Climate change could have negative effects on coral calcification. On one hand, elevated sea surface temperatures result in massive coral bleaching and mortality episodes and direct reductions in coral calcification. On the other hand, increases in pCO2 levels will result in decreases in the aragonite saturation state and probably significant reductions in coral calcification as well. Although algal photosynthesis has been implicated in the elevated rates of CaCO3 deposition rates characteristics of reef-building corals, the actual molecular mechanisms responsible for calcification remain largely unknown. In order to evaluate the possible effects of increasing sea surface temperatures and pCO2 levels associated with climate change on coral calcification, it is necessary to understand the molecular mechanisms of coral calcification. We have chosen to focus our efforts on Montastraea faveolata, a brain coral that is one of the major reef builders in the Caribbean.
This work is being carried out at the Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (ICML) of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) in Puerto Morelos Mexico in collaboration with Dr. Roberto Iglesias-Prieto.