The potential effect of global climate change on calcifying marine organisms, such as scleractinian (reef-building) corals, is becoming increasingly evident. Understanding the process of coral calcification and establishing baseline calcification rates are necessary to detect future changes in growth resulting from climate change or other stressors. Here we describe the methods used to establish a network of calcification-monitoring stations along the outer Florida Keys Reef Tract in 2009. In addition to detailing the initial setup and periodic monitoring of calcification stations, we discuss the utility and success of our design and offer suggestions for future deployments. Stations were designed such that whole coral colonies were securely attached to fixed apparati (n = 10 at each site) on the seafloor but also could be easily removed and reattached as needed for periodic weighing. Corals were weighed every 6 months, using the buoyant weight technique, to determine calcification rates in situ. Sites were visited in May and November to obtain winter and summer rates, respectively, and identify seasonal patterns in calcification. Calcification rates of the crustose coralline algal community also were measured by affixing commercially available plastic tiles, deployed vertically, at each station. Colonization by invertebrates and fleshy algae on the tiles was low, indicating relative specificity for the crustose coralline algal community. We also describe a new, nonlethal technique for sampling the corals, used following the completion of the monitoring period, in which two slabs were obtained from the center of each colony. Sampled corals were reattached to the seafloor, and most corals had completely recovered within 6 months. The station design and sampling methods described herein provide an effective approach to assessing coral and crustose coralline algal calcification rates across time and space, offering the ability to quantify the potential effects of ocean warming and acidification on calcification processes.
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Methods for monitoring corals and crustose coralline algae to quantify in-situ calcification rates