Antarctica Journal

Coral reefs continue to die until carbon output drops

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Scientists have concluded for the last decade that more-acidic seas have been harming coral, making it more difficult for coral reefs to grow or regenerate themselves.

Conducting an experiment over the course of 22 days, scientists flooded Australia’s Great Barrier Reef with an antacid. They found that by lowering the water’s acidity, it caused the coral to grow.

Research has shown that the oceans absorb approximately one quarter of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. This carbon dioxide reacts with the water making it more and more acidic.

A study conducted in 2012 by The Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification, found that oysters and crabs have had thinning shells , a product of acidification. Scientists have observed that the same effects are taking place on the ocean’s coral. The acidic water is corroding the shells and reefs due to decalcification caused by the acidity.

The scientific team, led by Rebecca Albright and Ken Caldeira pumped a control dye and sodium hydroxide, which they referred to as “an antacid,” into the lagoons once a day for an hour during low tide. They wanted to reduce the ocean’s acidity to pre-industrial levels. At the end of the hour, they compared seawater upstream and downstream from the pumping station, looking for changes in the level of both the antacid and dye. Changes in the amount of dye would help the team understand how much the surrounding ocean water was diluting their mixture, while changes in the amount of the antacid would tell them how much was being absorbed by the lagoons’ reefs.

While the study proves the impact of our carbon emissions on coral reefs, it points to no easy solutions. Damage to coral could be reversed by pumping antacid across reefs, but experts noted that this is so technically challenging and costly that it wasn’t feasible “at anything but highly localized scales.”

“I think everybody kind of wants a bandaid for what’s going on right now with global warming and ocean acidification,” Albright said. “And really the only solution is cutting carbon emissions.”

The only real way of fixing our oceans is by going back to the source of the problem… carbon output, and reducing it. Until then, coral reefs and sealife will almost certainly continue to be damaged while more and more damage is done.



Source: The Verge

Our Ocean Conference: Ocean Acidification

Panel on Ocean Acidification - moderated by Scott Doney, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution - at the Our Ocean Conference at the U.S. Department of State on June 17, 2014.

Speakers: Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (University of Queensland), Carol Turley (Plymouth Marine Laboratory), Alexis Valauri-Orton (Thomas J. Watson Fellow), Bill Dewey (Taylor Shellfish Farms), and Yimnang Golbuu (Palau International Coral Reef Center)