How Bad Is Climate Change for Coral Reefs?

| 3/6/2015 10:09:00 AM

coral reef

As ocean temperatures rise, coral reefs are vulnerable to bleaching: a whitening process brought on by the loss of algae in coral tissue. The relationship between the two is vital, because coral gets its nutrients from algae. Without algae, the coral loses its greenness and health, which leaves it vulnerable to diseases that could ultimately cause mass outbreaks among marine life.

Most of this is due to dropping pH, informally known as ocean acidification, which is caused by carbon dioxide — brought on by pollution and industrial waste in the atmosphere. As acidification takes its toll, calcification rates drop around coral environments.

The Effects of Emissions and Acidification

Since 1800, one-third of all CO2 emissions have been absorbed by ocean waters. A large percentage of this has stemmed from burning fossil fuel, of which half the emissions have dissolved into the sea. As the ocean's CO2 levels rise, its pH drops, which leads to acidification. When the water becomes acidified, corals are deprived of calcium carbonate, which is vital to their skeletons; without calcium, the skeletons dissolve.

Thus far, emissions have lowered the ocean's pH from 8.179 to 8.069 units. This marks a 30 percent jump in acidification since the mid-18th century. If emissions aren't drastically reduced, it's only a matter of time before the ocean's pH drops to devastating lows for all of the world's coral ecosystems.

Declining calcification levels not only impact corals but also clams, snails and urchins, who form cells via calcium carbonate. Acidification deprives these organisms of essential, shell-building calcium supplies.

3/6/2015 3:43:01 PM

If Vice President Joe Biden says gravity is 100% proven then that explains why science's 99% certainty achieved ZERO climate action in 34 years of debate! History will show it wasn't a hoax but it was a crime to have eagerly "believed" and wanted this misery to have been real for billions of innocent children. Now who's the neocon?

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