Rising carbon dioxide levels impair coral growth

From BBC - March 14, 2018

Coral reefs are under threat if atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, new research has shown.

When CO2 dissolves in the ocean, it raises the water's acidity level.

This prevents a build up of calcium carbonate, which corals draw from seawater to build their skeleton.

The study, published today in Nature, was conducted on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

This marks the first time that ocean acidification has been tested in this way on a natural coral reef community, say the paper's authors.

Coral neighbourhoods

Previous lab-based studies have focused on how particular organisms are impacted by ocean acidification.

"But when we try to scale that to understanding how individual ecosystems respond, it would be comparable to looking at a single tree and saying that's how a rainforest would respond," said Dr Rebecca Albright from the California Academy of Sciences, lead author on the study.

Dr Claudia Benitez-Nelson at the University of South Carolina described the research as exciting.

"We have very few studies that directly examine the impact of ocean acidification in the field, much less at the ecosystem level. Coral ecosystems are unique and complex. Trying to emulate the diversity of such ecosystems is difficult if not impossible," she said.

A delicate balance

Dr Albright and her team worked on One Tree Island, off the coast of Queensland.

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