Corals can survive acidic waters

Mediterranean corals could strip, but not die, in response to climate change.

Reef-building corals may be more resilient against climate change than scientists had previously thought. Researchers have discovered that some species are able to survive an increase in seawater acidity, even though it strips the individual coral polyps of their protective calcium carbonate skeletons. This may be good news for individual polyps, but it doesn’t change the gloomy outlook for reef ecosystems.

As atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, so do the levels of dissolved carbon dioxide in sea water. This leads to an increase in ocean-borne carbonic acid, which is capable of dissolving calcium carbonate. “This is a major problem for corals,” says Maoz Fine, a marine zoologist at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. “Essentially, acidification leads to naked coral.”

Fairless D., Nature News, 29 March 2007, Article

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