Emissions cut needed to save reef: researcher

A University of Queensland researcher says the earth’s corals could become extinct within decades because of increasing acid levels in the ocean.

Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg says carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by 90 per cent by 2050 to protect coral reefs.

He says acid levels are increasing as the ocean absorbs higher levels of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

He says if carbon dioxide levels in the oceans rise to 500 parts per million, it could be devastating.

“We get to a point where most organisms are calcifying at about 60 per cent of what they used to,” he said.

“Most of the calcium carbonate that these things lay down is eroded away by waves and by the action of a whole series of boring animals that go into the skeleton.”

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg says carbon dioxide levels in the ocean are currently about 380 parts per million.

The professor says a 20 per cent increase in carbon dioxide could significantly reduce the ability of corals to build limestone frameworks.

“Ocean acidification by affecting that process is literally limiting reefs ability to maintain themselves under some very minor increases in carbon dioxide beyond today we get the conditions in which reefs become crumbling frameworks as opposed to staunch frameworks that protect our coastlines,” he said.
ABC News, 18 October 2007. Web site.

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