Warming turns Barrier Reef acidic

WATERS around the Great Barrier Reef are becoming acidic at a higher-than-expected rate.

Ocean acidification, a side-effect of global warming, occurs when excess carbon dioxide dissolves into the ocean and becomes carbonic acid.

It is potentially devastating for the marine environment, affecting corals, crustaceans and plankton in particular.

Professor Malcolm McCulloch of the Australian National University said the findings were worrying.

“It appears this acidification is now taking place over decades rather than centuries as originally predicted.” he said.

Researchers studied a type of reef coral called porites off Cairns and found pH levels were falling faster than previously thought, meaning acidity levels were increasing.

“This new data on the Great Barrier Reef suggests the effects are even greater than forecast,” Professor McCulloch said.

“There is definitely something happening on the reef and this is in a coral opposite Cairns — where all the tourists go — so the implications are huge.”

Coral reefs and plankton were the basis of the marine food chain and drove ocean productivity, the University of Queensland’s Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said.

Professor McCulloch will present his research today at the Coral Reef Futures 07 forum in Canberra.

Rachel Kleinman, The Age, 18 October 2007. Article.

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