Study: High CO2 environment damages reefs

Reefs may erode in areas with high carbon dioxide levels because the “glue” binding coral skeletons to larger reef structures is missing, a U.S. study says.

The study found coral reefs in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean offer a real-world example of the reef ecosystems will face under high carbon dioxide conditions resulting in ocean acidification, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday in a release.

Derek Manzello, a coral reef ecologist at NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, and his colleagues analyzed cements within reef framework structures from the eastern tropical Pacific, a region having naturally higher levels of carbon dioxide. They compared those structures to reefs from the Bahamas, with comparatively lower carbon dioxide levels.

Ocean acidification seems to result in a reduction in the production of the cements that allow coral reefs to grow into large, structurally-strong formations, the scientists said.

“Reefs are constantly degraded by mechanical, biological, and chemical erosion,” said Manzello. “This study indicates that poorly cemented reefs that develop in an acidic ocean will be much less likely to withstand this persistent erosion.”

The study will be in Monday’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

United Press International, 24 July 2008. Article.

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