Coral reefs in danger of dying out in next 20 years

The world’s coral reefs are in danger of dying in the next 20 years unless the world drastically cuts carbon emissions, a coalition of scientists led by Sir David Attenborough has warned.

The delicate eco systems, known as the “rainforests of the sea”, support huge amounts of marine life.

But as oceans absorb carbon dioxide, they become more acidic, making it impossible for coral reefs like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to survive. Reefs are also at greater danger of bleaching as sea temperatures warm.

Scientists gathered at the Royal Society in London yesterday to call for tougher targets for the world to cut emissions.

Sir David Attenborough, who co-chaired the meeting, said that the collapse of coral reefs meant the death of marine ecosystems.

“We must do all that is necessary to protect the key components of the life of our planet as the consequences of decisions made now will likely be forever as far as humanity is concerned,” he said.

Open water absorbs around a third of the carbon dioxide in the air. At present, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 387 parts per million (ppm).

According to Alex Rogers, the scientific director of the International Programme on the State of the Oceans, the figure will reach 450 ppm in the next 20 years if the world continues to burn fossil fuels at the current rate. Once that figure is reached, the ocean will become too acidic for corals to survive.

Louise Gray, Telegraph, 7 July 2009. Full article.

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