Coral reefs under siege from acidic oceans

Ocean acidification, a potentially disastrous consequence of global warming, is threatening the early life cycle of coral reefs near Florida and throughout the Caribbean, according to a new study published Monday.

While other research has looked at how the world’s increasingly acidic oceans affect adult coral, this is the first one to document its impact on coral’s early life stages.

Coral reefs don’t just make pretty screen savers — they provide $30 billion of economic benefit to the USA each year through tourism, diving, coastal protection, commercial fishing and fishing communities, according to study lead author Rebecca Albright of the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

Globally, she cites a 2003 study that found the coral reef industry is valued at $375 billion annually.

“There have been very few, if any studies that had looked at the effects on early life-history stages, such as fertilization, larval settlement and recruitment,” Albright says. “Recruitment” refers to the process of replacing dead coral with new coral.

Over the next century, the study found that recruitment of new corals could drop by as much as 73%. The study appears in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Reproductive failure of young coral species is an increasing concern since reefs are already highly stressed from bleaching (due to unusually warm sea water), hurricanes, disease and poor water quality,” said Chris Langdon associate professor at the Rosenstiel School and co-author of the study.

Doyle Rice, USA TODAY, 10 November 2010. Full article.

2 Responses to “Coral reefs under siege from acidic oceans”

  1. 1 Jean-Pierre Gattuso 10 November 2010 at 13:22

    The title of this article is unfortunate because the oceans will not become acidic (that is with a pH below 7).

  2. 2 Gail 10 November 2010 at 14:29

    It should be “acidifying oceans”. Deniers will pounce on mistakes like that.

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