Acidic ocean robs coral of vital building material

CARBON dioxide has pillaged the Great Barrier Reef of a compound that corals and many sea creatures need to grow. The finding, from the first survey of ocean acidification around one of the world’s greatest natural landmarks, supports fears that the ecosystem is on its last legs.

Bizarrely, the reef doesn’t appear to be suffering from the effects of ocean acidification just yet. But that may be because it is balanced on a knife-edge between health and decay.

Oceans become acidic when they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Once dissolved, the gas reacts with carbonate to form bicarbonate, stripping seawater of the compound that many marine organisms including coral, shrimp and crabs need to build their shells or skeletons.

Bronte Tilbrook at CSIRO in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, measured the concentration of aragonite – a form of calcium carbonate used by some creatures to build shells – at over 200 locations on the reef.

Wendy Zukerman, New Scientist, 15 April 2011. Full article.

1 Response to “Acidic ocean robs coral of vital building material”


  1. 1 Jean-Pierre Gattuso 17 April 2011 at 09:56

    The terminology used in this article is not scientifically accurate. The definition of “acidic” in the Oxford English dictionary is “having the properties of an acid; having a pH of less than 7″. Despite the process of ocean acidification, the oceans are alkaline and are not acidic (pH lower than 7) now and will not become acidic in the foreseeable future. Hence, the adjective “acidic” should not be used. Note that there are few exceptions, seawater can be acidic in the immediate vicinity of CO2 vents or in intentional perturbation experiments.


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