CO2 effects on coral ‘complex, disturbing’

Warmer oceans will have both positive and negative effects on coral development, a massive international study has found.

The study, undertaken by scientists from James Cook University (JCU) in Queensland, France, the Netherlands and South Korea, involved 250 million “reads” of coral genetic material and tested the effects of increased carbon dioxide levels.

JCU Professor David Miller says the study found some surprising results about the calcification of coral skeletons.

“We found the rising acidity had little effect on the production of ion transport proteins that are responsible for circulating and depositing the calcium carbonate within the coral cells to form its skeleton,” he said.

“These seemed largely unaffected under high CO2.”

However, Prof Miller said the team discovered increased and decreased expressions of the genes necessary for creating coral skeletons.

“Overall it means that a more acidic ocean messes with the skeleton formation process in young corals in disturbing, but highly complex, ways,” he said.

Prof Miller says the results of the experiment, which are still being analysed, helped to account for the conflicting reports on the effects of acidic oceans on coral development.

“The production of the coral skeleton is a highly complex process, and it is important to address this problem one step at a time and to ask simple questions,” he said.

The study was published in the Molecular Energy journal.

The Australian, 11 April 2012. Article.

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