Can acid neutralizers help coral reefs bounce back? (audio)

Coral reefs are in trouble worldwide, from a host of threats, including warming ocean temperatures, nutrient runoff and increasing ocean acidity. A noted climate scientist from California has been conducting an experiment on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to see whether antacid could boost coral growth.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. Yesterday on this program, we took you to Heron Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Scientists there are accumulating evidence that coral reefs are in trouble because of climate change. Two problems here, actually: one is the warming waters, the other is the increasing acidity of the water caused by rising levels of carbon dioxide. Today, we’re going to take you to another island on the Great Barrier Reef and meet scientists who were testing whether an acid neutralizer can help – think Tums, for coral. NPR’s Richard Harris continues his report.

RICHARD HARRIS, BYLINE: If you pump carbon dioxide into an aquarium that contains coral, the coral will eventually die. Carbon dioxide makes the water more acidic, and eventually that can melt away a coral’s mineral skeleton. Ken Caldeira wants to find out what happens to coral on an actual reef. On this blustery day, he’s sitting in a small boat in a lagoon ringed by a coral reef at One Tree Island.

KEN CALDEIRA: And this is a very unusual lagoon, because the wall around this lagoon forms, like, a bathtub, and the water’s kind of flowing over the rim of the bathtub.

Richard Harris, npr.org, 18 April. Audio and full transcript.

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