Australian researchers have now simulated future ocean conditions and found that coral reefs will start dissolving as the water temperatures and acidity increases.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland and colleagues. They found that the predicted increase in carbon dioxide levels in the future could lead to destruction of reefs such as those found around Heron Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Coral reefs are also called the “rainforests of the ocean” due to the vast variety of organisms that they harbor. The reefs are made of certain algae and coral polyps in the shallow waters of the oceans. Coral reefs support about 25 percent of all marine life in the ocean even though they make up just 1 percent of the entire ocean floor. According to the National Geographic, pollution, global warming and sedimentation can destroy about 30 percent of the coral reefs in the world in the next 30 years.
According to Associate Professor Sophie Dove from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences, even considerably low levels of carbon dioxide can lead to bleaching and death of corals. “Given corals are essential to coral reefs, this is not good news,” Associate Professor Dove said in a news release.
In the study, researchers controlled the levels of carbon dioxide and temperature of water flowing over a patch of coral reef at UQ’s Heron Island research center. The study was conducted over a period of nine months.
“By simulating future environments above complex reef systems, we come closer to understanding what might happen as the oceans warm and acidify,” Dove said. “If we can reduce the uncertainty, then we have a much better chance of making better decisions to help protect and conserve these valuable ecosystems.”
The study also found that increase in water acidity not only inhibits calcification, a process through which reefs form, but also increases rates of coral reefs dissolving.
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Nature World News, 3 September 2013. Article.