Corals can fight ocean acidification

A world-first Australian study has shown tropical corals can fight back  against acidifying oceans caused by carbon dioxide emissions.

Scientists say coral reefs are still under serious threat from coral  bleaching due to higher sea-surface temperatures and direct human impacts.

But research by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies suggests  many corals have the ability to largely offset the effects of increasingly  acidic oceans.

University of Western Australia Professor Malcolm McCulloch’s team has shown  many coral species are able to reduce the acidity, or pH level, of the seawater  they take in.

By adapting the chemistry of the seawater, they can more efficiently extract  what they need from it for the skeleton-building process.

“This process of buffering seawater – raising its pH – only takes up a  relatively small amount of energy and provides significant benefits to the  coral,” Prof McCulloch says.

But he warns corals still face serious risks from climate change.

“In terms of ocean acidification, our research model showed predictable but  generally small effects on the future ability of tropical corals to build  skeletons, something that is not only critical for their individual growth and  survival but for the health of coral reefs in general,” he says.

“But the rapid and often abrupt increases in ocean temperatures that are  expected over the next 100 to 200 years are also likely to cause serious  episodes of coral bleaching and when this happens the bleached corals are unable  to function properly.”

Corals in this state will probably not be able to modify the chemistry of  seawater they take in.

Prof McCulloch says other skeleton-building marine species, such as some  sponges and giant clams, cannot modify the acidity of the seawater they use to  extract building material.

These species may be even more vulnerable to the effects of climate change,  he says.

The research team is continuing to examine a wide range of marine species  that build skeletons in order to better understand their ability to modify their  internal seawater chemistry.

The research is being presented at a conference on reef health in Townsville  on Friday.

Brisbane Times, 11 October 2013. Article.

1 Response to “Corals can fight ocean acidification”

  1. 1 argylesock 11 October 2013 at 11:18

    Reblogged this on Science on the Land and commented:
    argylesock says… An encouraging title. But do read the article. Global warming means bleached corals and acidifying ocean water. Those corals aren’t likely to cope well with that water. I’ve mentioned before how these kinds of change have knock-on effects all the way through food webs.

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