Rapid decline in pH of coral calcification fluid due to incorporation of anthropogenic CO2

Marine calcifying organisms, such as stony corals, are under threat by rapid ocean acidification (OA) arising from the oceanic uptake of anthropogenic CO2. To better understand how organisms and ecosystems will adapt to or be damaged by the resulting environmental changes, field observations are crucial. Here, we show clear evidence, based on boron isotopic ratio (δ11B) measurements, that OA is affecting the pH of the calcification fluid (pHCF) in Porites corals within the western North Pacific Subtropical Gyre at two separate locations, Chichijima Island (Ogasawara Archipelago) and Kikaijima Island. Corals from each location have displayed a rapid decline in δ11B since 1960. A comparison with the pH of the ambient seawater (pHSW) near these islands, estimated from a large number of shipboard measurements of seawater CO2 chemistry and atmospheric CO2, indicates that pHCF is sensitive to changes in pHSW. This suggests that the calcification fluid of corals will become less supersaturated with respect to aragonite by the middle of this century (pHCF = ~8.3 when pHSW = ~8.0 in 2050), earlier than previously expected, despite the pHCF-upregulating mechanism of corals.

Kubota K., Yokoyama Y., Ishikawa T., Suzuki A. & Ishii M., 2017. Rapid decline in pH of coral calcification fluid due to incorporation of anthropogenic CO2. Scientific Reports 7:7694. Article.

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