Hope for coral facing ocean acidification

New research suggests corals can adapt their metabolism to increases in ocean acidity.

Coral may cope better with ocean acidification than scientists had thought.

Coral may cope better with ocean acidification than scientists had thought.
Prasit / Getty


Coral may be able to acclimatise and thrive despite increasingly acidic oceans, according to new collaborative research that suggests some hope for reefs.

Scientists from the University of Western Australia and the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology examined coral from Hawai’i’s Kāne‘ohe Bay that had previously endured a decade of ocean acidification due to human activity, which caused a drop in the pH of the seawater and a rise in its temperature.

In an experimental setting, they used a unique geochemical approach to track the chemical changes that might occur in the coral calcification process to better understand how these creatures adjust to and withstand detrimental changes.

Interestingly enough, they found that the coral altered the dynamics of their calcification process by tweaking the physiological balance between the pH and carbon content of their internal calcifying liquid. This allowed them to grow and flourish.

The research was led by Verena Schoepf and published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society.

Geetanjali Rangnekar, Cosmos, 12 December 2017. Article.

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Ocean acidification in the IPCC AR5 WG II

OUP book