New Australian research suggests some coral reefs could be gone before 2050. Previous studies have underestimated the damaging effect of excess carbon dioxide on coral.
Bleaching, or destruction of coral, caused by other factors such as pollution, evidently interacts with and is exacerbated by, the effect of ocean acidification, according to Ove Hoegh-Gulberg of the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and Queensland University.
"TheAustralian scientists erected 30 large aquaria in the waters off HeronIsland on the Great Barrier Reef to study the combined effects of oceanwarming, acidification due to rising CO2, and sunlight on a large rangeof reef organisms.
Using CO2 and temperatures predicted for the middle and end of thecentury, the scientists found ocean acidification from CO2, whichreduces coral calcification, had the potential to worsen the impact ofbleaching and the death of reef-building organisms.
The study found that coralline algae, which glue the reef togetherand help coral larvae settle successfully, were highly sensitive toincreased CO2."
The study was led by Ken Anthony, who emphasized the need to reduce emission of carbon dioxide globally. Anthony said, "Without political will and commitment to abatement, entirereef systems such as the Great Barrier Reef will be severely threatenedin coming decades."