While research has shown that ocean acidification from rising CO2 levels in the ocean imperils the growth and survival mature coral reefs, a new study has found that it may also negatively impact burgeoning corals, by significantly lowering the success of coral recruitment. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has found that coral recruitment could fall by 73% over the next century due to increasing acidification.
“Ocean acidification is widely viewed as an emerging threat to coral reefs,” said lead author and graduation student from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Rebecca Albright in a press release. “Our study is one of the first to document the impacts of ocean acidification on coral recruitment.”
Looking at Elkhorn corals (Acropora palmate), a keystone reef-building coral species, researchers found that declining pH levels due to an increase in carbon dioxide in the oceans hit the coral species’ ability to fertilize, its larva to settle, and even when they fertilized and settled to survive in the long-term.
“Reproductive failure of young coral species is an increasing concern since reefs are already highly stressed from bleaching, hurricanes, disease and poor water quality,” said co-author Chris Langdon, associate professor at the Rosenstiel School.
Anthropogenic carbon emissions are changing the chemistry of the ocean, impacting not only coral reefs—the most biodiverse ecosystems in the oceans—but a wide variety of marine species.
(09/23/2010) It is one of the most worrisome observations: fast massive death of coral reefs. A severe wide-scale bleaching occurred in the Philippines leaving 95 percent of the corals dead. The bleaching happened as the result of the 2009-2010 El Niño, with the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia waters experiencing significant thermal increase especially since the beginning of 2010.
(08/16/2010) A large-scale bleaching event due to high ocean temperatures appears to be underway off the coast of Sumatra, an Indonesian island, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
(08/15/2010) Coral reefs are often considered the “rainforests of the sea” because of their amazing biodiversity. In fact, coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. It is not unusual for a reef to have several hundred species of snails, sixty species of corals, and several hundred species of fish. While they comprise under 1% of the world’s ocean surface, one-quarter of all marine species call coral reefs their home. Fish, mollusks, sea stars, sea urchins, and more depend on this important ecosystem, and humans do too. Coral reefs supply important goods and services–from shoreline protection to tourism and fisheries–which by some estimates are worth $375 billion a year.
(03/03/2010) Twenty years of research has led Dr. Graham Jones of Australia’s Southern Cross University to discover a startling connection between coral reefs and coastal precipitation. According to Jones, a substance produced by thriving coral reefs seed clouds leading to precipitation in a long-standing natural process that is coming under threat due to climate change.
(01/10/2010) A study in the Caribbean has found that coral reefs can recover from global warming impacts, such as coral bleaching, if protected from fishing. Marine biologists have long been worried that coral reefs affected by climate change may be beyond recovery, however the new study published in PLoS ONE shows that alleviating another threat, overfishing, may allow coral reefs to cope with climate change.
(12/15/2009) A new study from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity has synthesized over 300 reports on ocean acidification caused by climate change. The report finds that increasing acidification will lead to irreversible damage in the world’s oceans, creating a less biodiverse marine environment. Released today the report determines that the threat to marine life by ocean acidification must be considered by policymakers at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.