A pronounced lack of growth rate among some corals in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef leads scientists to believe this is the first sign of ocean acidification, something scientists world wide are beginning to fear.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolves in seawater, that increases acidity, making it more difficult for marine organisms to grow and maintain their shells.
Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences have studied porites, a common coral species growing along the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef, and discovered that calcification had slowed by 21% over the past 16 years. Calcification is the process used by corals to extract calcium carbonate from seawater to build their shells.
While more research is needed, scientists say this may be the very first signs that human-created CO2 is beginning to show it’s effects in the world’s oceans.
According to the article in Times Online, 49 billion tons of CO2 are produced by humankind every year, and between 40 to 50 percent of that amount is absorbed by the oceans, which could slow climate change, but increase the amount of hydrogen ions in seawater. That causes acidity and scientists fear it could prove more destructive in the short term than climate change.