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Nature

Coral and Crustaceans Can't Calcify Due to Acids From CO2

The loss of coral reefs around the world is being blamed on the mass amounts of CO2 in our planets oceans, and the resulting acid that is keeping the reefs and other crustaceans from calcifying.

When I was a kid, my favorite television program was The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau.  I knew every thing there was to know about him (or so I thought).  I even did a report, in which I stood at the front of the class, talking about his invention of the Scuba Tank. All these years later, I still remember that it is an acronym for “Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.”[social_buttons]

Because of that series, and the silent, beautiful seas that it introduced me to, I decided to become a Marine Biologist when I grew up. Alas, life had other plans for me, but it disheartens me to see that our last frontier is changing, and changing quickly.

Rod Salm, says that his were the first human eyes to see many of the remotest reefs at a time when we could really describe them a pristine. But sadly, there are more and more that look like something from the dark side of the moon.

“These degraded reefs have been ravaged by destructive fishing, bad land use practices that smother them with silt, and pollutants that foster disease and overgrowth by seaweeds” he explains. He continues, “More alarmingly, there are large areas that are killed off and degraded by warming seas linked to climate change.”

Throughout his article, he goes on to explain that the specific problem that reefs are suffering from, is excess amounts of CO2. You see, the oceans normally absorb about one-third of the CO2 entering the atmosphere, but in recent times, we’ve upset the balance and our oceans are absorbing more of it and at faster rates than ever before, causing a much greater amount of acidity.

This acid removes carbonate from the water and it’s this carbonate that is essential for calcifying organisms, like corals, mollusks, sea urchins, and many other important creatures that live on reefs or help them build. In a nutshell, it’s as if the acid in the water, caused by CO2, is keeping the skeletons of these sea creatures from growing.

The Nature Conservancy recently convened leading climate change experts, top marine scientist and prominent coral reef managers from around the globe for a “meeting of the minds” session. The key findings and recommendation were compiled into the Honolulu Declaration on Ocean Acidification and Reef Management, which outlines in greater detail than I can in this article, the root causes, consequences and steps that we can take to help solve the problem.

Perhaps the best way to care for our planet is to do exactly what you are doing right now, learning about the issues and not giving up.  Sharing your knowledge with others, and sharing comments or questions with us, are all easy steps in the process of changing our world.

Photo Credit: Christina Lam on Flickr under Creative Commons license.




3 comments
  1. Norman

    Hello Adam,

    Thanks for the resource. You write about a topic that is dear to my soul. As a scuba diver, I have a strong interest in protecting our oceans. Keep spreading the message!

    Norman

  2. Stephanie

    This is such an important topic and I’m glad that you’ve published this post. All the excess C02 in our atmosphere due to global warming is definitely putting our coral reefs at danger. I just hope that my kids will be able to enjoy the wonder of the seas themselves and not just look at pictures in the future.

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