November 17, 2011
The other CO₂ Problem
Todays oceans are not the same as they once were prior to the industrial revolution. The ocean serves as a reservoir for the worlds green house gasses. The increase in anthropogenic CO₂ has also resulted in an increase in the uptake by the ocean of CO₂. As a result of this uptake, the ocean is becoming progressively more and more acidic. This acidification of the ocean is expected to have great impacts on marine ecosystems. Coral reefs are among the most recognized ecosystems threatened by ocean acidification. It has been found that the lower pH of the ocean hinders calcification of many reef organisms. Ocean acidification affects coral growth in primary polyps, and has also been found to affect the dynamics of the competitive relationship between corals and macroalgae.
Coral reefs are one of the most productive and biologically diverse ecosystems on earth (Moberg and Folke,1999). However, despite their beauty and biological significance, coral reefs have been facing massive threats. As of 2011, The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) has estimated that 20% of the world’s coral reefs have been effectively destroyed and show no immediate prospects of recovery. The GCRMN has also estimated that 60% of the words coral reefs may be lost by 2030. These observed losses are direct consequence of both human impacts and global climate change (Moberg and Folke, 1999). At the global scale, global warming and ocean acidification have posed the greatest threats to coral reef ecosystems (Wei et al., 2009). Elevated sea water temperatures have been responsible for much of the observed reef damage through coral bleaching. It has not been until recent that ocean acidification has loomed as a serious threat to coral reef ecosystems (Vernon et al., 2009). Ocean acidification is a consequence of rising anthropogenic CO₂ levels in the atmosphere. CO₂ concentrations are currently...