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Research Shows That Some Coral Reefs Can Lower Ocean Acidity

Posted on Monday, November 14th, 2011 at 1:16 pm by
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Two papers published in Global Change Biology, an international journal, reported that coral reefs, are able to both positively and negatively impact the acidity of their surrounding water. The papers, published by scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the US National Center for Atmospheric Research, and the Centre national de la Recherche Scientifique in France, outline the fact that the actual impact of ocean acidification on coral reefs, is a factor of reef type.

As we’ve written about before, the Earth’s oceans are becoming more acidic as the CO2 concentration in our atmosphere increases. This phenomenon is known as “Ocean Acidification,” and is a significant thread to coral reefs, as it reduces the corals ability to maintain structure.

“Overall, CO2 enrichment and ocean acidification is bad news for coral reefs”, says Dr Ken Anthony, Research Team Leader for the Climate Change and Ocean Acidification team at AIMS. “But some reef areas take up more CO2 than they produce (through photosynthesis), which can lower the vulnerability of neighboring reef areas to ocean acidification. On the other hand, reef areas with greater coral cover produce more CO2 than they consume (through calcification and respiration) and that adds locally to the ocean acidification threat”.

Dr. Joanie Kleypas adds that “If we can start to understand which areas of large reef systems such as the Great Barrier Reef can counteract pH changes locally and which areas cannot, then we are better able to assess the relative risks of ocean acidification.”

The team remains at work, producing various models designed to explain the way in which ocean acidification risks vary over the scale of the Great Barrier Reef.

In conclusion, that team believes that “By studying how reef, ocean and atmospheric processes interact, we hope to give reef managers a clearer picture of potential ocean acidification buffering capacity, or vulnerability, within reef areas. The creation of ocean acidification risk maps can assist in the planning of management efforts in different reef areas as the ocean pH continues to drop under increasing atmospheric CO2.”

[via Underwater Times]

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