Study finds coral reefs under even greater threat

Sep 03, 2013

In a landmark study, scientists at The University of Queensland (UQ) have simulated future ocean conditions and found climate change will jeopardise the future of coral reefs.

The study published today in prestigious scientific journal, PNAS, finds coral reefs dissolve rapidly once exposed to warmer, more acidic associated with business-as-usual CO2 emission rates predicted for the latter half of this century.

The collaborative study, led by Associate Professor Sophie Dove from UQ's School of Biological Sciences, concludes that increases in temperature and acidity cause major disruptions to coral reefs like those growing around the world famous Heron Island on Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Associate Professor Dove said even under fairly low emission scenarios, most corals bleached and died.

"Given corals are essential to coral reefs, this is not good news," Associate Professor Dove said.

In a world-first, the nine-month study used computers to control CO2 content and temperature of water flowing over small patches of coral reef at UQ's Heron Island research centre.

Associate Professor Dove describes one of the most significant challenges of as being able to accurately reduce future uncertainties.

"By simulating future environments above complex , we come closer to understanding what might happen as the oceans warm and acidify," she said.

"If we can reduce the uncertainty, then we have a much better chance of making better decisions to help protect and conserve these valuable ecosystems."

The study also found for the first time that increases in and acidity not only leads to a reduction in , the process by which corals build coral reefs, but also the rate at which coral reefs dissolve.

"We discovered that coral reefs under the business-as-usual-emission scenario, the one we are on, show high rates of decalcification," Associate Professor Dove said.

"Essentially, dissolving before our eyes over a few months.

"This has serious implications for the role of coral reefs in providing habitat for thousands of species and their role in protecting coastlines from wave impacts."

Studies like these are providing important information and are likely to be considered by the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC).

The first of three major reports by the IPCC will be released next month.

The second report will be released at the end of March in Yokohama, Japan.

Study co-author Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, from UQ's Global Change Institute, stressed the importance of scientific research in understanding and solving the problem of rapid anthropogenic climate change.

"One of the key messages of this study is that are under even greater threat from ocean warming and acidification than we first thought." Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

"This sounds gloomy but our study also emphasises the fact that there is time and that small amount of effort today can have a huge impact on what happens in the future."

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More information: Future reef decalcification under a business-as-usual CO2 emission scenario, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1302701110

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User comments : 4

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NikFromNYC
1.6 / 5 (14) Sep 03, 2013
Their isolation of corals from their full ocean relation to micro and macro organisms and nutrient feedbacks is sadly pictured in the supplement:
http://www.pnas.o...01SI.pdf

Decades of aquarium tweaks allow coral to survive in tanks, but suddenly subjecting them to a hundred years worth of vastly oversimplified environmental change is agenda driven test tube science folly.

That said, I don't detect in oceanography the usual organized pal reviewed statistical chicanery of the Hockey Stick Team.

"The first of three major reports by the IPCC will be released next month."

An investigative reporter finally wrote a book about the IPCC after finding a laugh-test-failing double digit percent references to activist literature instead of peer reviewed studies in their last report, with grad students pulled in as main authors, nicely presented in a new documentary video interview:
http://www.youtub...eFQYBL5w
Gmr
3 / 5 (7) Sep 04, 2013
[A lone bull ventures onto uncertain terrain. Biological prey is not his strong suit. Assembling a harem is much less certain. But pickings are slim. It has been a long summer, and the current drought consisting of scraps of information is not enough to sustain a full grown bull. ]
Sinister1811
2.6 / 5 (5) Sep 04, 2013
It sucks that parts of the Barrier Reef, in recent times, have started to die off. And scientists think that coral bleaching is to blame. People like Nik aren't concerned, though.
ClimateGuy1973
3.4 / 5 (5) Sep 04, 2013
Yeah, Grad students are idiots, aren't they. If the coral reefs start to collapse, so does the food chain. CO2 in the ocean makes it like a soda. Ever dissolved a nail in cola? Many kinds of pollution warm the planet, including soot and methane. But carbon dioxide is the main cause of the warming we're seeing today. clmtr.lt/cb/wXC0bJd

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