CO2 hurts reef growth

Jul 11, 2007
CO2 hurts reef growth

Coral reefs are at risk of going soft, quite literally turning to mush as rising carbon dioxide levels prevent coral from forming tough skeletons, according to UQ research.

UQ marine scientists have shown that too much carbon dioxide absorption turns seawater acidic which may prevent corals building their skeletons which make up reefs.

UQ marine science lecturer Selina Ward said natural reefs were not at immediate threat of acidification yet but the findings served as a future warning.

“A reef is mostly dead skeleton with just a thin layer of live tissue,” Dr Ward said.

“You've got a balance between erosion and growth and at the moment in a healthy system, growth wins by about 10 percent.

“If we go up to double pre-industrial levels of CO2 which is a conservative guess by 2050, then that balance may tip and we'll start to have our reefs dissolving instead of growing.”

The researchers have been monitoring the effects of water temperature and carbon dioxide levels on coral growth and health using 48 tanks with varying carbon dioxide levels.

“I am interested in whether the larvae can lay down that first skeleton when they first settle,” she said.

“That's the beginning of the new coral, so if it can't lay down a skeleton it sits there like a little jellyfish and is very vulnerable and can't grow to build a reef.”

The research results can also be plugged into climate models to predict future reef health.

Acidification may also affect clams, bivalves, snails, cuttlefish, crustaceans, krill, prawns, lobsters as well as calcifying algae.

Dr Ward said the research project was part of the Rio Tinto Aluminium Future Reef partnership.

“Rio Tinto Aluminium produces CO2 emissions by the very nature of the industry and they're aware of their role and this is part of many strategies the company is using to combat their negative role.”

“They have given us $1 million to work on climate change and coral reefs.”

Source: University of Queensland

Explore further: Dead floppy drive: Kenya recycles global e-waste

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New corals discovered on UKs highest underwater mountain

Aug 04, 2014

Heriot-Watt scientists have discovered new populations of deep-sea corals growing on the slopes of the UK's highest underwater mountain, a site recently added to the list of Scotland's new Marine Protected ...

Climate change could stop fish finding their friends

Jul 01, 2014

Like humans, fish prefer to group with individuals with whom they are familiar, rather than strangers. This gives numerous benefits including higher growth and survival rates, greater defence against predators ...

Corals provide clues for climate change research

Jul 16, 2014

(Phys.org) —Just as growth rings can offer insight into climate changes occurring during the lifespan of a tree, corals have much to tell about changes in the ocean. At Caltech, climate scientists Jess ...

What geology has to say about global warming

Jul 14, 2014

Last month I gave a public lecture entitled, "When Maine was California," to an audience in a small town in Maine. It drew parallels between California, today, and Maine, 400 million years ago, when similar ...

Recommended for you

Dead floppy drive: Kenya recycles global e-waste

14 hours ago

In an industrial area outside Kenya's capital city, workers in hard hats and white masks take shiny new power drills to computer parts. This assembly line is not assembling, though. It is dismantling some ...

New paper calls for more carbon capture and storage research

19 hours ago

Federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must involve increased investment in research and development of carbon capture and storage technologies, according to a new paper published by the University of Wyoming's ...

Coal gas boom in China holds climate change risks

Aug 22, 2014

Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble ...

User comments : 0