Indo-Pacific coral reefs die at pH < 7.7

And already suffer biodiversity losses during the decline from pH 8.1 (preindustrial) to 7.8. That latest number is the expected acidification for the end of this century according to IPCC 4AR, a theoretical scenario and a dangerously often quoted underestimation of the true CO2 trends, we can learn today from the IEA.

CO2 does ‘two things’

The new insights into the damaging effects of ocean acidification -that ‘other thing’ elevated CO2 levels do to system Earth- are provided by a team of American, Australian and German marine biologists and have been published yesterday in Nature Climate Change.

The researchers studied newly formed underwater volcanic pipes in Papua New Guinea, which lie close to coral reefs. These pipes are natural emitters of CO2 and present an ideal miniature showcase of the ecological effects of rising levels of the water-soluble gas.

Coral threat reconfirmed

The findings confirm the conclusion of a large pile of research that shows all carbonate-dependent organisms (apart from coral, including fish, shellfish, and many types of plankton) are sensitive to acidification and that ecological damage is very likely within the range of current CO2 levels to those the oceans will be faced with at the end of the century.

Much may still depend on the type of coral. The new study shows where the final CO2 limit for some Indo-Pacific coral species lies. According to a World Resources Institute report from last February, other species may not even survive to see the next half of this century. That report includes other environmental stresses to coral, like coral bleaching, a direct result of temperature rises.

© Rolf Schuttenhelm |

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