Corals in Peril

Nov 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Youth Blog

If you know a lot about climate change, you’ll probably have heard that one consequence of greenhouse gas emissions could be increased levels of carbonic acid in the oceans – and this in turn kills corals, a process known as coral bleaching.

Scientists have known that for a while, but a scientific article published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists) this month says the consequences are even greater: while slight acidity may not kill a full-grown coral, this new paper by Rebecca Albright and other scientists suggests that acidification has tremendous negative consequences for the reproduction rate, as well as the survival of young corals: overall, it seems that coral reproduction may be cut 50% or more!

Briefly, as a scientist, I feel I should probably mention one point: Albright et al. (fancy latin speak for “Albright and some other people”) only studied one species of coral called Acropora palmata or the “elkhorn coral.” Why do I bring this up? it’s important to remember that we probably can’t generalize to all species – the situation may be even worse if you consider all coral species, or it might be better, it’s hard to say. Until some more studies are published which answer this question, it’s safe to say that it’s pretty shocking to know how much of an effect climate change could really have on these corals, and this means conservationists may have to work even harder to protect all the different species of coral in the world.

References:

Albright, R., B. Mason, M. Miller & C. Langdon. 2010. Ocean acidification comprimises recruitment success of the threatened Caribbean coral Acropora palmata. PNAS 107:pages unknown.

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/65317/title/Acidification_may_halve_coral_class_of_2050

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