For years, scientists have warned that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will lead to an increased concentration of carbonic acid in ocean waters, which in turn could interfere with the ability of animals like corals to build their skeletons. Corals use calcium carbonate to build their skeletons, but calcium carbonate dissolves in acidic water. It’s also more difficult for corals to obtain calcium carbonate in the first place in conditions of increased acidity.
Until now, these concerns have been focused on the possibility of a future crisis. Newly released research, however, indicates that corals may be suffering from the effects of ocean acidification right now. The research compared rate of coral growth on the Great Barrier Reef today with the rate of coral growth on the reef in 1990, and found that there has been a reduction in coral skeleton formation of 14 percent.
To realize the ecological impact of this change, think about an economic analogy. What would the effect be on the national economy if worker productivity were reduced by 14 percent?
Yes, it’s bad news, but it’s likely to get worse. The likely cause of coral growth reduction – elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide combined with increased global temperature, is continuing to get worse. Human governments are not yet taking sufficient action to even slow down the destruction, much less stop it or reverse it.
Before long, the Australian ecological landmark may need to be renamed the Formerly Great Barrier Reef.