Chemistry of Ocean Threatens Existence of Coral Reefs

 The very existence of Earth’s coral reefs are threatened by ever increasing levels of carbonic acid in sea water. Approximately one-fourth of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere enters the ocean where it forms carbonic acid. Since the industrial revolution atmospheric levels of carbon have increased dramatically from 280 parts per million to 392. Scientists from the Carnegie Institutions Department of Global Ecology have calculated “if current carbon dioxide emission trends continue, by mid-century 98% of present-day reef habitats will be bathed in water too acidic for reef growth”.

The presence of carbonic acid is causing an ongoing decrease of pH levels in sea water. Acidifying water eats away at the exoskeleton of coral which protects their delicate bodies. Coral Reefs also form diverse ecosystems housing fish, mollusks, crustaceans, sponges, and other organisms. Changes in the oceans chemistry jeopardizes many of the reef dwelling organisms habitat and hence their lives.

The primary cause of pH decrease is the continual upsurge of carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere by way of fossil fuel burning. Coral reefs are among the most vulnerable organisms of global climate changes. Unless carbon dioxide emissions are reduced dramatically, acidification will continue to increase and extinction of coral reefs is inevitable.

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