Acidity Effects on Coral Reefs

Carbon Dioxide levels have increased across the world. Carbon dioxide from such sources as car emissions is affecting the health not only of people, but also that of the coral reefs. Increased carbon dioxide has in turn increased the acidity level of the ocean. As the level of acidity increases, so does the threat to the health of the coral reefs.

Coral Reefs are comprised of tiny creatures called polyps whose skeletal is comprised of calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is the same material that comprises the shells of many ocean creatures. Creatures such as crab, mussels and oysters are affected by this change. Calcium carbonate is very soft and is not resistant to the effects of higher levels of acid in the water.

It is estimated that the oceans absorb one third of the carbon emissions from usage of fossil fuels. While scientists were not so concerned when ph levels were manageable, as the ph levels increase, and the acid increases in the ocean water, they are becoming alarmed. Conferences are held world-wide to seek solutions and commitments to tackle this issue and put in place changes to slow down this process.

The pH level, measured in “units,” is a calculation of the balance of a liquid’s acidity and its alkalinity. The lower a liquid’s pH number, the higher its acidity; the higher the number, the more alkaline it is. The ph level for the world’s oceans was stable between 1000 and 1800, but has dropped one-tenth of a unit since the Industrial Revolution. Marine Biology Professor Christopher Langdon, University of Miami, Florida

According to marine scientists, the pH level will continue to rise. They are predicting at the current rate, by the twenty second century, coral polyps, and other shelled creatures will struggle to form the shell material vital to their survival. If they fail to form their shells, mankind may indeed see the demise of many species of oceanic life.

Coral reefs are an important element in the eco system of the earth, along with its many symbiotic relationships that exist with other life. While coral may become an obvious marker of the effects of rising acidity in the water, the other creatures play as vital a part as the reefs. All must be held in balance and all must be maintained. It is up to man to step up and make those changes necessary to decrease emissions in the world and to preserve what nature took thousands of years to provide man.