The Impact of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs

Ocean Acidification is having a devestating impact on the world’s coral reefs suffering from this altering of the alkaline and salinity levels in the ocean, causing a weakening and often fatal affect on the reefs. These important world ocean sites are home to over a quarter of all known fish species, hundreds of corals and thousands of plant and animal species including many unidentified marine species. The continued stress on these important global ecosystems under the sea affect the entire balance of life on the planet.

The problem of acidification occurs when increased CO2, due to global warming, is upsetting the pH balance of the seas. Carbon dioxide gas mixes with the ocean waters dissolving and forming carbonic acid and the acidification of the ocean. The falling pH balance reduces the carbonate and any organisms structured of calcium begin to decline in the depleted lowering levels of available calcium in the waters.

The coral reefs are suffering a serious reduced calcification as a direct result of global warming. The rising levels of carbon and the resulting acidification affects the ability of marine organisms to produce breathable oxygen and in turn the corals ability to create calcareous skeletons, as well this also threatens snails, clams, crabs and others. The chalky skeletons of corals and planktons represent a third of all marine life and the impact of their possible eventual loss would be devastating worldwide.

The burning of fossil fuels, the warmer ocean temperatures, the increased population worldwide living along coastlines and industrial and farm runoff all affect the acidification levels and the health of the ocean reef’s complex communities. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration due to global warming brings ocean acidification and the resulting negative impact of the stressed depleted corals on the health of the reef systems.

As the corals suffer and die off so do the reefs as they physically erode along with the ecosystem hinged on the balance of life sustained in the delicate reef system. The Plankton health, equally affected in the acidification of the waters, brings the quality of the major ocean food source to a low and with it the production and sustainability of sea life declines including the fisheries industry supply of krill, whales and tuna. The reefs are economic mainstays of many industries worldwide, including tourism, fishing and coral mining, with many of the earth’s valuable reefs occurring in developing countries where climate change impacts the corals directly and the ecosystems goods and services are people-reliant commodities.

The race is on to save the Earth’s coral reefs from choking devastation in the increased acidification projected ahead as the damaging levels of carbon emissions continue to rise as a direct result human lifestyle choices and the negative by-product of global warming. The declining health of the oceans will continue to have declining affect the health of all life on the planet.