Science Articles on Acid Oceans and Coral Reefs

Series of my science articles documenting how global warming is transforming the Oceans and threatening Coral Reefs

No Safe Havens in Increasingly Acid Oceans

Oil, gas and coal are contaminating the world’s oceans from top to bottom, threatening the lives of more than 800 million people, a new study warns Tuesday.

“It took a year to analyse and synthesise all of the studies on the impacts of climate change on ocean species,” Camilo Mora, an ecologist at University of Hawai‘i in Honolulu and lead author, told IPS.

“We are seeing greater changes, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated.” — Alex Rogers of the University of Oxford

Plankton Death To Come with Acid Oceans and Sunlight

Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, sunlight will kill an unknown number of ocean phytoplankton, the planet’s most important organism, a new study reports this week.

Not only are phytoplankton, also known as marine algae, a vital component in the ocean’s food chain, they generate at least half of the oxygen we breathe.

In the not so distant future, sunlight, the very source of life for phytoplankton, will likely begin to kill them because of the ocean’s increasing acidity, researchers from China and Germany have learned.

“There’s a synergistic effect between increased ocean acidity and natural light,” says Ulf Riebesell of the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.

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Deep CO2 Cuts May Be Last Hope for Acid Oceans

(Report from the World Oceans Conference in Indonesia, May 2009)

Ocean acidification offers the clearest evidence of dangers of climate change.

And yet the indisputable fact that burning fossil fuels is slowly turning the oceans into an acid bath has been largely ignored by industrialised countries and their climate treaty negotiators, concluded delegates from 76 countries at the World Oceans Conference in Manado, Indonesia.

Oceans Passing Critical CO2 Threshold

An apparent rapid upswing in ocean acidity in recent years is wiping out coastal species like mussels, a new study has found.

“We’re seeing dramatic changes,” said Timothy Wootton of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, lead author of the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study shows increases in ocean acidity that are more than 10 times faster than any prediction.

Say Goodbye to Coral Reefs

GIJON, Spain, May 22 (IPS) – The one-two punch of climate change that is warming ocean temperatures and increasing acidification is making the oceans uninhabitable for corals and other marine species, researchers said at a scientific symposium in Spain.

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Lose Corals and We Will be Fighting for Our Own Survival

“There would be no white sands on the beaches of Cancún without the Mesoamerican reef,” Professor Roberto Iglesias-Prieto, a marine ecophysiologist working at the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told Tierramérica.

Cutting CO2 Could Save Dying Corals

FORT LAUDERDALE, U.S., Jul 12 (IPS) – The rapid decline of coral reefs around the world offers a potent warning that entire ecosystems can collapse due to human activities, although there is hope for reefs if immediate action is taken, coral experts agreed at the conclusion of a five-day international meeting Friday.severely-degraded-reef-flat-at-kelso-reef-great-barrier-reef-australiaimage-c2a9-cathie-page-very-sml2

A Third of Corals Face Extinction

FORT LAUDERDALE, U.S., Jul 10 (IPS) – One third of reef-building corals already face extinction because of climate change, the first-ever global assessment has found.

Life Support Needed For Coral Reefs

FORT LAUDERDALE, U.S., Jul 8 (IPS) – Coral reefs need to be put on “life support” if they are to survive climate change, but their ultimate survival is dependant on major reductions in fossil fuel emissions, say experts.

“We’re Running the Risk of Unstoppable Climate Change” — Oceanographer

“I’m afraid it is going to take a major catastrophe in the developed world…” Chris Reid.

Oceans are the Heart and Blood of the Earth — But are They Healthy?

If continents are the Earth’s sturdy bones and the atmosphere its thin skin, then the oceans are its heart, circulatory system and blood. And despite the crucial role played by the oceans in the health of the planet, and to our own health and well-being, there is little monitoring of ocean health.

Acid Oceans to ‘Dissolve’ Coral Reefs in 30 years

Coral reefs face certain extinction in a few decades unless there are unprecedented reductions in carbon emissions, leading Australian scientists warn.

Oceans Passing Critical CO2 Threshold

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By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 24 (IPS)

An apparent rapid upswing in ocean acidity in recent years is wiping out coastal species like mussels, a new study has found.

“We’re seeing dramatic changes,” said Timothy Wootton of the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, lead author of the study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study shows increases in ocean acidity that are more than 10 times faster than any prediction.

“It appears that we’ve crossed a threshold where the ocean can no longer buffer the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere,” Wootton told IPS.

For millions of years, the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the ocean were in balance, but the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation has put more CO2 into the atmosphere over the last 150 years. The oceans have absorbed one-third — about 130 billion tonnes — of those human emissions and have become 30 percent more acidic as the extra CO2 combines with carbonate ions in seawater, forming carbonic acid.

Each day, the oceans absorb 30 million tonnes of CO2, gradually and inevitably increasing their acidity. There is no controversy about this basic chemistry; however, there is disagreement about the rate at which the oceans are becoming acidic and the potential impact. Continue reading

Say Goodbye to Coral Reefs

severely-degraded-reef-flat-at-kelso-reef-great-barrier-reef-australiaimage-c2a9-cathie-page-very-sml

Coral reefs will be the first global ecosystem to collapse in our lifetimes.

By Stephen Leahy

GIJON, Spain, May 22 (IPS) – The one-two punch of climate change that is warming ocean temperatures and increasing acidification is making the oceans uninhabitable for corals and other marine species, researchers said at a scientific symposium in Spain.

And now other regions are being affected. Acidic or corrosive waters have been detected for the first time on the continental shelf of the west coast of North America, posing a serious threat to fisheries, Richard Feely, an oceanographer with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told attendees in Gijon, Spain Wednesday.

More than 450 scientists from over 60 countries are participating in the “Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans” symposium.

“Surface waters off the coast of San Francisco had concentrations of carbon dioxide that we didn’t expect to see for at least another 100 years,” Feely told IPS. Continue reading

Cutting CO2 Only Way to Save Dying Corals

By Stephen Leahy

FORT LAUDERDALE, U.S., July 12 2008 (IPS)

The rapid decline of coral reefs around the world offers a potent warning that entire ecosystems can collapse due to human activities, although there is hope for reefs if immediate action is taken, coral experts agreed at the conclusion of a five-day international meeting Friday.

“Reefs are in serious trouble, but don’t write them off,” Terry Hughes, a marine ecologist at Australia’s James Cook University told 3,000 scientists, conservationists and policy makers attending at the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“We can save reefs if we take immediate action,” Hughes said.

More than 20 percent of the world’s reefs have died, and large areas are failing due to a combination of climate change, overfishing, pollution and sea level rise. Most of the fabulous corals that attract tourists to the Caribbean are gone and half of remaining reefs in the U.S. are in serious decline.

[Update 08/10 – Here’s a list of Stephen Leahy’s latest articles on corals Coral Reefs and Acid Oceans Series]

We may be facing ocean deserts in the future,” said Guillermo Dias-Pulido of Australia’s University of Queensland.

Continue reading

Life Support Needed For Coral Reefs

By Stephen Leahy


FORT LAUDERDALE, U.S., Jul 8 (IPS) – Coral reefs need to be put on “life support” if they are to survive climate change, but their ultimate survival is dependant on major reductions in fossil fuel emissions, say experts.

“We’re going to hear lots of bad news about corals in the next few decades,” Rich Aronson, president of the International Society for Reef Studies, told 3,000 scientists, conservationists and policy makers at the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida Monday.

Climate change is making the ocean too warm and too acidic for most corals species to survive beyond the year 2050, many marine scientists now believe.

“The situation is serious to the point of desperation,” Aronson told IPS in an interview.

Past and present carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels have already altered the oceans, leading to declines in corals in many areas. This trend will continue for decades even if it were possible to eliminate all emissions today, scientists say. Current emissions are running at eight to nine gigatonnes a year and rising, resulting in dramatically altered oceans where few of the current coral species will be able to survive.

“This is a pivotal moment. We must act strongly and immediately if we are to have coral reefs as we know them,” Aronson said. Continue reading

Ocean Trouble and the End of Hurricane Seasons

By Stephen Leahy*

New, disconcerting science from the oceans

GIJÓN, Spain, May 26 (Tierramérica).- Climate change is altering the world’s oceans in so many ways scientists cannot keep pace, and as a result there is no comprehensive vision of its present and future impacts, say experts.

Rising sea levels, changes in hurricane intensity and seasonality, declines in fisheries and corals are among the many effects attributed to climate change.

In an attempt to put some order to their disconcerting findings, more than 450 scientists from some 60 countries gathered in the northern Spanish city of Gijón for the symposium “Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans” May 19-23.

Change is evident where ever marine scientists look. Sea level rise and warmer ocean temperatures are the most obvious, but other changes include a decline in the oceans’ productivity, which means many areas are unable to support as many fish as they once did, according to Luis Valdés, a world expert on plankton and one of the symposium organizers. Continue reading

Acid Oceans to ‘Dissolve’ Coral Reefs in 30 years

By Stephen Leahy

BROOKLIN, Canada, Nov 12, 2007 (IPS)

Coral reefs face certain extinction in a few decades unless there are unprecedented reductions in carbon emissions, leading Australian scientists warn.

Corals around the world may be nothing but rubble before a child born today turns 30 years old, and almost certainly before they’re 50.

The reason? Rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere are turning the oceans acidic far faster than previously observed.

“It isn’t just the coral reefs which are affected. A large part of the plankton in the Southern Ocean, the coccolithophorids, are also affected,” said Malcolm McCulloch, an environmental research scientist at the Australian National University in Canberra.

[Update Sept 2010 – wide spread coral bleaching reportedWhat if our air was 30% more acidic like the Oceans? May be 120% more acidic by 2060]

“These (coccolithophorids) drive ocean productivity and are the base of the food web which supports krill, whales, tuna and our fisheries,” McCulloch said in a statement. Continue reading