From: Scott Sincoff, ENN
Published April 2, 2012 09:28 PM

Study Shows Coral Will Survive Warming Climate

A new study has increased hope that some coral species will be able to survive gradual ocean acidification. According to new research published in the journal, Nature Climate Change, a team of international scientists have identified a specific internal mechanism that could permit some coral species and their symbiotic algae to offset the unfavorable effects of an acidic ocean. In addition, this research has given hope that coral reefs will also be able to survive rising levels of ocean acidification.



Besides being associated with allegedly raising the planet's natural temperature, carbon dioxide is turning the world’s oceans more acidic. The research team from Australia's ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS), at the University of Western Australia (UWA) and France's Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement states in their report that carbon dioxide is being released at rates that were thought to extinguish some levels of life forms.

The team also states in their report that research has supported that some marine organisms, which internally form calcium carbonate skeletons, have an in-built mechanism to cope with ocean acidification. Professor Malcolm McCulloch of CoECRS and UWA states that most coral species appear to have the inner ability to buffer rising acidity of seawater and still build solid skeletons. "Marine organisms that form calcium carbonate skeletons generally produce it in one of two forms, known as aragonite and calcite," said McCulloch. "Our research broadly suggests that those with skeletons made of aragonite have the coping mechanism – while those that follow the calcite pathway generally do less well under more acidic conditions."

Despite the groundbreaking research, McCulloch also suggests that there is a small case of concern. The research team states in the report that coralline algae—the glue that sticks coral reefs together—appears to be vulnerable to rising acidification levels. Another cause of concern is that a large class of plankton, which is a significant tenet in the marine food web, is equally as vulnerable to the acidification as the coralline algae.

McCulloch said that the rising levels of carbon dioxide not only acidify the Earth's oceans, but also raise the ocean’s temperatures. In turn, McCulloch states that warming oceans may increase the rates of coral growth, especially in corals now living in cooler waters. However, he said that a big question is to see whether or not corals can adapt to the current rate of global warming. "This is crucial since, if corals are bleached by the sudden arrival of hot ocean water and lose the symbiotic algae which are their main source of energy, they will still die," said McCulloch. "It's a more complicated picture, but broadly it means that there are going to be winners and losers in the oceans as its chemistry is modified by human activities – this could have the effect of altering major ocean ecosystems on which both we and a large part of marine life depend."

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