Researcher outlines coral's future in an increasingly
VIRGINIA KEY, FL (February 17, 2006) — The ocean
is getting more and more acidic, and that's bad news for coral reefs.
That's the word from University of Miami Rosenstiel School's Dr.
Christopher Langdon who will speak on “Possible Consequences of
Increasing Atmospheric CO2 on Coral Reef Ecosystems,” Monday, Feb. 20
at 3 p.m. HST (8 p.m. EST) in Honolulu at the American Geophysical
Union's 2006 Ocean Sciences Meeting.
“While we focus a great deal of attention on rising ocean
temperatures and the bleaching incidents they cause in corals, we tend
to overlook the other consequence of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide
on our corals: decreases in ocean pH,” Langdon said. “Carbon dioxide
in the ocean is creating a growingly acidic environment for corals,
and this acidity could ultimately cause our reefs to waste away.”
This exposed reef, known as John Brewer Reef, part of the
Great Barrier Reef in Australia, is a good example of how living
reefs provide shoreline protection. (1981)
Rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are causing the climate
to warm and the oceans to become more acidic. Studies suggest that 20th
century warming of approximately 0.6°C may have been beneficial to the
growth of some corals and as a result masked the negative effects of
declining ocean pH. However, at some point water temperatures will
exceed the thermal optimum for corals and when that happens both rising
temperature and falling ocean pH will have a mutually reinforcing,
negative effect on the ability of corals to build their calcium
carbonate skeletons. Results from controlled laboratory experiments
suggest that a doubling in atmospheric carbon dioxide could drive
production of carbonate on many reefs below what is needed to replace
skeletal damage from natural erosive forces.
Langdon is the associate director of the National Center for
Caribbean Coral Reef Research and an associate professor in marine
biology and fisheries at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of
Marine and Atmospheric Science. His presentation is part of a session
titled, Observations of Anthropogenic Climate Change in the Oceans
and their Implications for Society II: Arctic and Ecosystem Responses.
Dr. Rana A. Fine, also a UM Rosenstiel School faculty member, will
preside over the session with Dr. Richard Feely from NOAA's Pacific
Marine Environmental Laboratory.
Rosenstiel School is part of the University of Miami and, since
its founding in the 1940s, has grown into one of the world's premier
marine and atmospheric research institutions.