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Environment & Science

Coral reefs may delay damage from increasingly acidic ocean water

Scripps Institute of Oceanography

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A research team led by a Southern California scientist has published a new study revealing that coral reefs may be slowing down the impacts of climate change on seawater...but only temporarily.

The whole time humans have been sending more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the ocean has been absorbing a large portion of those emissions. That extra carbon has made sea water more acidic. 

Andreas Andersson, an oceanographer from the Scripps Institute in San Diego, is among those who have been observing coral reefs in Bermuda. he and his team found that coral use some of this extra carbon as part of its growth and life cycle. In the journal Nature Climate Change, they predict that coral reefs may slow the acidification of ocean water by between 12 and 24 percent.

Andersson says while reefs can reduce the rate of ocean acidification, at some point they will eventually succumb to the change in the water's chemistry.

As oceans grow more acidic, it affects the ability of coral to produce calcium carbonate which keeps them strong and healthy. That in turn is likely to have ripple effects on the ecosystem that depends on the coral.