20% of Coral Reefs Already Lost Due to Acid-Filled Oceans

December 11, 2008

Poland (ChattahBox) — The world has lost nearly 20% of its coral reefs, according to a conservation group warned at Wednesday’s U.N. talks, which are focused on creating a new climate change treaty. Increasingly acidic seas could devastate all coral reefs if climate change continues unchecked, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Rising temperatures from greenhouses gases are the latest and most serious threats to coral, which are already being damaged by destructive fishing methods and pollution. The remaining reefs will be lost in the next 20 to 40 years, If current trends in carbon dioxide emission continue.

Increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which fuels global warming, is raising ocean levels and temperatures. When oceans absorb carbon dioxide from air, the gas reacts with water to produce carbonic acid.
That makes the water more acidic, dissolving the calcium shells of reef-building coral and other creatures that rely on the mineral.

A report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, of which IUCN is a member, also said all the world’s coral reefs could be considered threatened if current forecasts from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and coral reef experts are heeded.

Because such reefs are home to more than a quarter of all marine species, their loss could be devastating for biodiversity in the world’s oceans, experts say.


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