Skip to comments.Immediate Action Needed To Save Corals From Climate Change
Posted on 12/14/2007 8:41:13 AM PST by cogitator
The journal Science has published a paper that is the most comprehensive review to date of the effects rising ocean temperatures are having on the world's coral reefs. The Carbon Crisis: Coral Reefs under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification, co-authored by seventeen marine scientists from seven different countries, reveals that most coral reefs will not survive the drastic increases in global temperatures and atmospheric CO2 unless governments act immediately to combat current trends.
The paper, the cover story for this week's issue of Science, paints a bleak picture of a future without all but the most resilient coral species if atmospheric CO2 levels continue on their current trajectory. Marine biodiversity, tourism and fishing industries and the food security of millions are at risk, the paper warns. Coral reef fisheries in Asia currently provide protein for one billion people and the total net economic value of services provided by corals is estimated to be $30 billion.
Dr. Bob Steneck, of the University of Maine and co-author of the paper, said the time was right for international leaders to commit to meaningful action to save the world's coral reefs: "The science speaks for itself. We have created conditions on Earth unlike anything most species alive today have experienced in their evolutionary history. Corals are feeling the effects of our actions and it is now or never if we want to safeguard these marine creatures and the livelihoods that depend on them."
Scientists have long thought that the effects of climate change and the resulting acidification of the oceans spells trouble for reefs. Coral skeletons are made of calcium, and reef development requires plenty of carbonate ions to build these skeletons, a process called calcification. When carbon dioxide is absorbed in the ocean, the pH level drops, along with the amount of carbonate ions, slowing the growth of coral reefs.
Atmospheric CO2 levels are currently at 380 parts per million (ppm) and the paper's authors, members of the Coral Reef Targeted Research and Capacity Building for Management Program (CRTR), calculate that once levels reach 560ppm, the calcification process could be reduced by up to 40 percent. Recent science also suggests that by 2100 the oceans will be so acidic that 70 percent of the habitat for deep-water corals, once considered relatively safe from the effects of climate change, will be uninhabitable.
Ocean acidification is just one example of the threats corals are facing. Bleaching, a process that is triggered when summer sea temperatures rise above normal for weeks at a time, causes corals to expel the algae that gives them their colour and nutrients. This phenomenon killed 16 percent of reef-building corals in 1997, according to the paper's authors. Destructive fishing methods, oil and gas exploration and pollution have also contributed to the global decline of coral reefs, with 20 percent already destroyed and another 50 percent threatened or verging on collapse in just the past few decades.
Consumer demand has also placed corals at risk. Popular products include coral jewelry, home decor items and live animals used in home aquaria. Corals grow so slowly it can take decades for them to recover, if at all. Catches of precious red corals, the most valuable of all coral species, provide a striking example of how demand for a fashion item can decimate a species. Red coral populations have plummeted 89 percent in the past two decades. Conscientious companies such as Tiffany and Co. removed real coral from their product lines over five years ago.
Fernanda Kellogg, president of The Tiffany and Co. Foundation, said, "Tiffany and Co. is committed to obtaining precious materials in ways that are socially and environmentally responsible. We decided to stop using real coral in our jewelry and feel that there are much better alternatives that celebrate the beauty of the ocean without destroying it."
Yet there is hope for corals and the life that depends on them. Scientists are calling for a reduction of carbon emissions to ensure corals' survival. It is also vitally important to reduce local pressures on corals such as overfishing, removal for consumer items, and pollution. If these local pressures are addresssed, coral populations will be stronger and will have a better chance of surviving climate change. Tiffany and Co. is forming new partnerships with fashion designers, scientists and conservation organizations to raise awareness of the urgent need for coral conservation.
Dawn M. Martin, president of SeaWeb, said, "Corals belong in the ocean, not in our homes or in our jewelry boxes. Consumers and the fashion industry can play an important role in the ocean's recovery by simply avoiding purchases of red and other corals. These jewels of the sea are simply too precious to wear."
In 2008, scientists, conservationists and governments will mobilize around the world to celebrate the International Year of the Reef (IYOR), a worldwide initiative to raise awareness of the importance of corals and coral reefs. The 11th International Coral Reef Symposium will be held July 7-11, 2008, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Over 2,500 attendees from academic, government and conservation organizations are expected to attend to discuss the latest coral science and its implications for the survival of these international treasures.
The amount of sand that was moved is beyond my ability to explain, but caves that I used to swim through were totally buried.
Other caves are now open for the first time in thousands of years, and the newly exposed fossils were a special interest for me.
After one dive of exploring this total destruction, where even the cruise ship piers were laying on the bottom, we were all astounded at how much surface stuff from the island we could find.
One idiot from Colorado got all upset because I threw my cigarette butt into the ocean! After giving the boat captain a cigarette, we seriously debated if this idiot should be evicted from the boat and forced to swim to shore.
Did this idiot pay attention to what this hurricane had done, and how the biology was responding? And this idiot was worried about a cigarette butt?
What do you think is incorrect about what was stated?
Review the diagram on page 2 and see if you think it's right.
All these corals died off in the global warming of the 1930’s.
There aren’t any left.
A small shift in pH, which is induced by carbonic acid from CO2 added to the surface ocean waters, shifts the equilibrium in this buffered system toward bicarbonate and away from carbonate ion. That means the saturation state with respect to calcium carbonate goes down -- and that's why corals and other calcifying organisms are facing a serious problem as ocean acidification takes place.
The CO2 from your breathing, Hunble, won't change the pH of your aquarium. But if you increased the ambient CO2 concentration in your house by 50-60 ppm and waited a few days, you might notice a change.
An ion has one extra neutron in it's atom. So CO3^2 is rather rare and unusual.
Did you pay attention to the actual article? They were not talking about normal CO2, but a very rare and unusual ion.
I know. The main problem was increased algae growth due to higher nutrient levels in many coastal areas.
Be assured dear FReeper friend, that I will continue to research this article and report to you exactly what is wrong with it.
Actually, this is the type of crap that I love to study, and I want to thank you for showing it to me.
Yes, South Dakota.
Naw; not the pretty stuff. :(
Just the common, grey stuff.
We had to drill through about 700’ (as well as other strata)or so of it, to get down to the aquifer.
Some has fossil poyps; some has a few fossil shells/shell casts; but most is just undifferentiated bottom-ooze type limestone. All of it is a PIA, when trying to drive posts, dig, rototill, plow, or bulldoze. LOL
This whole area was a shallow sea more than once.
4-5 miles NE of us is Wind Cave N.P.
Just over 4 miles ESE, some of the limestone disolved, and the surface caved in, forming a sinkhole about 15-20,000 years ago. That filled with warm water from the hot springs, making a good winter watering hole, but it also trapped more than 100 mammoths over the centuries, both wooly & Columbian. They’ve also found a short nosed bear, camels, and several predators & scavengers, as well as other critters. http://www.mammothsite.com/
I have no idea what O3 is!
Otherwise known as carbonate ion.
Seriously, I do not understand what they are actually measuring.
Carbon dioxide is C0^2, that that is two atoms of Oxygen attached to a single Carbon atom.
? No. I think you need to learn some chemistry first.
You are correct, but I was hoping someone other than myself would explain this to our other Freepers.
Sometimes, I say things that are rather stupid, in an effort to get someone else to show exactly why I was wrong.
The cartoon that you made me look at makes no mention of equilibria.
But Wikipedia present a reasonably simple demonstration of the effect of buffering (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonic_acid)
For example, an atmosphere with 350 ppm CO2 over water will produce a pH of 5.65. If that is tripled to 1000 ppm CO2, the water will indeed increase in acidity...to a pH of 5.42 (negligable change). Likewise if we engage in Algore’s wet dream and decrease atmospheric CO2 to 100 ppm, the pH rises to 5.92.
But over this whole range (100 ppm to 1000 ppm CO2) the carbonate ion concentration changes by 0.7%. Your cartoon is incorrect in that it suggests that more CO2 will result in less carbonate ion...the opposite is true, but the reality is that more CO2 will have only a negligable effect.
The biological effects of algae or pollution would be far more significant. Local temperature variations (El Nino, etc) would also play a larger role. But blaming coral death on a carbonate ion shortage, from MORE CO2, is laughable.
From a first grader’s book:
Begin the experiment “Acid Rain on the Reef” by discussing acid rain. Then explain to the students that chalk contains limestone just like the coral reefs. Explain to the students that this experiment will show how acid rain can harm the reef. Explain that each group will be given two pieces of chalk, which will represent the coral reef, a cup containing a vinegar/water mixture, which will represent the acid rain, and a cup of fresh water. The students will place a piece of chalk in each cup. Using a marker, students will write “acid” on the vinegar/water cup. Students will store cups overnight. Students will predict what will happen to the chalk in each cup.
From my own personal aquariums, I know that this is absolutely false.
I was hoping that other Freepers would help explain why this was impossible.
See my post above.
Begin the experiment Acid Rain on the Reef by discussing acid rain. Then explain to the students that chalk contains limestone just like the coral reefs. Explain to the students that this experiment will show how acid rain can harm the reef.
Explain that each group will be given two pieces of chalk, which will represent the coral reef, and two cups of saltwater.
The students will place a piece of chalk in each cup. Using a marker, students will write acid on one of the cups.
With the cup labled as "acid", the student will exhale into the cup and infuse it with Carbon dioxide from the student's breath.
Students will store cups overnight. Students will predict what will happen to the chalk in each cup.
The big lie of climate change cultists is that all species must remain exactly as they are and remain at 2007 levels forever. This has never been the case. The Earth warms, the Earth cools, new species appear, old species vanish. It has ever been so. If the coral dies, it will grow somewhere else, or a different organism we have yet to see will take its place. What is so nuts is that the most fervent "environmentalists" seem to have the least knowledge of how the environment actual functions.
This is the most ridiculous science conclusion ever.
Coral evolved in a time when CO2 levels were hundreds of times higher than today (possibly as high as 20,000 ppm.)
500 million years ago, CO2 levels were 7,000 ppm versus today’s measly 380 ppm. The ocean at the time was completely dominated by shell-based lifeforms like trilobites and amonites and corals.
Ridiculous (but story completely bought hook line and sinker by the global warming advocates.)
The seawater alkalinity system, largely (but not completely) due to the carbonate equilibria, is why this happens.
Don't bother telling me; email your report to the authors.
And please reply with their verbatim response.
Corals don’t live in fresh water.
On another subject, I loved hearing about your early years of obtaining satellite data.
In 1972, I had to place the path of the TIROS satellite on a polar projection of the Earth with a clear plastic template. Overlaid over my location on the Earth, was another plastic template, which could be used to figure out the azimuth and elevation. I would then write down the azimuth and elevation of the satellite for each minute that is would pass over my location.
Each minute, I would manually move the antenna to it's predicted position.
An oscilloscope would draw a line across it's screen, in response to the signal from the satellite. A Polaroid camera would record what was being shown on the oscilloscope.
If you did everything perfectly, you could actually locate a major storm over the United States.
35 years later, I am still doing the same thing.
Correction: increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration has measurably changed the pH of surface waters and the saturation state of surface waters with respect to calcium carbonate.
You need to find and read this reference:
Feely, R.A., C.L. Sabine, K. Lee, W. Berelson, J. Kleypas, V.J. Fabry, and F.J. Millero (2004) Impact of anthropogenic CO2 on the CaCO3 system in the oceans. Science, 305, 362366.
Abstract: Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations over the past two centuries have led to greater CO2 uptake by the oceans. This acidification process has changed the saturation state of the oceans with respect to calcium carbonate (CaCO3) particles. Here we estimate the in situ CaCO3 dissolution rates for the global oceans from total alkalinity and chlorofluorocarbon data, and we also discuss the future impacts of anthropogenic CO2 on CaCO3 shell-forming species. CaCO3 dissolution rates, ranging from 0.003 to 1.2 micromoles per kilogram per year, are observed beginning near the aragonite saturation horizon. The total water column CaCO3 dissolution rate for the global oceans is approximately 0.5 ± 0.2 petagrams of CaCO3-C per year, which is approximately 45 to 65% of the export production of CaCO3."
Here's a complete list of Dr. Feely's publications:
You might also want to check out Contribution 2726.
Totally outside of anything that can happen on the Earth, but as a test of the buffering abilities of saltwater, an experiment that I may perform.
In all honesty, I have no idea what the pH results would be. You got me rather curious.
Try this on for size:
"James Zachos, professor of Earth sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, led an international team of scientists that analyzed marine sediments deposited during a period of extreme global warming known as the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), in which temperatures rose by as much as 10 degrees in a relatively short period of time. Sediment cores drilled from the ocean floor revealed an abrupt change in ocean chemistry at the start of the PETM 55 million years ago, followed by a recovery that took at least 80,000 years."
"This absorption of carbon dioxide by the world's oceans will have a significant impact on marine organisms if past events are any indication of the future. When carbon dioxide dissolves in water it makes the water more acidic by stripping out carbonate ions, which are essential for marine organisms to build calcium carbonate shells and exoskeletons. During the PETM, ocean acidification likely caused a mass extinction of phytoplankton -- microorganisms key to the prehistoric food chain."
What the article doesn't state -- but which you can confirm by reading the link below -- is that the PETM was caused by a massive and rapid increase in atmospheric methane, which oxidized to CO2. Enjoy.
Totally outside of anything that can happen on the Earth,
Not really; depends on how much dry ice you add. I did the experiment in aquatic chemistry as an undergrad where you create the simple seawater carbonate buffer system (leaving out some of the minor stuff, like boric ion), and then just breathe into the flask. The increase in CO2 simply from your exhalations is sufficient to alter the pH of the system. But for that you have to wait 3-4 days. Dry ice will do it faster, because it will put a lot more carbonic acid into the system.
You'll need a decent pH meter.
Adding CO2 increases acidity, not pH. And if you increase carbon (through CO2)...you get...more carbonate (that ol'mass balance thingy).
My intial point is that the oceans have always been saturated at various levels and temps that are well within the CO2 concentrations that have existed in the past. Corals have been there all during that time.
The diagram on page 2 of that pdf is overly simplistic and misleading. It ignores the rest of the local system which includes the decrease in bicarb and increase in carbonate with increased CO2 partial pressure. IOWs the local system will not have CO32- decreasing to keep a constant alkalinity. The alkalinity will go up, and the pH change will stay the same, or change much less.
The trick they pulled is doing it in glass, instead of a reef with local and global mineral deposits and dead coral, which they later discuss in the text. Also note that as the corals themselves grow, HCO3- -> CO32- + H+, which increases the local dissolution rate.
Nevertheless, the rest of the paper and the summary shows there is nothing to the claim, "the corals are facing a serious problem".
That is a very interesting experiment. This is Friday, so it is too late for my wife to bring home some dry ice from the hospital. However, on Monday, I should be able to do this experiment.
Question: How will the pH of saltwater alter in a 100% CO2 atmosphere?
My guess is that the pH will not change, but you got me rather curious. This is an experiment that I will perform.
Beam me up Scotty. I think I will go to Vulcan. At least there they are "logical". I think...
Would you like me to video this experiment, so that you can insure that I did it correctly?
I hope all the G-W douches, beginning with Al Gore, chain themselves in protest to the nearest coral reef.
Hey, that is what the dinosaurs must have done. They were so big and were breathing SO much CO2 into the air that they decided to commit mass suicide to save the planet! I mean some of those things were very big and just imagine how much CO2 each one of them spewed into the air! That has to explain it.
Don't know. If so, that means it's been high & dry at least four times during the roughly 100k year ice cycles. It's also mean the in the last half a million years the very existence of the reef is the exception, not the rule.
In the last million years our current climate in it's entirety is the exception. 100,000 years of cold, 10 - 14 thousand of warm, if I recall correctly.
This WEATHER CONTROL scheme that the green libs are selling is an attempt to control that which they do not understand for gain of money or power, and as such are nothing more than traveling rainmakers of the past scamming small towns and communities of their savings then moving on to the next sucker.
Sounds like a great new lucrative cottage industry. You know, I AM a marine biologist.
Not necessary. But don't forget to seal the flask.
You might find this interesting supporting material:
And have fun!
Of course I will seal the flask. This experiment is to test the pH change of saltwater in a 100% CO2 atmosphere.
I just read a study that gave empirical evidence showing that 1000ppm CO2 actually helped the coral grow faster and larger. I’ll get back to this thread later. Is this another unverifiable computer model?
This paper is pretty weak. They did a literature survey and made this hypothesis with no supporting research or evidence.
They are calling for more funding and research to test their hypothesis.
Mammoth site sounds cool too! I hope to make a cross country trip some day through the northern plains, Just to see how much open space there still is.
Stay Warm up there.
Coral has survived billions of years of volcanoes, asteroid impacts, super continent breakups, solar insolation variations, oceanic plate subduction, etc.
That makes no sense. CO2 dissolves in water according to it's pressure. The other gasses don't matter in the first approximation.
The equation that determines the concentration of a gas in water is:
pGAS = kGAS * NGAS / NH2O
Where N is the number of moles/volume. A mole is the weight of substance/it's molecular weight. So...
pCO2 = kCO2 * NCO2 / NH2O
Each gas dissolves according to it's pressure. If dry ice is used, the pressure is 760 mm Hg(torr), or 14.7 PSI. The normal pressure for CO2 at 380ppmv is 0.29 torr, or 0.0056 PSI. Note hte total pressure of the atmosphere, 14.7 PSI, is a sum of the pressures for each gas in the atmosphere. So 20% oxygen means the oxygen pressure, pO2 is 0.2*14.7=2.9PSI