Ocean acidity is on the rise, and that spells for even more bad news for coral reefs. These rising levels of ocean acidity are expected to start having a significant effect on the sand reefs build upon within the following decades. Once the sand is reduced or gone, it’s possible that the reefs they’re built upon will erode or even collapse.
Acidic Oceans Dissolving Carbonate Sands
The acidity level of the world’s oceans has been on the rise for nearly a century. According to scientists, it has also intensified over the last few decades. The culprit seems to be carbon dioxide.
As CO2 gets absorbed into the waters of the ocean, it raises its acidity levels. Human industries are releasing a significant output of CO2, and one-third of that has reportedly been absorbed into the oceans.
CO2 output levels due to human activity aren’t expected to decrease in the near future. In turn, this means that CO2 will likely continue to be absorbed into the waters of our planet. This will lead to their being more acidic, which might begin to have major effects on the structure of the coral reef, at least if nothing changes.
Carbonate Sands in Detail
Coral reefs grow and build themselves on a foundation of carbonate sands. Carbonate sands are created over thousands of years from the breakdown and decay of coral and other organisms in and around reefs. This sand is particularly vulnerable to water acidity levels.
Scientists studying coral reefs project that within 30 years, acidity levels will have risen to the point where carbonate sand will begin to dissolve. The effect of the sand dissolving isn’t precisely known, but scientists can hazard a guess as to its most likely outcomes.
It’s possible that reefs will continue to be able to grow and develop even in the absence of such sand. However, a worst case scenario is that the reefs could collapse entirely. But what scientists think is most likely to happen is that coral reefs will begin to slowly erode over time.
As things stand, the increasingly acidic oceans will likely pose a threat to the existence of coral reefs within several decades. One of the only ways of combating this is to decrease the oceanic CO2 absorption.
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