Acidification threatens global reef systems


The future of the world’s coral reef systems is looking more and more dire after a new research study has detailed the extent of the threat of ocean acidification on the ecosystems.

Led by the University of Western Australia, the study determined the capacity of global coral systems to acclimatise to increasing ocean acidification by investigating the chemistry in the corals’ calcifying fluid.

Co-author Professor Malcolm McCulloch, ARC Laureate Fellow from UWA’s Oceans, said the researchers examined four species of coral and two types of calcifying algae in a year-long test. “We found that corals and coralline algae weren’t able to acclimatise to ocean acidification,” Professor McCulloch said. “The effects of ocean acidification on the calcifying fluid were rapid and persisted after one year in the experimental conditions. “Two coral species that were resistant to ocean acidification were resistant from the start while the two sensitive ones were affected from the start and were not able to acclimatise. “The two species resistant to ocean acidification used different mechanisms to alleviate the effects of ocean acidification.” Lead author Dr Steeve Comeau, from the Sorbonne Université – CNRS Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche sur Mer in France, said the results validated previous research that found coral reefs were under threat from ocean acidification. “The results also confirm that ocean acidification could have repercussions on the competition between species which could in turn affect the ecological function of reefs,” Dr Comeau said.

The full study, published in Nature Climate Change, can be found here