Until recently, models analyzing the effects of global warming on coral bleaching have been strictly based upon thermal stress projections, but a new study highlights the added impact of ocean acidification, yielding startling results.
Through experimental research, Dr. Ken Anthony led a team of scientists who found that the productivity and calcification rates of corals and important coral reef builders, crustose coralline algae, significantly decline under higher temperatures coupled with increased CO2 and high light exposure, suggesting that high CO2 levels may exacerbate coral bleaching events in warmer waters.
The results project worse conditions than those of previous scientific bleaching experiments, in which only rising sea surface temperature was accounted for and consequently may have greatly underestimated the total effects of climate change on coral reefs. The scientists involved in the study advise “[t]hese results highlight the urgency of reducing CO2 emissions globally. Without political will and commitment to abatement, entire reef systems such as the Great Barrier Reef will be severely threatened in coming decades.”
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