Rising carbon emissions could kill off vital corals by 2100 - 3rd February
The destruction of coral reefs worldwide could accelerate as rising carbon emissions help coral-killing seaweeds grow more poisonous and take over, according to researchers.
A study by Griffith University on the Great Barrier Reef has shown how rising CO2 emissions trigger more potency in chemicals from common “weed-like” algae that poison corals as they compete for space.
The study, conducted on Heron Island with reef and chemical ecology experts from the University of Queensland and the US, predicts that “business as usual” emissions would significantly harm vital corals by 2050 and kill them off by 2100.
The researchers said their findings, which shed new light on the competitive advantage seaweeds enjoyed over corals in seawater with rising carbon concentrations, had global implications as one of the most damaging seaweeds was found in reefs worldwide.
Guillermo Diaz-Pulido, a Griffith University associate professor, said the research was “a major step forward in understanding how seaweeds can harm corals and has important implications for comprehending the consequences of increased carbon dioxide emissions on the health of the Great Barrier Reef”.
Scientists previously knew that increased carbon in the atmosphere – which is absorbed by oceans, making them more acidic – affected the behaviour of seaweed.
The study’s co-author Mark Hay, a professor from the Georgia Institute of Technology, said the discovery here was that greater carbon concentrations led to “some algae producing more potent chemicals that suppress or kill corals more rapidly”, in some cases in just weeks.
“If the algae overtake the coral, we have a problem which contributes to reef degradation, on top of what we already know with coral bleaching, crown of thorn starfish outbreaks, cyclones or any other disturbance,”
Read more here.
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