Carbon leaks shows what coral reef would be like in future

June 1st, 2011 - 4:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 1 (IANS) Natural carbon dioxide seeps have given scientists rare insights into what tropical coral reefs could look like if human-induced CO2 concentrations continue to rise unabated.At present rates of increase, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels of about 750 parts per million or more by 2100.

About a third of this extra CO2 absorbed by the world’s oceans would trigger their increased acidification which impacts coral reef ecosystems, the prestigious scientific journal, Nature Climate Change, reports.

Australian Institute of Medical Science (AIMS) scientist Katharina Fabricius has led two research expeditions, with members from six countries, to study three natural CO2 seeps in Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea.

This unique location is the only presently known cool, CO2 seep site in tropical waters containing coral reef ecosystems, according to an AIMS statement.

The study has given scientists unprecedented insights into what coral reefs would look like if greenhouse emissions and resulting ocean acidification continues to increase at present rates.

“In the past, we have relied on short-term laboratory experiments to tell us what happens to marine organisms exposed to ocean acidification,” Fabricius said. “Those experiments indicated deleterious effects on the performance of many species.”

While lab experiments are important, Fabricius said the natural CO2 seeps in Milne Bay provided a more complete picture about the ecological consequences for coral reef communities when exposed to higher levels of CO2 for many decades.

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