Ocean Acidification And Coral Reefs: The Problem And Solution

The Significance

Corals are colorful, small, marine creature that lives in warmer portions of the Pacific and Indian oceans with a hard skeleton which made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) or limestone.

Coral reefs create underwater habitats that are essential for many species of marine organisms. Certain species of fish spend their life among the corals, using them as a refuge from predators.

More than 500 million people around the world rely on coral reefs for food, work (tourism & fisheries) or coastal defense. Therefore, the annual global value of coral reeds is estimated as £6 trillion. In terms of coastal defense, the ridges in coral reefs act as barriers that reduce wave energy by up to 97% and provide vital protection for tsunamis, habitats and shelter for many marine organisms.

The Problem

The culprit for coral reef being destroyed is - Climate Change, due to the warmer ocean temperature. Since the Industrial Revolution began, humans have increased atmospheric CO2 concentration by more than a third. The other minor reasons are normally by illegal fishing techniques, pollution, careless tourism, other natural phenomena such as earthquakes and hurricanes.

The dissolved carbon dioxide have a negative proportional relationship with pH of ocean. With the increase of dissolves carbon dioxide in ocean, the pH decrease, which symbolize that more coral reefs will been destroyed with the increase of time.

With the acidification of the ocean, the acid in the ocean will decompose the calcium carbonate, therefore, a small amount of calcium carbonate will enter the shell of an organism such as cockroaches, scallops or corals. It can even enter the bones where corals form coral reefs. As a result, their casings are thinned, thus some smaller casings will provide less protection for the animals and could also accelerate erosion of coral reefs. The lack of habitat and protection will expose them to greater threats from their surroundings. Some studies have shown a 52-73% decline in larval settlement on reefs that are experiencing lower pH levels.

Skeletal construction in marine life is particularly sensitive to acidity. We know that ocean absorbs CO2 from buring fossil fuels, then CO2 dissolved to form carbonic acid (HCO3), and release of hydrogen ions(H+) which compete with shells for carving. H+ combines with carbonate ions (CO3) to form bicarbonate (HCO3).

With the increase of hydrogen ion, marine calcifiers require more time and energy to rebuild their shells. Formation of HCO3 remove CO3, therefore, they are less available for calcifiers such as corals, which means the skeleton of coral reef will be corroded and dead/decline.

The Solutions

We already lost 25% to 50% of the world's living coral reefs in the past 30 years. Even the UN has made plans and contributions to reverse this trend.

When scientists looking for the solution for ocean acidification have found that stimulating the growth of algae in the ocean may be an effective way to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (ocean).

Oceanographer John Martin first reported in 1988 that iron deficiency restricted the growth of phytoplankton in the subarctic Pacific. He later suggested that a large amount of iron dust in the dry continental region may lead to an increase in past marine productivity, thus leading to the carbon dioxide reduction in atmospheric during the glacial climate.

Eight years ago, the Ocean Fertilization Experiment (EIFEX) analysis conducted in the Southern Ocean showed that to encourage the growth of algae to absorb carbon and then deposited in the deep sea with the death of algae. Therefore, pumping the iron powder into the sea will pull at least 13,000 carbon atoms out of the atmosphere by encouraging the growth of algae, and eventually capture the carbon through photosynthesis.

The temperature of the oceans and the general deterioration of coral reef ecosystems are the result of large carbon emissions from excessive burning of fossil fuel. Owing to the society needs fossil fuel everywhere, especially on the transport, therefore, it is necessary to create energy-saving cars. For instance, the Buckypaper car is environmental friendly, which contains buckypaper fuel cell that saves energy.

The disadvantage is that this plan takes long time, manpower and resources (money) to achieve. As we all know the growth of coral reefs take a very long time, therefore, this problem won’t be resolved in the short term, thus people might lose confidence in this plan and quit it. However, this plan does have a really positive long-term effect if we can adhere to it.

The advantage is that this program is the most direct and effective. This plan can solve the problem from the root, meanwhile to reducing carbon emissions also helps solve the greenhouse effect and other environmental issues.

Works Cited

  1. “Log In.” Britannica School, school.eb.co.uk/levels/intermediate/article/coral/273806.
  2. Bauer, and Adriana. “Importance of Coral Reefs - Biodiscovery and the Great Barrier Reef - Queensland Museum.” Importance of Coral Reefs - Biodiscovery and the Great Barrier Reef - Queensland Museum, www.qm.qld.gov.au/microsites/biodiscovery/05human-impact/importance-of-coral-reefs.html.
  3. “Why Are Coral Reefs Important?” Natural History Museum, www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/quick-questions/why-are-coral-reefs-important.html.
  4. “Climate Change Causes: A Blanket around the Earth.” NASA, NASA, 23 Apr. 2019, climate.nasa.gov/causes/.
  5. “Climate Interpreter.” The Effects of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs | Climate Interpreter, climateinterpreter.org/content/effects-ocean-acidification-coral-reefs.
  6. Ocean Carbon Chemistry.” Reef Resilience, reefresilience.org/coral-reefs/stressors/ocean-acidification/ocean-carbon-chemistry/.
  7. “Losing Our Coral Reefs.” State of the Planet, 18 June 2018, blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2011/06/13/losing-our-coral-reefs/.
  8. “Coral Reefs Could Be Gone in 30 Years.” National Geographic, National Geographic Society, 23 June 2017, news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/06/coral-reef-bleaching-global-warming-unesco-sites/.
  9. “Protect Our Coral Reefs from Ocean Acidification.” Blue Ocean Network, 14 June 2017, blueocean.net/protect-our-coral-reefs-from-ocean-acidification/.
  10. wikiHow. “How to Protect Coral Reefs.” WikiHow, WikiHow, 5 Apr. 2019, www.wikihow.com/Protect-Coral-Reefs.
  11. Waller, Rhian. “Iron Fertilization: Savior to Climate Change or Ocean Dumping?” National Geographic Society Newsroom, 14 Dec. 2017, blog.nationalgeographic.org/2012/10/18/iron-fertilization-savior-to-climate-change-or-ocean-dumping/.
09 March 2021
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