New research is bringing national attention to the world's imperiled coral reefs. Australia's great barrier reef is growing at its slowest rate in 400 years, due most likely to global warming, ocean acidification and other environmental threats.
Ocean scientists from around the world recently agreed to a framework to save the oceans from one of the great sleeper environmental issues of our day: ocean acidification.
Like global warming, ocean acidification is caused primarily by human emissions of carbon dioxide. In the atmosphere, that carbon helps to trap heat near the Earth's surface. In the oceans, it makes the water more acidic.
That increasingly acidic water threatens the viability of plankton, at the base of the food chain, as well as coral, because the acidic conditions prevent the formation of calcium carbonate shells. Some studies suggest many coral reefs will have died due to acidification by the middle or end of this century. Coral reefs are the nurseries of the oceans, producing abundant fish of diverse species making them hot spots for tourism and important areas for the fishing industry. Scientists at the International Coral Reef Symposium last July declared ocean acidification the largest and most significant threat to oceans, a significant statement, considering the vast body of evidence that overfishing and other forms of pollution are taking a massive toll on ocean life.
The scientists, convened by The Nature Conservancy in August, have agreed to the "Honolulu Declaration on Ocean Acidification and Reef Management." Here are some of its key elements:
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