Recent studies have found that the world’s coral are in considerable danger of disappearing due to a number of environmental pressures. These pressures include fishing, pollution, disease and ocean acidification. Overall, an estimated seventy-five percent of the world’s coral reefs are at risk. Ocean acidification is a growing problem, a problem which is only expected to be heightened as the century progresses.
The natural pH of seawater is 8.2. Since the industrial age, the pH of the world’s oceans has decreased by 0.1 down to 8.1. The world’s oceans have absorbed approximately half of all carbon dioxide emissions which have been emitted across the globe. Some studies have found that the world’s oceans are upwards of twenty-five percent more acidic today than it was prior to the Industrial Revolution. As carbon dioxide emissions are continuing to increase, the problem is only expected to worsen for the world’s oceans and coral reefs.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that the ocean pH globally will be 7.8 by the end of the century. Studies using naturally acidic environments, such as those surrounding oceanic volcanic vents, found little to no coral surviving at such levels.
Now a recent study has found that previous natural climate cycles similar to global warming caused coral reefs to collapse for thousands of years. The study published in the journal Science studied coral reefs near Panama’s Pacific coastline. By taking core samples from the reefs in the region the researchers were able to determine how the last 6,000 years have been for Panama reefs.
The team determined that for 2,500 years the coral reefs appear to have collapsed and exhibited no growth. This finding correlates to previous studies which also indicated approximately a 2,500 year gap of growth for the coral reefs. The cause of the collapse has been determined to be a natural but extreme climate cycle during that time period.
The team also determined that as the climate cycle weaned and reduced the coral reefs were able to rebound and recover. The team subsequently pointed to this as proving that coral reefs are in fact able to recover from climate change, but only if reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are made similar to the Earth’s reduction of the extreme climate cycle during the collapse period for the coral.