Loss of Reefs Traced Back to Carbon Dioxide Levels

By Julia Newman ’19

South Carysfort medium 1980

The Carysfort Reef in the Florida Keys has shown a dramatic decrease in reef life.

As the growth of limestone in coral reefs slows, their ecosystems are drastically reduced in terms of size and diversity. This is a natural cycle that occurs in autumn and winter each year due to the decrease in water temperature and light during those months; the corals that represent much of these reefs are usually able to produce enough limestone to make up for this phenomena, but in recent years, there has not been enough coral to counteract it. Despite efforts to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, an overwhelming percentage still exists and is constantly absorbed by Earth’s oceans. This leads to a process called ocean acidification, during which both corals and limestone are degraded and cause a dangerous imbalance in the cycle of limestone growth. Without the limestone base of the ecosystem, the corals, fish, and other marine life have no habitat, proving that the impact of increased carbon dioxide levels goes far deeper than the ozone layer.

 

References:

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Ocean acidification may be impacting coral reefs in the Florida Keys. Science Daily (2016).

 

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