David Attenborough covers reef threat

September 6, 2010 by Ocean Ark Alliance

Categorised in Media, News, Science

“The ocean is … a chemical reactor. CO2 goes into the ocean.  It is fixed by plants or deposited as calcium carbonate, and through the very large scale circulations of water around the planet it is essentially processing the atmosphere and keeping the planet habitable.” Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Global Change Institute Director, University of Queensland, from the David Attenborough documentary “Death of the Oceans”.

A world-leading experiment on Heron Island, done in collaboration between labs at UQ, Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, will chemically alter the carbon dioxide absorbed in the ocean water directly on a living intact coral reef. This experiment aims to simulate insitu reactions to the amounts of CO2 likely to be present over the next few decades. So ground breaking is this current research that it caught the eye of Sir David Attenborough when producing his latest documentary, Death of the Oceans.

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Ocean acidification is widely recognised as a potential threat to Australia’s natural ecosystems, yet we are seemingly reluctant to respond due to poor understanding of the facts, and an insatiable appetite for infallible predictions. This is exactly why Prof. Hoegh-Guldberg, a respected contributor to OceanAcidification.net, has set up his unique experiment – to provide an insight to how projected Carbon Dioxide levels will affect the living reef.

“A decade or so ago, we thought that mass bleaching was the most serious threat to coral reefs. How wrong we were. It is clear now that there is a much more serious crisis on the horizon — that of ocean acidification. This will not only affect coral reefs (although reefs will be hit particularly hard), but will impact all marine ecosystems. The potential consequences of ocean acidification are nothing less than catastrophic, “ Dr J. E. N. Veron, former Chief Scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the man responsible for the discovery of 20%  of known coral species, states in a Guardian article.

All organisms that produce calcium carbonate skeletons or shells, including crabs, corals and some algae, depend on processes largely controlled by the prevailing water chemistry. As alkalinity decreases with the absorption of CO2 production of calcium carbonate becomes increasingly difficult. The potential consequences of ocean acidification are nothing less than catastrophic.

In his latest documentary Sir David Attenborough highlights the findings of some of the most ambitious scientific studies of our time, all with a common theme; to discover what is happening to our oceans and the remarkable biodiversity they contain.

You can see the segment featuring Dr Hoegh-Guldberg’s team on YouTube – click here.

There is an article from Global Change Institute regarding their project at http://www.gci.uq.edu.au/index.html?page=139700.

You can also read the Guardian article here.

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Ocean Acidification - The other CO2 Challenge