The acidification of our world's oceans has become an increasingly dangerous situation as it threatens the lives of our coral reefs. Although they may seem like rocks, coral is actually a living organism that is the basis of the many marine ecosystems. We humans have been producing excess amounts of carbon dioxide over the past 100 years. With that, the ocean absorbs about 30% of the carbon dioxide emitted, causing the pH of the ocean to decrease (become more acidic).
When the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide a series of chemical reactions occur causing an increase in hydrogen ions. The seawater becomes more acidic because there are relatively fewer carbonate ions. This is a problem because carbonate ions are essential in building shells and coral skeletons. Therefore the acidification of our ocean is causing more and more coral reefs to die off. It is even predicted that 90% of coral reefs could die off in the next century. Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, so the destruction of them can have a huge impact.
Ocean acidification is not the only way the coral reefs are being killed. Our carbon dioxide emissions have had a huge impact on the rise in temperature globally. The rise in air temperature causes a rise in water temperature. Coral reefs cannot adapt quick enough to this change in temperature, so a phenomenon called coral bleaching occurs. Coral bleaching is when corals expel their symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) making them turn completely white. Coral bleaching is bad because it leaves the coral more susceptible to disease, creating an increase in deaths. However, corals can recover from these bleaching events, but since global water temperatures are still on the rise, it becomes very difficult. Coral bleaching can happen very fast, for example, the Caribbean lost 50% of their reefs to just one bleaching event as warmer water spread further south in 2005.
Coral reefs play an essential role in the ecosystem as well as our human lives. They provide food for many coastal communities as well as an immense amount of protection to those same coasts. Without reefs, millions of lives will be in danger and many species of marine life will be lost because us human are afraid of saving the world.
Without a change in our habits as a world we are predicted to lose almost all of our coral reefs. Simple steps can be taken in order to save our reefs. We must switch to a more eco-friendly lifestyle by recycling, reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, and switch to renewable resources. Many people are afraid of the economic impact this may have, yet they do not understand that a larger focus on renewable resources can offer up to 500,000 new green-energy jobs and provide the economy with billions of dollars in stimulation.
Please think the next time you need to get somewhere. Maybe bike or walk if you can. Please think the next time you run your hot shower for 30 minutes before actually getting in. Maybe be efficient if you can.