Scientists are predicting the disintegration of tropical coral reefs by the end of this century as rising acidity in the World’s oceans threatens to mortally unbalance marine ecosystems. “Coral reefs start to disintegrate when the acidity of the oceans rises beyond a certain threshold, and this point is likely to be reached before 2100, said Jacob Silverman of the Carnegie Institution of Science in Washington. Carbon dioxide in the air dissolves in the sea to form carbonic acid, which interferes with the ability of coral organisms to make their calcium carbonate shells which form coral reefs, Dr Silversman said. But once the shells stop forming, the reef quickly crumbles. A mathematical model was used to study how 9,000 coral reefs from around the world would respond to rising levels of carbon dioxide and increasing ocean acidity, Dr Silverman told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego. ‘A global map produced on the basis of these calculations shows that all coral reefs are expected to stop their growth and start to disintegrate when atmosphere CO2 reaches 560 parts per million – double its pre-industrial level – which is expected by the end of the 21st-century,’ he told the meeting. ‘Thus these ecosystems, which harbour the highest diversity of marine life in the oceans, may be severely reduced within less than 100 years.’”
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