Coral is Doomed? And Fish With It?

It seems somewhat strange that an effect this basic would only suddenly be noticed. There's no doubt the coral around here is dying, but that's thought to be caused by pollution, boats, and divers. This sounds altogether more serious:

Acid seas 'will kill off coral within 70 years': Coral reefs could be dead within two generations and cod replaced by jellyfish because of the acidification of the sea, scientists said yesterday.

The potentially disastrous problem, discovered only recently, is being caused by the build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Carol Turley, the head of science at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, told a conference in Exeter that the acidity of the sea was rising through chemical processes that turned carbon dioxide into carbonic acid.

She said: “It is happening now; nobody is saying it is not happening. It is O-level chemistry but no one noticed until 15 months ago. This is a rapid change that the world – and the organisms in the sea – have not seen for hundreds of thousands of years, if not millions. …

Ms Turley said that cod and other fish ate plankton and shellfish that relied for their growth on calcium carbonate. If fish were not there, the sea would fill up with organisms such as jellyfish, which could eat other kinds of plankton.

“In cartoon form, you could say that people should be prepared to change their tastes from cod and chips to jellyfish and chips,” she said. “The whole composition of life in the oceans will have changed.”

Add in the already severe issue of the exhaustion of fish stocks from overfishing and profligate use of drift nets and I wonder if ocean collapse won't be the major environmental crisis of the mid-21st century.

I don't think I will like jellyfish sandwiches.

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One Response to Coral is Doomed? And Fish With It?

  1. DrLaniac says:

    Youch! I like jellyfish quite well, thank you, but that’s friggin’ scary. A change that big would have huge consequences for the rest of the biosphere, not just the oceans. Our breathable atmosphere, after all, is the result of a billion or so years of anaerobic organisms releasing oxygen. What happens when the ecosystem in the oceans is dramatically altered?

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