Ocean acidification, or the lowered pH level and argonite saturation that accompanies increased absorption of carbon dioxide in seawater, has been linked to declining coral growth. Studies of the process have produced conflicting conclusions, however.
Calcification of coral skeletons requires transfer of hydrogen ions from the water column into the coral tissue, he explains. Ocean acidification disrupts the transfer, impairing corals’ ability to create their argonite skeleton. Coral reefs suffer because the weakened coral skeletons are susceptible to breakage.
“The model is a radical departure from previous thought, but is consistent with existing observations and warrants testing in future studies,” Jokiel writes in the July 2011 issue of Bulletin of Marine Science.