Emissions of carbon dioxide are making seawater so acidic that reefs including the Great Barrier Reef off Australia could begin to break up within a few decades, research by the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University in California suggests.
Oceanographers Long Cao and Ken Caldeira looked at how carbon dioxide dissolves in the sea as human emissions increase. About a third of carbon pollution is soaked up in this way, where it reacts with seawater to form carbonic acid. Experts say human activity over the last two centuries has produced enough acid to lower the average pH of global ocean surface waters by about 0.1 units.
Such acidification spells problems for coral reefs, which rely on calcium minerals called aragonite to build and maintain their exoskeletons.
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