CO2 emissions are killing coral reefs, kelp forests

A new study published in Scientific Reports says carbon dioxide emissions are killing of coral reefs and kelp forests, and that if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise the potential impact could be catastrophic.

The predictions from researchers from the United Kingdom, Japan and Italy, released through the University of Plymouth, in Plymouth, England, came in the wake of a comprehensive study of effects of recently discovered volcanic carbon dioxide seeps off Shikine Island, Japan, on the border of temperate and tropical climates.

The research was led by scientists from the University of Tsukuba in Japan, the University of Plymouth in the UK and the University of Palermo in Italy.

Their study explains that ocean currents in the area mean there are naturally low levels of surface water carbon dioxide similar to those that would have been present before the global industrial revolution. The volcanic seeps, however, indicate how rising carbon dioxide levels will affect future ecology both in the Northwest Pacific Ocean and throughout the world.

“These CO2 seeps provide a vital window into the future,” said lead author Sylvain Agostini, an associate professor at the University of Tsukuba Shimoda Marine Research Centre.

“There was mass mortality or corals in the south of Japan last year, but many people cling to the hope that corals will be able to spread north. Therefore, it is extremely worrying to find that tropical corals are so vulnerable to ocean acidification as this will stop them from being able to spread further north and escape the damage caused by water that is too hot for them,” Agostini said.

Local fishermen are keen to know how ocean acidification will affect their livelihoods,” said Professor Kazuo Inaba, former director of the Shimoda Marine Research Center. “Currents flowing past Japan bring waters that have naturally low levels of CO2 and fish benefit from the array of calcified habitats around our islands.

“If we are able to meet the Paris Agreement target to limit emissions we should be able to limit further damage to kelp forests, coral reefs and all marine ecosystems,” Inaba said.