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Increasing carbon dioxide threatens coral reefs

Researchers at Columbia University’s Biosphere 2 Centre have determined that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere may cause more harm to marine coral reef communities than previous research had indicated. Dr Christopher Langdon of Columbia’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory and his research team believe that coral growth could be reduced by as much as 40% from pre-industrial levels over the next 65 years.

The team found no evidence that reef organisms are able to acclimate after prolonged exposure to the reduced carbonate levels. ‘This is the first real evidence that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have a negative impact on a major Earth ecosystem.’

The ocean ecosystem at Columbia’s Biosphere 2 laboratory, Arizona, has a 700,000-gallon aquarium of artificial seawater with its community of coral reef life mimics essential aspects of real world coral reef ecosystems. The ability to control precisely the chemical environment and accurately measure changes in the system offers a unique opportunity to conduct research of this kind.

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