Slowdown of coral growth extremely worrying, say scientists

Thursday, January 1, 2009 - 14:07 in Earth & Climate

Coral growth across the Great Barrier Reef has suffered a "severe and sudden" slowdown since 1990 that is unprecedented in the last four centuries, according to scientists.The researchers analysed the growth rates of 328 coral colonies on 69 individual reefs that make up the 2,000km-long Great Barrier Reef, off the northeast coast of Australia. They found that the rate at which the corals were laying down calcium in their skeletons dropped by 14.2% between 1990 and 2005.Corals around the world are severely threatened by coastal pollution, warming seas and over-exploitation, but the most probable explanation for the drop in the growth rate of the corals' calcium carbonate skeletons is acidification of the water due to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. More acid water makes it more difficult for the coral polyps to grab the minerals they need to build their skeletons from the sea water."Our data shows that...

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