Astonishing finding: coral reef thriving amid ‘ocean acidification’

Diverse coral communities persist, but bioerosion escalates in Palau’s low-pH waters

image

Coral reef near Palau

From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute :

As the ocean absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) released by the burning of fossil fuels, its chemistry is changing. The CO2 reacts with water molecules, lowering the ocean’s pH in a process known as ocean acidification. This process also removes carbonate ions, an essential ingredient needed by corals and other organisms to build their skeletons and shells.

Will some corals be able to adapt to these rapidly changing conditions? If so, what will these coral reefs look like as the oceans become more acidic?

In addition to laboratory experiments that simulate future ocean conditions, scientists are studying coral reefs in areas of the ocean where low pH is naturally occurring to try and answer important questions about ocean acidification, which threatens coral reef ecosystems worldwide.

One such place is Palau, an archipelago in the far western Pacific Ocean. The tropical, turquoise waters of the Palau Rock Islands are naturally more acidic due to a combination of biological activity and the long residence time of seawater within its maze of lagoons and inlets. Seawater pH within the Rock Island lagoons is as low now as the open ocean is projected to be as a result of ocean acidification near the end of this century.

A new study led by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found that the coral reefs there seem to be defying the odds, showing none of the predicted responses to low pH except for an increase in bioerosion — the physical breakdown of coral skeletons by boring organisms such as mollusks and worms. The paper is to be published June 5 in the journal Science Advances.

‘Based on lab experiments and studies of other naturally low pH reef systems, this is the opposite of what we expected,’ says lead author Hannah Barkley, a graduate student in the WHOI-MIT joint program in oceanography.

Experiments measuring corals’ responses to a variety of low pH conditions have shown a range of negative impacts, such as fewer varieties of corals, more algae growth, lower rates of calcium carbonate production (growth), and juvenile corals that have difficulty constructing skeletons.

‘Surprisingly, in Palau where the pH is lowest, we see a coral community that hosts more species, and has greater coral cover than in the sites where pH is normal,’ says Anne Cohen, a co-author on the study and Barkley’s advisor at WHOI. ‘That’s not to say the coral community is thriving because of it, rather it is thriving despite the low pH, and we need to understand how.’

When the research team compared the communities found on Palau’s reefs with those in other reefs where pH is naturally low, they found increased bioerosion was the only shared common feature.

‘Our study revealed increased bioerosion to be the only consistent community response, as other signs of ecosystem health varied at different locations,’ Barkley says.

‘This is important because on coral reefs, the balance between calcium carbonate production and removal by bioerosion and dissolution is very tight,’ adds Cohen. ‘So even if rates of production are not affected by ocean acidification — as we see on Palau — an increase in bioerosion can shift reefs to a state of net calcium carbonate removal, threatening their survival.’

Rapidly changing chemistry

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, ocean pH has fallen by 0.1 pH units, which represents an increase in acidity of approximately 30 percent. For marine life that has evolved over millions of years in relatively stable pH conditions, this kind of rapid change doesn’t allow for much time to adapt. By the end of this century, pH levels are projected to be nearly 150 percent more acidic, resulting in a pH that the oceans haven’t experienced for more than 20 million years.

There are several sites around the world where CO2 is released by undersea volcanic activity that vents up from the seafloor through the base of the reefs, creating a much lower pH environment than is currently found in the open ocean. These ‘natural’ laboratories are giving scientists a rare opportunity to examine what is already happening to corals dealing with lower pH levels predicted for the future.

One example is a coral reef system located among the volcanic islands of Papua New Guinea. Here, streams of gas bubbles rise up from the seafloor, lowering the pH of the overlying seawater. Similar low pH conditions are found at vent sites off Japan, freshwater seeps in Mexico, and upwelling areas in regions of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

‘The coral reef system at the Papua New Guinea vent site is an algae-dominated one with few species of corals,’ says Barkley. ‘We see responses much like those shown in many lab experiments at some of the other naturally low pH coral reef sites as well, particularly lower calcium carbonate production. But we don’t see the same responses across all of the sites, especially not at the coral reefs in Palau Rock Islands. The coral communities there are thriving, except for higher rates of bioerosion.’

In collaboration with the Palau International Coral Reef Center, members of Cohen’s lab have been conducting fieldwork there since 2011. The research team collected water and coral skeletal core samples from eight sites across the Palau reef system, and deployed pH, light, salinity and flow sensors to characterize the seawater environment in which the corals grew. The research team also collected and analyzed data on the community composition as well.

The skeletal cores were scanned at the Computerized Scanning and Imaging Facility at WHOI. The Computerized Axial Tomography technology generates a 3-D image of the cores, revealing detailed information not visible to the naked eye, including coral growth rates, skeletal densities and the extent of bioerosion.

Using an automated program written in Matlab, the team used the 3-D images to quantify the proportion of the coral skeletons that had been eroded by organisms, and the severity of bioerosion of each coral. As the pH of the reef seawater drops, more frequent and severe bioerosion scars were revealed in the coral scans.

‘We see coral skeletons that are eaten up and have holes on the top and sides. The coral almost looks like Swiss cheese because of the volume that’s been removed,’ says Barkley.

Barkley and her colleagues found bioerosion rates in Palau corals increased eleven-fold as pH decreased from the barrier reefs to the Rock Island bays. When comparing those results to other low pH reef sites, a definite pattern emerged.

‘All of these naturally low pH sites that Hannah compared are different from one another in terms of physical setting, ecological connectivity, frequencies of variability and so on. What she discovered is that the only common and consistent response to -across all these sites is significantly increased bioerosion,’ says Cohen.

‘This paper illustrates the value of comprehensive field studies,’ adds David Garrison, program director in the National Science Foundation’s Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research. ‘Contrary to laboratory findings, it appears that the major effect of ocean acidification on Palau Rock Island corals is increased bioerosion rather than direct effects on coral species.’

The riddle of resilience

So how do Palau’s low pH reefs thrive despite significantly elevated levels of bioerosion? The researchers aren’t certain yet, but hope to be able to answer that question in future studies. They also don’t completely understand why conditions created by ocean acidification seem to favor bioeroding organisms. One theory is that skeletons grown under more acidic conditions are less dense making them easier for bioeroding organisms to penetrate coral skeletons. But that is not the case on Palau, Barkley says, ‘Because we don’t see a correlation between skeletal density and pH on Palau.’

A previous study published January 2015 in the journal Geology by Thomas DeCarlo, a member of Cohen’s lab and a co-author on this paper, showed that the influence of pH on bioerosion is exacerbated by high levels of nutrients. That finding implies that local management strategies, such as controlling runoff from land, can help to slow the impact of ocean acidification on coral reef decline. Increased runoff from areas of intense agriculture and coastal development often carries high levels of nutrients that will interact with decreasing pH to accelerate coral reef decline.

Though coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean, these diverse ecosystems are home to at least a quarter of all marine life. In addition to sustaining fisheries that feed hundreds of millions of people around the world, coral reefs protect thousands of acres of coastline from waves, storms, and tsunamis.

‘On the one hand, the results of this study are optimistic,’ Cohen says. ‘Even though many experiments and other studies of naturally low pH reefs show that ocean acidification negatively impacts calcium carbonate production, as well as coral diversity and cover, we are not seeing that on Palau. And that gives us hope that some coral reefs — even if it is a very small percentage — might be able to withstand future levels of ocean acidification. But there’s also a cautionary side, even for those coral communities able to maintain their diversity and growth as the oceans become more acidic, increased rates of bioerosion and dissolution seem inescapable.’

###

Along with Barkley, Cohen, and DeCarlo, the team included Yimnang Golbuu of the Palau International Coral Reef Center, Victoria Starczak of WHOI, and Kathryn Shamberger of Texas A&M University.

Additional funding for this work was provided by The Dalio Foundation, Inc., The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and the WHOI Access to the Sea Fund.

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194 thoughts on “Astonishing finding: coral reef thriving amid ‘ocean acidification’

  1. …What she discovered is that the only common and consistent response to -across all these sites is significantly increased bioerosion,’ says Cohen….

    Bioerosion? That means that the flora on the reef are in really good health and are flourishing – digging holes in the reef and so forth?

    Hey – that’s BAAAD…

    • Yup. Mollusks. Things with carbonate shells…
      https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/clams-do-fine-in-acid-water/

      They know the truth and hint at it. “More nutrients”. Nothing to do with a less alkaline environment. Look around black smokers. Lots of shell formers in hot acid vents.

      And that bit about fragile and stress… life evolved in an acidic CO2 rich environment with loads of sulphates and volcanism. There have been severe hypoxic events. Never has life faced a stable environment. BTW, the present regime will end some day too, and we can do nothing to stop it. But life changes and persists. So we have clams in hot ocean vents, arctic cold, and pH 4 fresh water. Life is not fragile.

  2. this is the opposite of what we expected

    Funny… it is what skeptics have been saying for years. Unexpected by AGW faithful perhaps. GK

    • I have really difficulties to understand why they didn’t expect this. Must have something to do with obsessive-compulsive disorders thanks to an overdose of anti-CO2 ideology…

      It’s perfectly obvious for every scientific educated person that corals (likely not every single species, but as a general class of species) will survive higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations easily. Why? Chalk sediment layers from the jurassic and cretaceous periods are stuffed with fossil corals despite the fact that there was 4 – 5 times as much CO2 in the atmosphere than today…

      • If the the Oceans were really warming wouldn’t they be out gassing CO2. (Henry s Law). Why do people with aquariums pump CO2 into them to help plants?

      • Philipoftaos: “If the the Oceans were really warming wouldn’t they be out gassing CO2. (Henry s Law).”

        Excuse me Philipoftaos, but who gave you permission to introduce a scientific fact into an alarmist paranoid fantasy?

        That’s taking unfair advantage!

    • I think someone is contacting them right now and asking to use this example for a dictionary definition of “confirmation bias”.

    • G Karst

      “‘Based on lab experiments and studies of other naturally low pH reef systems, this is the opposite of what we expected,’ says lead author Hannah Barkley, a graduate student in the WHOI-MIT joint program in oceanography.”

      I am supporting your point in a different manner: what Hannah is really saying is “This is the opposite of what we have been instructed to expect.”

      The unscientific aspect is that so many people felt confident to make calamitous predictions without first checking the available evidence. Bit of an oversight, neh?

    • Better remodel that data to make it a ‘proper’ finding. It’s the Mannly thing to do after all.

  3. ‘That’s not to say the coral community is thriving because of it, rather it is thriving despite the low pH, and we need to understand how.’

    Translation: Its thriving!

    • Translation:

      Its thriving but why we don’t have a clue. We scratch our heads until they bleed but that does not help at all. We think we know what pH means but just cannot get our head around the implication that the coral community seems to have a more practical working understanding than our science community.

      The science is settled of course but the science communication needs additional adjustments.

      We think that we will have to travel to numerous other coral atolls and reefs, write numerous additional papers and attend a good number of additional conferences, typically in the tropical parts of the planet and this is the nub of the matter, this will require considerable additional funding……..Its for the coral. Think of the coral.

      • What part of “building block” do they fail to understand. Did they ever consider that the PH is low BECAUSE thriving living reef organisms have used much of the CO2? And that they’d like more, please? No, of course not. Got to keep CO2 as pollution….

      • I think you mean pH is high because bio-activity. Low pH will increase bio-activity and bio-activity will keep pH from falling too low.

        They also aren’t considering the bio process in the formation and maintenance of coral structure. The disolved carbonates from dead and sick coral mean more availble for new formation and the maintenance of healthy corals.

      • Yes, they’ll have to find a reef that’s doing badly for non-CO2 related reasons and hang the CO2 flag on it.
        Get it published before Paris and voila!
        Oh, and black-flag these researchers from Woods Hole…

      • Aaron, thanks for the correction. I did indeed reverse the sign. I hate when I make dumb mistakes in front of this crowd.

    • She could have said …

      … thriving because of low pH, or thriving despite of low pH, we don’t really don’t know. But, because we are honest investigators, and are funded by the public, we will continue our research without any biases. This will allow us to work toward increasing our understanding of the Palau area to see if it is typical or atypical. Then it may be possible to roughly extrapolate our research findings to areas that are outside of the Palau area.

      Wouldn’t that have been nice.

    • stever
      [Orwell’s year. Coincidence? DoB? Probably irrelevant, but . . .]
      Your quote is what I was going to highlight:
      . . . we need to understand how.

      What was it that was ‘settled’?

      Auto

    • The standard definition of acidity in the field of regular chemistry is the concentration of protons (H+) in an aqueous solution. Higher concentration of protons equals higher acidity. Even an alkaline solution (>pH 7) has some level of protons in it, and therefore, by the chemistry definition, has some level of acidity. Therefore, increasing the level of protons, even if you don’t bring the pH to below 7, is technically increasing the acidity. As for the the 30% increase, that’s based on sparse measurements, and 30% change in acidity really isn’t very much.

      • pH is defined as minus the log of the hydrogen ion concentration.
        Pure water has a dissociation constant of 10^-14, so in pure distilled water, hydrogen ions (present as hydronium, H3O+), and hydroxyl OH-, are each at a concentration of 10^-7.
        It is really torturing the language to refer to a small change in pH which is above 7 and hence basic, as “acidification.
        Look up that word in any dictionary or chemistry text anywhere in the world, and you will find it refers to ” the process of becoming acidic. Never will you find a standard definition to denote acidification as the process of becoming slightly less basic.
        Anyway, it is an open question if a warming ocean will have more CO2, considering that gasses become less soluble as temp increases, counteracting the effect of higher atmospheric CO2.
        As per usual with the alarmistas, the hysteria they attempt to incite is without any rational or scientific basis. It is mere supposition, which is contradicted by actual observations and by even a passing understanding of Earth history.

      • Hmm, I though I had posted my previous comment as a reply to Coeur de Lion, but it doesn’t appear nested as such. Oh well.
        From menicholas: “It is really torturing the language to refer to a small change in pH which is above 7 and hence basic, as “acidification.”

        It’s not any more a torture of the language than it is to take a leave a bottle of beer on the counter long enough to change in temperature from 32F to 37F and declare it to have “warmed.” The beer has gained heat, therefore it has warmed, despite the fact that if you gave it to someone to drink, they would still (rightly) call it a cold beer.

        However, I hate to see disagreement over wording detract from the real issues, so let’s settle on trying to find the answers to the important questions on the matter, and just avoid the acidification vs dealkalination issue:
        1) Has the level of acid species actually increased by ~30% in the world’s oceans?
        2) If so, should it be expected to further increase? And, if so, by how much?
        3) What effects, if any, should this be expected to have on ocean ecology?

      • Jimmy:
        “It’s not any more a torture of the language than it is to take a leave a bottle of beer on the counter long enough to change in temperature from 32F to 37F and declare it to have “warmed.” The beer has gained heat, therefore it has warmed, despite the fact that if you gave it to someone to drink, they would still (rightly) call it a cold beer.”

        Great analogy! However, it would be rather “sneaky” to influence someone else to not drink your beer, by saying – “Here, have a beer, warmed just for you”. Those trying to inform the general public about such ph level ,would seem less disingenuous with their choice of words by clarifying the term with a disclaimer such as “although of course anything with a ph higher than 7, still not a acid…. but the effect is to make it more acidic.”

        “Acid” is a very scary word to a non-chemist!….

      • The skeletons of stony coral is composed largely of calcium carbonate.
        Want to take a wild guess where the carbon in the carbonate comes from?

      • CO2…and at lower pH..corals do not have to work as hard

        These are not real coral scientists

      • Acidity is really the ability to titrate base. In seawater, the predominant acid is bicarbonate, not hydronium ion. The change of hydronium is close to 30% from 8.2 to 8.1, but the change in bicarbonate is only a few % lower.

      • Mr. Shearer,
        “Acidity is really the ability to titrate base.”

        We can get as technical as we wish, but we do not need to get very technical to dismiss the nonsense from the people in this article.
        I tend to agree with Latitude…these are not people well schooled in marine biology. Or, if they are what passes for such these days, then this is a demonstration of what happens when you lie to students every damn day and fill their heads with propaganda instead of curiosity, and teach them how to be dogmatic instead of scientific.
        And they are sure not chemists.

        But re the above quote, it would be a disservice, IMO, to let this stand as any sort of last word for any here who are not well versed in chemistry.
        There are several ways to define what an acid is.
        Classic Arrhenius definition of an acid as a species that produces hydrogen ions in solution was found to be an incomplete description, and modifications were required.
        Bronsted and Lowry independently gave the description that bears their names, and the Bronsted-Lowry acid-base theory was a step towards more generality.
        But it too was incomplete, but luckily Lewis was right there to offer his competing but really complimentary theory of what constitutes an acid and a base.

        Bronsted-Lowry defined acids and bases in terms of reactions and reaction products: An acid reacts with a base to form it’s own conjugate base, and a base reacts with an acid to form it’s own conjugate base.
        But their definition omitted some important details and reactions.

        Lewis defined an acid as an electron pair acceptor, and a base as an electron pair donor, and is in many ways a more inclusive and general theory. For example, Bronsted-Lowry fails to explain how it is that lthium or magnesium ions act as acids.

        What I think is important to always remember is that the conjugate acid of a strong base is a weak acid, and the conjugate base of a strong acid is a weak base.

        Bicarbonate is a rather usual and in some ways a nearly unique case, in that bicarbonate is both an acid and a base, which is why it is such as excellent buffer.

      • “and a base reacts with an acid to form it’s own conjugate base.”
        Sorry, I have a bad habit of hitting enter without proofreading myself.

        Or course should be: “and a base reacts with an acid to form it’s own conjugate acid”.

  4. There are so many assumptions and unfounded claims in this article that I don’t know where to start. I certainly couldn’t stomach reading to the end of this trash. “Ocean PH has fallen by 0.1” really???? Your measuring systems are that accurate, cover the ocean that well and date back long enough to take this seriously??! Don’t make me laugh! Throw this article in the trash where it belongs!

    • The cited number and the 30% claim are easily debunked. No basis in physical chemistry.
      Hokum, bunkem, made up and fraudulent data, repeated as if it were a fact and referred to without reference.

      • I would really like to see how 0.1 pH units translates to “30%”. Can anyone point to where this is calculated – and on what basis (i.e. is is 30% of the concentration of H ions or something)?

      • Rob:

        The pH of an aqueous solution is defined as the log (base 10) of the inverse of the molar concentration of H+ ions in the solution. (Got that?)

        Neutral water has an H+ concentration of 10^-7, so its pH is log10(10^+7) = 7. (I hope that helps).

        A solution with a pH of 8.2 has an H+ concentration of 10^-8.2 = 6.31 x 10^-9.

        A solution with a pH of 8.1 has an H+ concentration of 10^-8.1 = 7.94 x 10^-9.

        Dividing the first of these concentrations into the second, we get a ratio of 1.26, or a 26% increase in concentration. Rounding up, you could say it is 30%, I guess.

        Of course, this is just math. The idea that we have a consistent record of high-enough precision measurements to know this in the real world, is (IMHO) absurd.

      • If 8.1 is 30% more “acidic than pH 8.2, then we still need to make it 12,500% “more acidic” in order to get to the pH of fresh neutral water!
        The article is intended to deceive, because no one who studies or practices acid-base chemistry would ever talk like this if the purpose was to be clear about what was being said or measured.

        Instead of writing all this down again:

        https://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2015/04/11/plan-b-shoot-themselves-in-the-foot/#comment-514083

      • Thanks for the replies. I figured something like that, but I wasn’t up to the maths.

        I agree this is a particularly mendacious use of a % when the pH units are adequate and it shows that the piece is intended to be alarmist propaganda, even if the results don’t show anything remotely scary. What I didn’t see in the press release (but I am sure is in the paper) is any indication of what the pH actually is in the areas studies. I see later in this comment thread daily variation of 0.2 units and annual variation of 1.4 units in one spot mentioned, thus indicating how trivial a 0.1 unit variation is in biological terms.

      • 0.1 pH unit is unnoticeable.
        Your blood changes pH far more than that if you hold your breathe for a minute.

  5. ‘That’s not to say the coral community is thriving because of it, rather it is thriving despite the low pH, and we need to understand how.’

    It could be thriving because if it.
    If, for example, more habitats were created for fauna like mollusks and worms. That could increase the overall food for the ecosystem.

    …showing none of the predicted responses to low pH except for an increase in bioerosion — the physical breakdown of coral skeletons by boring organisms such as mollusks and worms.

    There you go.

    • You don’t understand. When field data contradicts the models and hypothesis, we must ask, “What’s wrong with the field data?” /sarc

      • As the saying goes: warmists see something work in practice, and want to debate why it doesn’t work in theory.

      • CaligulaJones: But then they want to change reality to meet their theories rather than change the theory to meet the data then make some predictions and go measure them in the real world.

        I guess I will never understand climate science…

    • I just saw this thing on the BBC about shallow oceans. Full of corals. They went into some detail about corals loving them some CO2, because they’re basically a colony of plants. They’re doing the photosynthesis using UV light. Wrap your head around that one.

      All of the liberals imaginary boogie men from the ozone hole to the misnamed ocean acidification team up to help coral reefs thrive.

      • Coral is rather analogous to a lichen: The coral polyps that secrete the calcium carbonate skeleton that forms the structure that most people think of as coral, exist in a thin skin layer, built up upon the previous skeletons which have been excreted.
        The polyps, in turn, obtain their nutrients from symbiotic algae that reside within the polyp, as do very many marine organisms.
        Sponges, flatworms, mollusks, and even jellyfish…many have symbionts residing within them, mostly a variety of dinoflagellates, the most common genus of which are called, appropriately enough, symbiodinium.
        The coral itself is composed of a gazillion little animals, of the phylum cnidaria.

  6. To paraphrase ” We are puzzled by this positive observation and will think up some explanation to spin this into a negative gloom and doom result”

  7. http://www.pnas.org/content/105/48/18848.full.pdf+html

    Dynamic patterns and ecological impacts of declining
    ocean pH in a high-resolution multi-year dataset

    J. Timothy Wootton1, Catherine A. Pfister, and James D. Forester2

    Results
    Examination of 24,519 measurements of coastal ocean pH
    spanning 8 years (Fig. 1) revealed several patterns. First, in
    contrast to the historical perspective that the ocean is well
    buffered, pH exhibited a pronounced 24-hour cycle, spanning
    0.24 units during a typical day (Fig. 1A). This diurnal oscillation
    is readily explained by daily variation in photosynthesis and
    background respiration: water pH increases as CO2 is taken up,
    via photosynthesis, over the course of the day, and then declines
    as respiration and diffusion from the atmosphere replenish CO2
    overnight (16). Second, pH fluctuated substantially among days
    and years, ranging across a unit or more within any given year
    and 1.5 units over the study period.

    The wide variations in oceanic pH noted by this study suggest that, if oceanic life were as vulnerable to changes in pH as has been posited, the ocean’s of the world would have turned into vast watery deserts long ago.

  8. I was walking along Marbella’s Paseos the other evening. There are very sophisticated sea sensors every few hundred yards that give sea and land temperatures, windspeed and seawater pH. The pH of the North Western Mediterranean was 8.1, which I would not define as acidic. I am not an expert on seawater pH but I would guess with pollution and other human activities (CO2 not included) pH would fall, I would be grateful if someone could correct or affirm.

      • Only to an alarmist. To a normal chemist in everyday language, 8.1 is less basic than 8.2.

      • “More acidic” is used to alarm and imply that the oceans are becoming more caustic when in fact they are becoming “less caustic” which is the term I prefer because it most directly refutes the intentional distortions.

      • Sure, in exactly the same way that applying the brakes on a car is “decelerating.”

      • “less alkaline is probably a more common term”

        Perhaps it depends on where you are from or where one studied.
        Base is a shorter word and easier to say, and seems more inclusive. Lewis and Bronsted-Lowry both described acids and being opposed to bases.
        “Acid-base Chemistry” is a chapter in every first year chemistry text.
        Almost everyone I know uses the word base to refer to the opposite of an acid.
        Caustic and alkaline are of course not unfamiliar, simply less widely used in that particular context.

      • If the idea was to dispel alarm, rather than incite it, the phrase everyone would use would not be “ocean acidification”.
        The oceans are not being transformed into acid.
        The are becoming more neutral, less basic, less alkaline, less caustic.
        Take your pick.

        Webster Dictionary
        1.Acidification(noun)
        the act or process of acidifying, or changing into an acid
        Origin: [Cf. F. acidification.]

        Princeton’s WordNet
        1.acidification(noun)
        the process of becoming acid or being converted into an acid

        Wiktionary
        1.acidification(Noun)
        The act or process of making something sour (acidifying), or changing into an acid.

        Oxford
        Definition of acidify in English:
        verb (acidifies, acidifying, acidified)
        Make or become acid:
        [with object]: ‘pollutants can acidify surface water’
        Derivatives
        acidification – noun

        Cambridge Online
        (Did not contain entry for acidification, but did have the verb form, acidify)
        acidify
        verb [I or T] uk /əˈsɪd.ɪ.faɪ/ specialized us
        to become an acid or to make something become an acid

      • “Less / more “Acidic” instead of “Alkaline”;

        Semantics used by alarmists so shaped as to induce fear and stress over a problem for which only they hold the solution to that increasingly severe and a potentially devastating “man made problem”.

        After all everybody knows battery “acid ” can be quite dangerous and do a lot of damage so “acid” will do some severe damage to the iconic coral reefs as well and we all know and are repeatedly told it is all our fault.

        “Alkalinity”!? What the hell is that and what has it got to do with oceans and coral reefs!?

        [ irony / ]

      • Menicholas, some years back a Biology Dept. Chair. informed me that pH didn’t matter and that rainwater was neutral. Then it was discovered a couple of years later that this same fellow had some questionable academic credentials.

      • the way to counter this stupidity is to point out rainwater is 1000 times more acidic than sea water. If you ever notice the newspapers side step that tidbit with, “rainwater is normally mildly acidic”, always making sure to include mildly.
        If mildly acidic equals as harmless as rain water then what does that make a thousand times less acidic?

  9. ‘Based on lab experiments and studies of other naturally low pH reef systems, this is the opposite of what we expected,’ says lead author Hannah Barkley, a graduate student in the WHOI-MIT joint program in oceanography.

    So, there you have it in one fell swoop, ocean pH varies naturally all over the world!

    If it was in print, perhaps it should be cut into small A5 rectangels, collated, have a small hole punched in the top left corner, threaded with a piece of string, & then hung on a nail in the smallest room in the lab building! Probably all it’s fit for!

  10. Andrew: Neutral pH for chemistry ect is 7, For biology (ie humans and animals) generally 7.4. So Oceans are quite alkaline in fact. The reduction they quote 0.1 pH units is not measurable in the ocean or is meaningless, the pH before measurement could have been 0.1 lower or higher = drivel. I don’t know why WUWT keeps on giving attention to these types of papers. I presume they need stories. LOL

  11. “[…]showing none of the predicted responses to low pH except for an increase in bioerosion[…].”

    I admit I don’t make a point of following the literature on ocean acidification so I may have missed the papers predicting declining pH would increase bioerosion. Serious question: was that predicted?

  12. Kudos to the authors of this study. They seem to have clearly gone in with a particular expectation, as per the conventional wisdom, but they found the opposite. And they report what they found, as scientists should.

    • I’d withhold kudos. Yes, they reported the results, but not without editorializing.
      ‘That’s not to say the coral community is thriving because of it, rather it is thriving despite the low pH…’
      ‘…coral reefs there seem to be defying the odds…’
      ‘…ocean acidification, which threatens coral reef ecosystems worldwide…’

      • I have found useful information in several ‘pro agw’ papers. To be published they must include the party line but the angel is in the details.

    • If they had found OA confirming catastrophe they were expecting, they would have gotten an article in a high impact factor journal.

  13. “Though coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean, these diverse ecosystems are home to at least a quarter of all marine life.”

    That should be evidence enough that coral reefs are not that brittle. Evolution might be blind, but it is not dumb.

    • Not sure what is meant here by “a quarter of all marine life”?
      Is it referring to unique species, as numbers thereof?
      I do not think it can refer to biomass.
      The cold water fisheries are incredibly productive and, while the reefs have a welter of distinct species, they are not generally commercially important fisheries.

      Think Bering Sea, Outer Banks, Humboldt/Peru Current…
      Or the far southern ocean, with it’s staggeringly huge populations of Antarctic krill, one species of which contains a biomass greater than all the people on Earth, some half of which are consumed by aquatic mammals and fish, each and every year (!) and yet bounce right back.

      Mangroves are another biome with a rich diversity and also a large biomass. Mangroves are extremely important as breeding sites for a wide variety of important marine species.
      I think mangroves, like most plants, will do very well in a CO2 enriched world.
      Ditto salt marsh plants and biota.

  14. I suggest a long visit to JFloorAnthoni’s web site. The oceans are very complex both biologically and chemically.

  15. Bio resistance may be the key. I, a retired field biologist, have seen ecosystems thrive in adverse (human interpretation) conditions, ranging from arctic conditions in Siberia, to tropical conditions around the African equator. Nature is solving problems on its own and does not need ill informed human advise.

  16. ” this is the opposite of what we expected,’ says lead author Hannah Barkley”

    That would be because you expected the wrong thing, Hannah. Corals and other carbonate constructing critters are well known to be able to use Carbon from bicarbonate, carbonic acid as well as molecular CO2 which comprises the bulk of Carbon is surface waters. CO2 just loves to swim, and swimming molecular CO2 does not appreciably affect pH. It makes a fine source for carbonate.

    Like any change there will be winners and losers among the critters.

    If you add up the specific individual isotopically differentiated flows in a modern Carbon cycle model it becomes clear that at any given moment there is over 1000 GtC in motion. About 120 GtC flow into and out of the ocean surface every year from the atmosphere. These cannot be considered as offsetting because they are isotopically fractionated very differently.

    Consider what affect you should have expected from 9 human GtC added to this 240 GtC cycle. Consider also that the human contribution is shared, arguably disproportionately, with another 220 GtC cycle between the atmosphere and plants etc. on land.

  17. Being a swimming pool owner, I can speak with authority that all is needed is to add 4 pounds (imperial unit) of soda ash per 10,000 gallons of water – pH back to normal!

  18. The lead in to this article says in part, “The CO2 reacts with water molecules, lowering the ocean’s pH in a process known as ocean acidification. This process also removes carbonate ions, an essential ingredient needed by corals and other organisms to build their skeletons and shells.”

    Adding CO2 to water does not decrease carbonate ions, it increases it. There is competition for this CO2 between corals and some shellfish and green plants (algae and others). The Papua New Guinea experience suggests that sufficiently high concentrations of CO2 and perhaps other factors, algae win. Some useful research might be to find the relationships between all consumers of CO2 in a reef system to, hopefully, determine whether man-released CO2 can possibly have any effect. Perhaps such research has been done.

    Anybody?

    • DHR,

      Adding CO2 to seawater decreases carbonate. CO2 is an acid, carbonate is a base. The main overall reaction that occurs is:
      CO2 + CO3= + H2O -> 2HCO3-

      From what I unserstand, other studies have shown that although lower pH per se is bad for corals, higher CO2 is good. So the net effect of lowering pH by adding CO2 is not obvious, and might well be beneficial.

      Of course man can have an effect. But nature can adapt.

      • Hmm. What I was taught many years ago is:

        “When carbon dioxide dissolves in water it exists in chemical equilibrium producing carbonic acid:[3]

        CO2 + H20 = H2CO3

        i.e., CO2 + H2O is in equilibrium with H2CO3.

        The hydration equilibrium constant at 25 °C is called Kh, which in the case of carbonic acid is [H2CO3]/[CO2] ≈ 1.7×10−3 in pure water[4] and ≈ 1.2×10−3 in seawater.[5] Hence, the majority of the carbon dioxide is not converted into carbonic acid, remaining as CO2 molecules. In the absence of a catalyst, the equilibrium is reached quite slowly.”

        Hence when more CO2 is added to seawater, both the CO3 ion and CO2 molecule concentrations increase.

        This from Wikipedia.

      • Corals at Dobu Reef in Papua New Guinea appear to be doing very well despite being bathed in CO2 bubbles. David Archibald posted an article at WUWT in 2011 that featured a beautiful photo by Bob Halstead of such a reef scene from that location. Would have copied the photo to this reply if I knew how, but it’s still up at the following url.

        https://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/12/28/the-fishes-and-the-coral-live-happily-in-the-co2-bubble-plume/

        After reading the article, you can’t help feeling that the real issue is continued funding rather than any damage to corals or molluscs.

      • DHR,

        What you say would be true if CO2 were the only source of carbonate in seawater. But it is not. By far the main source of carbonate is from dissolved carbonate salts. In that case, the main reaction is the one I gave earlier.

      • Mike if CO2 dissolves in water, the equation is CO2 + H2O -> H2CO3
        ie carbon dioxide plus water gives you carbonic acid
        In solution H2CO3 exists as hydrogen ions (2H+) and carbonate ions (CO3 – – ) that’s CO3 with two negative charges.

        I don’t understand why the paper says that the CO2 results in the loss of carbonate, The only thing I can imagine is that because the sea is naturally alkaline, the we are getting a reaction like
        H2CO3 + Ca(OH)2 -> H2O + CaCO3
        and the CaCO3 is precipitating out.
        But if that was happening, the CO3- – that is precipitating came from the extra CO2 in the first place – ie the ocean is capturing and sinking the CO2 which is just what the warmists should want.

        Maybe what the paper meant to say was that the CO2 is precipitating out Calcium (which is also required for corals to grow)

      • David,

        In considering what happens in a chemical system you have to consider all the equilibria that occur and all the components that make up the system. You can do that either by a complicated calculation or by reasoning through what the main equilibrium is.

        There is a lot of carbonate in seawater; it comes from dissolved minerals, not CO2. Seawater is alkaline because carbonate is a base, it reacts with water to form hydroxide:
        CO3= + H2O -> HCO3- + OH-
        That is the reverse of the second dissociation of carbonic acid. But you have to consider not just the reactions, but the nature of the starting materials.

        If you add CO2 to water, it reduces the amount of OH-. That causes CO3= to decrease, according to the above reaction. But adding CO2 also causes HCO3- to increase, which would increase CO3=. Which one wins?

        There are two ways to answer the question. One is to do a complicated calculation. The other is to ask which of HCO3- and OH- undergoes a larger relative change when CO2 is added. The larger relative change is for the species that has the smaller concentration. That is OH-. So adding CO2 causes carbonate to decrease.

        A different solution, with different concentrations, might give a different result.

      • Since the ocean is pH buffered by CaCO3, adding CO2 actually increases carbonate concentration.
        Ka2 = [H+][CO3–]/[HCO3-]. Since pH is held constant by the ocean buffering system, as HCO3- goes up due to CO2 addition, so does CO3–. Almost all experiments done in the lab do NOT use a buffered system for their studies which is why the almost ALL get the wrong result.

      • Should also note, bubbling CO2 into a water solution containing finely powdered CaCO3, the pH of the solutions remains at pH ~8 until ALL of the CaCO3 is dissolved. The whole time you are bubbling in CO2, the carbonate ion concentration increases. Only after ALL of the CaCO3 is dissolved does the pH drop significantly and the relative concentration of CO3– begin to decrease.
        There is NO WAY we will ever dissolve all of the CaCO3 in the ocean, which is why even when the atmosphere was 6000ppm CO2, the oceans were basic AND life was thriving in the oceans.

      • It is not complicated. More carbon means more carbonate will be available whenever any is removed by precipitation, biological uptake, or other net sinks. All of the carbonate, whether from the air or from dissolved minerals, comes from CO2 which was once in the air.
        The vast beds of carbon bearing rocks came from carbon which was in the air.
        I would be interested to see a reference for the assertion that most carbonate in seawater originates from dissolution of carbon bearing minerals.
        My understanding is that carbon bearing rocks are accumulating over geologic time. Contents are on net growing, not shrinking, and much of the rock is of marine origin, and much of that is carbon bearing sedimentary rocks.

      • Alcheson does not understand how buffers work. A buffer resists changes in pH, it does not prevent changes in pH. How well it works depends on the buffer concentration (higher is better) and the buffer ratio (equal concentrations of the conjugate acids and bases is best). A bicarbonate/carbonate buffer used to calibrate a pH meter is typucally something like 50 mM in each ion. Seawater is something like 2.5 mM bicarbonate and a tenth as much carbonate. So it is a buffer, but not a particularly good one.

        Ka2 = [H+][CO3=]/[HCO3-]
        Alcheson got that right. But when CO2 dissolves in seawater you have to consider ALL the equilibria, the most important of which is
        CO2 + CO3= + H2O = 2HCO3-
        so more CO2 means less carbonate, more bicarbonate, and higher [H+], from the first equation.

        Alcheson’s claim that lab experiments use unbuffered solutions is ludicrous.

      • Alcheson wrote: “There is NO WAY we will ever dissolve all of the CaCO3 in the ocean, which is why even when the atmosphere was 6000ppm CO2, the oceans were basic AND life was thriving in the oceans.”

        The only CaCO3 in the ocean is in skeletons and shells of organisms. There is a lot of CaCO3 on the bottom of the ocean. It will eventually neutralize all the CO2 added to the atmosphere. That will only take a few thousand years. Undoubtedly the oceans will eventually recover from whatever we throw at them. But in the meantime …

      • Mike M says “..you have to consider ALL the equilibria, the most important of which is
        CO2 + CO3= + H2O = 2HCO3-
        so more CO2 means less carbonate, more bicarbonate, and higher [H+], from the first equation.”
        Mike your equation is right but you conclusion is wrong. You ASSUME that the only source of CO3– in your reaction is the FREE CO3– floating in the sea water. As is quite well known, CO2 dissolves CaCO3. The ocean bottom is lined with millions of Gigatons of limestone deposits, at both shallow and deep depths. As shown in the lab… H2CO3 + Ca(CO3) -> 2HCO3- + Ca++

        Solubility of HCO3- in water is about 17g/liter. So while your equation is correct, your conclusion wrong. You, like most people who publish IGNORE the vast buffering ability of the LIMESTONE deposits in the ocean. So, if pH remains constant, (which lab experiment shows as long as CaCO3 is readily available, then the pH of the solutions stays at ~pH 8 until ALL of the CaCO3 is dissolved. There since Ka2 = [H+][CO3–]/[HCO3-] MUST be met at equilibrium, if the pH does not change then CO3– MUST increase with increasing HCO3-.
        Think about caves. Where do stalagmites and stalagtites come from? Why, the come from limestone (CaCO3) deposits dissolved by H2CO3….. imagine that. If it works in caves, it is guaranteed to work in the oceans.

      • “If it works in caves, it is guaranteed to work in the oceans.”
        Um, I am not so sure.
        Remember that groundwater is often slightly or moderately acidic, not just due to carbonic acid but also humic, tannic, and various other organic and inorganic acids.
        (May be helpful to keep in mind, as well, the various oxidation states involved.)
        Seawater being basic, the calcium carbonate is far less soluble.

        Another perhaps important aspect is, that groundwater may have a far higher concentration of CO2 than the atmosphere, which makes the water able to dissolve relatively high amounts of calcium carbonate. The reason for stalactites, and stalagmites, and the scale in your toilet tank and elsewhere, is because when it is exposed to the atmosphere, the excess CO2 evaporates out of the solution, leaving the calcium carbonate far less soluble, and hence it precipitates.
        Calcium carbonate would tend to precipitate out of solution in seawater, under most prevailing conditions, rather than dissolve.

    • Thank you Alcheson. I was just starting to write an explanation of buffering, and why these species exist in an equilibrium.
      Also important to note is that buffered systems resist changes in pH.
      And bicarbonate is only one of the buffer systems in the ocean.

      • Menicholas wrote: “I would be interested to see a reference for the assertion that most carbonate in seawater originates from dissolution of carbon bearing minerals.”
        Try James C. G. Walker “Evolution of the atmosphere”.

      • I do not think we were discussing earth hidtory, but the source of the carbonate currently dissolved in the sea.
        No matter.
        I could nitpick all week if these details were germane to the key point, which is whether higher CO2 will kill coral and lead to a marine catastrophe.
        Ex: The calcium carbonate in ocean bottom sediments is already in a reduced state. Plus it is effectively sequestered by being buried in mud.
        How could it act to neutralize CO2 in the oceans?
        I think CO2 in the oceans will be outgassed if oceans warm, or taken up and incorporated into plants, algae or carbonate shells. Much will wind up in the mud with what is already there…in additional layers of sediment yet to be deposited.

        [Well, yes, the earth’s story is all too often all too well hidden, but that should be “history”, right? 8<) .mod]

  19. Their main problem is thinking that the seas are becoming acidic. They will never become acidic. Very, very, very slightly becoming less base.

  20. Those darn denier polyps out on those reefs. Don’t they know 97% of the other polyps in the more progressive reefs believe? They probably think the Earth is flat too.

    Clearly climate scientists should start a communications initiative and a media blitz at once to whip those intractable corals into an orderly acknowledgement of the consensus.

    / sarc

    • Another therapeutic effect can be had by consuming carbon dioxide, carbonate ions, and bicarbonate ions along with a bit of scotch. I believe it is less risky than diving as well – at least in the short run. I find it useful after reading McKibben.

  21. Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, ocean pH has fallen by 0.1 pH units

    How do you know this? Are you simply basing it on atm CO2 concentration and Henry’s Law? If so, you’d also have to take buffering or some other feedback into account. This value certainly wasn’t measured, only estimated or assumed.

  22. If you make loads of spurious claims, the chances are that one of them will turn out right by shear dumb luck.

    So, what I find so incredible, is that the alarmists by shear dumb luck — have failed to find any claim that stands up.

    • Scottish Sceptic sez:
      “So, what I find so incredible, is that the alarmists by shear dumb luck — have failed to find any claim that stands up.”

      It is rather remarkable, innit?

    • ““So, what I find so incredible, is that the alarmists by shear dumb luck — have failed to find any claim that stands up.””

      It is because all of the memes are based on disaster looming and then spiraling out of control.
      They completely fail to note the reality: Nature spins up disasters… small ones, large ones, and stupendously gigantic ones…on a regular basis.
      What always happens next is that life immediately gets bust repairing the damage and restoring equilibrium.
      Whether giant fires, volcanic eruptions (talk about a lot of acid all at once!), bolide impacts, glaciation, you name it…nature heals.
      Twelve thousand years ago the oceans were two hundred feet lower and likely had a much altered chemistry. When all that ice melted, and sea levels rose…somehow all the coral kept up with the rapid rise, and changing ocean chemistry.
      Because that is what life does.
      Organisms like corals, that reproduce by tiny polyps released in vast quantities, ensure that adaptation will be rapid, and ecological niches will be quickly filled.

  23. ” ‘Surprisingly, in Palau where the pH is lowest, we see a coral community that hosts more species, and has greater coral cover than in the sites where pH is normal,’ says Anne Cohen, a co-author on the study and Barkley’s advisor at WHOI. ‘That’s not to say the coral community is thriving because of it, rather it is thriving despite the low pH, and we need to understand how.’ ”

    Ms. Cohen, maybe pH, as long as it is in the alkaline range, doesn’t really matter that much to the coral community.

  24. ” The CO2 reacts with water molecules, lowering the ocean’s pH in a process known as ocean acidification. This process also removes carbonate ions”

    Oh golly gee, if only there were trillions of tons of carbonate sediment just lying on the sea floor readily available to replace those carbonate ions….

  25. ‘That’s not to say the coral community is thriving because of it, rather it is thriving despite the low pH, and we need to understand how.’

    I’m guessing if the coral was not thriving, the message would be ‘That’s not to say the coral community is ailing despite the low pH, rather it is ailing because of it, and we know who to blame.’

  26. Fertilizer runoff is a pollutant and a problem in need of a better solution.

    Human activity’s contribution to atmospheric CO2 is highly diffused by the time it comes in contact with the oceans, and is so miniscule that it probably has little effect on ocean chemistry. If it did add a significant amount of CO2 to the oceans, it would promote life due to the more available dissolved carbon. The life processes of ocean organisms convert dissolved carbon into skeletons. Their bodies use different chemistry than what is in the surrounding seawater. They wouldn’t due well in concentrated acid, sure. But the sheer volume of the oceans will, no doubt, prevent trace amounts of atmospheric gasses from converting the water into an acid bath.

    • I think we should also consider it a regional problem. The poison is the dose. While it can cause dead zones, ultimately these things feed the things we feed on. Same is true of oilspills.

    • But they banned phosphates from our dishwashing detergent based on absurd experiments of phosphate migration in SAND on Cape Cod, (where most all the MA Title V failures occurred in the 90’s). Phosphate is immediately fixed in normal soil. I have private sewage, do not live on Cape Cod and now use more water washing my dishes by hand or touching them up after the dishwater because of an EPA (or whoever) recommendation aimed to … save water. What I’m seeing is “knee-jerk science”, poorly researched, politically motivated and serving no practical improvement for people or the environment.

      • Fanatic efforts to save water by mandating toilet design rules in downtown San Francisco by the eco-enviro-extremist democrats there led to sewage and excrement blocking the main sewage lines there: The old flow toilets used adequate water-per-flush amounts to keep the pipes clean at modest underground slopes and adequate volumes to the sewage treatment plants. Mandating extreme low flush toilets in the city for all new toilets each time a building permit was issued – for any reason – led to “low” and stagnant water in the pipes.

        So the smell of raw sewage backing up behind blocked pipes in modern San Francisco pollutes many neighborhoods with fumes and effluent coming up into toilets, back up vent pipes, and into open streets. Where it flows downhill in the curbs and gutters right back into the bay, into storm sewage drains, and into other houses.

        “Let them smell toilet cakes.”

  27. ‘Based on lab experiments […] this is the opposite of what we expected,’ says lead author Hannah Barkley

    Yep, in lab (and some field) experiments hydrochloric acid is used to decrease pH to the desired level. On the other hand on Palau there is only a slight decrease of bicarbonate (hydrogen carbonate) and increase of carbonic acid and dissolved carbon dioxide.

    Now, excess Chlorine in seawater is a toxic substance, while neither carbonic acid nor carbon dioxide are toxic. Perhaps that’s what makes a difference, not pH alone.

    • Most alarmist don’t expect any role for evolution. (At the same time, they strongly oppose creationism.)

    • I believe some of the experiments raised pH by bubbling CO2 through the water. This is slightly better, but not much. Better would be to raise the CO2 concentration in the air above the surface, and see what it takes to raise the pH and that effect on biota.

  28. ‘This paper illustrates the value of comprehensive field studies,’

    Duuuuuh! Perhaps they do not teach this anymore and just teach how to program models to get funding.

  29. I wonder how many times the coral reefs have had to adapt to changing ocean pH levels over the past hundreds of millions of years? You don’t suppose, that – until mankind showed up – the pH levels remained constant? So, then, if the coral reefs have survived to the present day, then they must not be quite so fragile – and are more resilient, than we’d previously supposed?

    • Adapt heck, these animals had to adapt to the low CO2 levels of the last few million years. Increased CO2 levels are just taking them back to what they originally evolved for.

  30. ‘That’s not to say the coral community is thriving because of it, rather it is thriving despite the low pH, and we need to understand how.’

    That’s quite a claim for them to make, especially considering the fact that these corals first evolved when CO2 levels were much higher than the worst estimates for future CO2 increase.
    Until fairly recently (compared to the age of these organisms) CO2 levels were well above where they are today.

  31. @Bryan A

    …the only true carbon pollution come out of the tail pipes of old diesel engines…

    Actually, there’s a lot of carbon pollution on the photocopied pages of all the EPA reports….

    • .. and all those reams of IRS forms that only financial experts can fully understand.

  32. There has been no ocean acidification and little global warming , soooooooooo why would coral reefs be having problems ???

  33. ‘The coral reef system at the Papua New Guinea vent site is an algae-dominated one with few species of corals,’
    ============
    PNG from first hand experience has some of the finest corals in the world. Volcanic vents produce much more than CO, for example sulfur, which favors certain microorganisms over others.

    Research of Dr. Roy E. Price
    Ambitle Island (Papua New Guinea)
    Distribution, speciation and bioavailability of arsenic in a shallow-water submarine hydrothermal system, Tutum Bay, Ambitle Island, PNG

    Shallow-water hydrothermal vent systems can introduce large amounts of potentially toxic elements, such as arsenic (As), into coastal marine environments. The first step in understanding and describing the potential impact of these elements throughout hydrothermally influenced coastal ecosystems is to determine the element’s distribution and speciation, which in turn influences the availability of the toxin for biological uptake. Shallow submarine hot springs near Ambitle Island, Papua New Guinea, are discharging as much as 1.5 kg per day of arsenic directly into a coral-reef ecosystem.

  34. Deep sea gold rush: World’s hydrothermal vent fields

    By late 2013, Nautilus Minerals of Vancouver, Canada, plans to begin mining for copper and gold at a hydrothermal vent field known as Solwara 1. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, this lies in Papua New Guinea’s exclusive economic zone, but similarly valuable deposits may lie in international waters, where mining claims are regulated by the International Seabed Authority.

  35. Seems suspiciously similar to Trenberth’s
    “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”

  36. By the way it is “bioerosion” that produces that nice, white coral sand that builds up atolls.

    If there is no bioerosion, no new coral sand is produced and those atolls will soon be washed away by the ocean.

  37. bob prudhomme What are they doing to combat the CO2 bubbling up from the ocean floor and Volcanic CO2 ? sarcasm

  38. Anne Cohen, a co-author on the study says, “That’s not to say the coral community is thriving because of it, rather it is thriving despite the low pH, and we need to understand how.’

    Interesting comment. Had the team seen a coral community in decline and greatly stressed, do you think she would have said “That’s not to say the coral community is in decline because of it (CO2) … ” Hell no.

    • As they say in Sales 101, sell the emotion. Most lay persons associate “acid” with nasty things and then incorrectly extrapolate “acidification” nasty things are now going to happen. Mission accomplished by the BPC.

  39. Doesn’t acidification come after neutral? A lower ph doesn’t mean acidified it means lower ph. If we pass neutral then we can start talking acid. until then go away.

    • People start complaining about income inequality when they earn less than their neighbour, not when they earn more than their neighbour.

  40. For marine life that has evolved over millions of years in relatively stable pH conditions, this kind of rapid change doesn’t allow for much time to adapt.

    Absurd. Where do they imagine stable pH for millions of years?

  41. “As the ocean absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) released by the burning of fossil fuels, its chemistry is changing”

    To say that in an unbiased and more scientific way would be:
    It is widely postulated that the constantly adjusting chemistry of the ocean absorbs an undetermined percentage of the atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) released by the burning of fossil fuels, as well as a significantly greater quantity of natural emission.

    Sort of spoils the intent of the propaganda, though…

    • As with the entire universe, we ought to just observe and be amazed until our collective consciousness matures to the milestone of conceptual understanding.

  42. So perhaps “very few” corals than survive in a highly acidic environment (less “acidic” than pure Dihydrogen monoxide of course). But bioerosion is “inescapable” based on the sample of 1?

    • I’m betting bioerosion is not anything new. Seems like more “breaking news” that an ocean ph must be 8.0 or above to be healthy otherwise we’ll call it “ACID”. (with respects to Dr. Timothy Leary) ;-)

  43. If it were all from dissolved CO2, how much does the estimated global average surface pH change since the industrial revolution imply of anthro-emitted CO2 has remained in the ocean surface waters?

  44. Lessee here.

    So if the earth were to slip into another period of glaciation, where it spends 90%+ of it’s time, the oceans would drop about 350 feet, and some HUGE percentage of existing coral would die. Probably 99% of it.

    Seems like if you’re really worried about coral you’d want to keep the earth warm.

    To keep the earth warm…

  45. Palau sits on the high edge of the Phillipine plate, has something like 300 islands of volcanic origin, has 3800mm p.a. average rainfall. None of this mentioned in their report?

  46. They also don’t completely understand why conditions created by ocean acidification seem to favor bioeroding organisms.

    Oh, I love this sort of crap. In other words they have no idea what’s going on, it was a great surprise to find it happening but of course scientists must know almost everything, so we’ll just say that they “don’t completely understand”.

    Of course this is not untrue, having no idea is “consistent” with “don’t completely understand”. Like being broke is consistent with not being completely rich.

    We need to remember this next time we hear that they “don’t completely understand” the hydrological cycle : evaporation, convection, cloud formation and precipitation, that is what really controls the climate and makes the earth a hospitable environment for life.

  47. Lets’ get the chemistry right here. CO2 forms carbonic acid (H2CO3), which is a weak acid that goes into equilibrium with bicarbonate, its dissociation product. Bicarbonate (HCO3-) is also a weak acid that goes into equilibrium with its dissociation product, carbonate (CO3-2), which in turn is in equilibrium with calcium carbonate (CaCO3), the solid ionic substance that forms coral. Calcium carbonate is less soluble in warm water than in cold water. So, there is an extended equilibrium form CO2 to calcium carbonate and more CO2 means the entire sequence moves toward making more calcium carbonate, which is Le Chatelier’s Principle. And, ignored by all the non-chemists in the above article, an equilibrium cannot affect itself; it is just ignorance, willful or not, that would allow them to make such a claim. Only an outside source of protons (H+), given off by an acid, such as sulfuric or hydrochloric acid, would be able to affect this equilibrium.

    Furthermore, carbonic acid is a weak acid and seawater is a complex mixture of ions that comprise a complex buffer system which resists changes in acidity or pH. To be so ingenuous as to pretend that carbonic acid can change the pH of seawater is to have failed freshman chemistry. Sure, CO2, dissolved in distilled water, lowers its pH, but the same CO2 in seawater will have undetectable effects. None of any pH change that they claim to observe, which, by the way, have all been in the normal range known for seawater pH, can be from increased CO2. For scientists to take such simplistic and uninformed views of how things so basic as acids and bases behave means we should rethink their doctoral degrees and think about demoting these people to non-doctoral level, more like scam-artist, actually.

    In addition, photosynthesis is an alkalizing process, such that, during the day, photosynthesis by algae and phyto plankton can raise the pH of seawater in a bay or estuary from about pH 8 to over 10. Marine organisms are much more resilient than the alarmists would want us to know. In fact, as CO2 is the fuel for photosynthesis, increased CO2 is a boon for photosynthetic organisms, being food for them.

    It is an evil political agenda that needs to pretend that CO2, which is plant food for all photosynthetic organisms, would be bad for our planet. It makes just as much sense for them to claim that oxygen, a waste product from plants, is indeed waste and thus air pollution, despite the fact that we need it to live as non-photosynthetic beings.

    The little publicized fact is that, over the last 50 years, all of the world’s coral reefs have been thriving as the result of higher CO2, growing at 30 to 50% of previous rates. And, if the oceans grew warmer, coral reefs could expand into high latitudes, meaning more coral not less, in addition to the lowered solubility of calcium carbonate in warmer waters, making reefs more stable than ever.

    • So what you’re saying is that these learned scientists could have gotten all their shocking, new answers from any pet store that deals with salt water tanks and/or micro reefs.

    • Thankyou Higley. And the others above. You have reminded me of my 1st year university chemistry and the nature of equilibrium!

    • higley7

      Wouldn’t it be a little more accurate to say that CO2 and water form H2CO3?
      As you point out, the CO2 doesn’t add any H ions to the solution, but since most of that H2CO3 dissociates to HCO3 +H, there is an increase in H ions, which is buffered away by the formation of bicarbonate from carbonate and those H ions.
      The argument is that the carbonate ions result from the dissociation of calcium carbonate that is the shells of molluscs and coral structures.
      As I understand it, the solution is prevented from becoming more acidic by virtue of the formation of the weak (amphoteric) acid, bicarbonate. Clearly a difference between the addition of an acid to a solution and the formation of an acid in a solution.
      I think that, although the building of calcium carbonate by these organisms is not understood, it is bicarbonate that they use and expel H via proton pumps; a standard mechanism throughout biology. This gives rise to a very high concentration of H surrounding the organism and it’s a local lowering of pH that they did themselves. They have the foresight to coat themselves in a thin protein layer and that means that live corals are not actually exposed to the more acidic solution.
      Is this basically correct? And what effect does the saturation of Ca++ have?

  48. Life relentlessly removes CO2 from the environment, primarily by forming limestone but also fossil fuels, until it hits a “floor”, the level near which plants die, and continually “bounces” off of it. That was the condition of the earth before Man came to the rescue by burning fossil fuels. Here’s to a more healthy level of around 1,500ppm (0.15%).

  49. “So how do Palau’s low pH reefs thrive despite significantly elevated levels of bioerosion?”

    This is the type of linear thinking that hides the answers to such questions. For a start, corals do have to deal with predators large and small and also “bioerosion” results in buffering the pH locally by dissolving carbonate, making raw materials for making more coral reef – this is an equilibrium problem. Also, wouldn’t a scientist be thinking about the fact that CO2 not only results in some carbonic acid formation but this at the same time is the building block of carbonate for the coral structure and shell fish shells. All you need is adequate lime in the water.

    • That’s something I’ve often thought.
      At a push, on the scale of a single organism/shell, they could argue that the solid calcium (carbonate) already in place would wash away into the bulk ocean as it (slowly) dissolves.
      On the scale of the great barrier reef, hundreds of thousands of square kilometers, the bulk of that calcium is going nowhere. And there isn’t enough CO2 to dissolve it, even if the ocean could wash the solution away.

      It built up over aeons, and would take as long to disperse.

  50. Wow! This is so amazing that we’re going to have to go back year after year and snorkel around these incredible vibrant reefs with more stuff going on than we ever could have imagined and can’t even fit into the model of destruction in our little heads. Send more money, it costs a lot to get to Palau! (But lots of Marines got there: via Wikipedia “… In 1944 the United States captured Palau, after the costly Battle of Peleliu when more than 2,000 Americans and 10,000 Japanese were killed….”

  51. As water warms it’s ability to hold CO2 diminishes.
    How do Warmists reconcile their claims of rising sea temperatures with increasing absorption of CO2?

    • To be fair to them, that’s not what warmest say. They are very much aware of the outgassing of CO2. The absorption of CO2 is due to an increase in partial pressure pCO2, an effect stronger than the T effect.

      • How does this jibe with the negligible pH change at the surface? I think bio-uptake is also keeping the surface out of equalibrium with the temp and pressure.

        Perhaps Trenberth’s some missing heat is hiding in bio-chemicals and this is also a mechanism for transporting heat to the deep ocean.

  52. ‘That’s not to say the coral community is thriving because of it, rather it is thriving despite the low pH, and we need to understand how.’

    Yeah, they don’t have a preset agenda thru which all findings are interpreted! In REAL science, all possible causes for an effect are considered and ruled out before making such a statement … NOT in climate “science” however! When the Higgs was found [and it had to have a probability the experimental results weren’t just by chance of less than 1 in two MILLION … climate “science” once they have a remotely plausible reason involving dire climate change, never, ever considers alternate explanations!!!!!!!

    I can make the same statement … Climate science seems to be thriving despite the low intelligence, and obvious bias of it’s scientists! See, works there, too!

  53. The period with most prolific coral growth was the Cretaceous when CO2 levels in the atmosphere varied between 1000 and 2000 ppm. pH must have been much lower than than today. I never understood the fear of acidification considering this geological fact. I never heard an alarmist biologist referring to the geological history of high CO2 and abundant carbonate deposition.

    • It is unlikely the pH of the oceans was much lower than today due to CO2. In fact, the concentration of the buffering ion HCO3- was undoubtedly much higher than today, thus the ocean even MORE resistant to pH change.

  54. JoNova posted on this some days ago where it was dissected at length;

    http://joannenova.com.au/2015/06/researchers-astonished-coral-reefs-thriving-in-a-more-acidic-ocean/

    Below is the relevant post I placed on Jo’s blog
    __________________________

    Sigh!
    Here we go again!
    I wonder if any of those so called ocean pH researchers have ever read any of this NOAA stuff on ocean pH measurements before “being surprised” and making their claims.

    Quoted from the paper;——-

    Rapidly changing chemistry;

    Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, ocean pH has fallen by 0.1 pH units, which represents an increase in acidity of approximately 30 percent. For marine life that has evolved over millions of years in relatively stable pH conditions, this kind of rapid change doesn’t allow for much time to adapt.
    [ / ]

    And from the NOAA; [ below]

    [ Apologies as this is long read below but needs to be read in full to understand that ocean pH measurements are in just as bad a state of accurate calibration as global temperature data which hasn’t stopped the alarmist scare stories on Ocean acidification, another total misnomer from the alarmists as the ocean is alkaline and probably has been for a couple of billion years past.]

    —————
    Issues related to pH measurement technique and data reporting in the pre-1990 era
    *****
    While seawater pH measurements have been made on some oceanographic expeditions starting with the first measurements that were made by Sørensen and Palitzsch (1910), most of the earlier data have proven to be problematic for a number of reasons that we will describe below.
    In addition, there is the added problem of data sparseness in any given year for the earlier data sets, which makes the determination of a global annual mean value for a particular time period to be quite challenging, necessarily increasing its likely uncertainty.

    During the period from 1910 thru 1988 the most common method for measuring pH was the potentiometric method using hydrogen ion sensitive glass electrodes coupled with a reference electrode (Dickson, 1993a). This method suffers from a number of measurement and calibration issues (i.e., temperature of measurement and conversion to in situ temperature, calibration for use in a high ionic strength medium, glass electrode drift, reference electrode drift, and liquid junction potential issues) that have led to significant measurement uncertainties that are difficult to quantify adequately.
    In recent years the spectrophotometric pH method described by Byrne and Breland (1989) has been shown to be about one order of magnitude more precise.
    Its accuracy has been improved over the years since then.

    Over the years, pH has been expressed on one of four different scales: (1) the total hydrogen scale, [H+]T; (2) the free hydrogen scale [H+]F, (3) the seawater scale, [H+]SW, and (4) the NBS scale aH(NBS) (Dickson, 1984; Zeebe and Wolf-Gladrow, 2007).
    The differences in the respective pH values can be significant.
    For example, for a seawater condition of salinity = 35 and temperature = 25°C the difference between pHT and pHNBS is greater than 0.1.
    The exact difference cannot be determined easily as it is, to some extent, dependent on the exact design of the liquid junction used in the potentiometric pH cell.
    Unfortunately, a large number of the earlier data sets submitted to the National Ocean Data Center does not include any information indicating how pH was calibrated (and thus the pH scale being used).

    All of the earlier (before 1975) glass electrode measurements (and many more recent ones) were calibrated against NBS style buffers with an ionic strength of 0.1 mol kg–1.
    The liquid junction potential of the pH cell is sensitive to ionic strength and to the composition of the solution it is in, so moving the electrodes from these low ionic strength buffers to the higher ionic strength of seawater (0.72 mol kg–1) makes apparent pH readings drift for a period of time.
    Furthermore, different electrode designs can result in differing pH readings (Dickson, 1984).
    This problem can be largely eliminated by calibrating the pH cell against standard buffer solutions such as 2-amino-2-methyl-1,3-propanediol (Tris) in synthetic seawater (DelValls and Dickson, 1998; Nemzer and Dickson 2005).
    When these procedures are followed carefully, the uncertainty of a potentiometric measurement of seawater pH (expressed total hydrogen ion conentration) can be less than 0.02.
    The problem is that this approach was not implemented routinely until the 1990s (Dickson, 1993a,b; Dickson et al., 2007).

    Whether measured on a ship or back in a shore-based laboratory, pH results have to be corrected back to the in situ temperature at which the samples were originally collected to provide an estimate of the in situ pH.
    If the difference between the temperature of measurement (usually around room temperature) and the in situ temperature is more than 7 degrees Centigrade, these corrections can be quite large (>0.1 pH units).
    Unfortunately, much of the supporting metadata (records of the measurement temperature, the in situ temperature and the mathematical formula for conversion of the data from one temperature to the other) was not given to NODC along with the data files (Boyer et al., 2013).
    Hence, in many cases, we are not certain what pH value is being reported (measured versus in situ). We suspect that a significant fraction of the historical pH values were reported at laboratory temperature and were never corrected back to the in situ temperature.
    In many cases, the measurement temperature was not reported as part of the metadata package, making later temperature correction impossible (Boyer et al., 2013).
    The lack of information as to whether the pH values were reported as measured versus in situ, and the lack of documentation on measurement temperature will lead to large pH uncertainties in the earlier database.
    ***********
    And there you have it!
    Nobody is sure what the ocean pH actually was only a couple of decades ago which hasn’t stopped them one bit from making another huge scare story based on nothing more than some assumed ocean pH levels, a mirror image of the severe problems in assessing global temperatures.
    With almost exactly the same solutions.
    Just make it up as you go along.
    And the scarier the better.

    • ROM –

      The seas vary between 7.5 and 8.5 and around the coastlines the ph can vary rapidly over the day depending on many factors.

      The Bearings sea has been measured at 8.2 at the surface and 20 meters down at 7.8.

      The seas are not all one pH level and uniformly changing.

      Mass coral mortality at all coral sites around the world has been monitored since 1870.

      But if you feel that the seas PH has been accurately measured then you could claim the $1,000,000 reward for the devise that is accurately measuring this because so far no one has claimed the reward.

  55. The first great era of reef building after the Precambrian was the Devonian. The reef building organisms were colonial rugose corals, tabulate corals and stromatoporoids. Nearly all the fossil reefs of Eastern Aust are from this time and a barrier reef 1700 km surrounded the Kimberly terrain in Western Aust. It is reasonably well agreed amongst geologists that the concentration of atmospheric CO2 then was between 17 and 18 TIMES greater than it is now. CO2 levels subsequently decreased rapidly parallel to the rapid evolution of land plants and all the reefs disappeared. Food for thought?

  56. Well knock me over with a feather…..

    Corals have been around since the dawn of time, when CO2 levels were much higher. They managed to live and thrive then, so why did anyone think they could not do the same now?

    Ralph

  57. Ocean chemistry has remained as is today for 500million years. Dissolution of CO2 does not reduce carbonate ions but increases them due to the bicarbonate reaction that follows the dissolution this adding these building blocks and reducing pH. So the above description of the (non) problem is wrong from para 1.

  58. I’m sorry. I kept reading for a while to try and find out how they defined bioerosion. It started to look like dancing around on the head of a pin and I had to stop. So, what’s their definition? Biological activity – as opposed to dying reefs?

  59. 1. Acidification

    IPCC says:

    The air-sea exchange of CO2 is determined largely by the air-sea gradient in pCO2 between atmosphere and ocean. Equilibration of surface ocean and atmosphere occurs on a time scale of roughly one year. Gas exchange rates increase with wind speed (Wanninkhof and McGillis, 1999; Nightingale et al., 2000) and depend on other factors such as precipitation, heat flux, sea ice and surfactants. The magnitudes and uncertainties in local gas exchange rates are maximal at high wind speeds. In contrast, the equilibrium values for partitioning of CO2 between air and seawater and associated seawater pH values are well established (Zeebe and Wolf-Gladrow, 2001; see Box 7.3). AR4, ¶7.3.4.1 Overview of the Ocean Carbon Cycle, p. 528.

    IPCC’s carbonate equations are 7.1 and 7.2 in Box 7.3: Marine Carbon Chemistry and Ocean Acidification, p. 529.

    More detail in an updated reference from the same authors is Zeebe, R. E., and D. A. Wolf-Gladrow, Carbon dioxide, dissolved (ocean). Encyclopedia of Paleoclimatology and Ancient Environments, Ed. V. Gornitz, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Earth Science Series, in press 2008. Here, at least, the authors are more accurate than IPCC ever manages to be by specifying not equilibrium, but thermodynamic equilibrium. The solution to the carbonate equations is pH dependent, and is graphed in what is known as the Bjerrum plot. Id., p. 9.

    Thermodynamic equilibrium requires simultaneous thermal equilibrium, mechanical equilibrium, and chemical equilibrium. The surface layer of the ocean is NEVER in thermodynamic equilibrium. It is stirred by wind and wave motion and irradiated by the Sun. IPCC’s equilibration time scale is not one year, but rather whatever the time span is for the ocean surface to remain liquid. The surface layer is where the radiation and thermal exchanges with the ocean occur to the atmosphere and the deep ocean, and it is remarkable for its entrained air, hence the alternate name of the mixed layer. The surface layer runs from about 25m to 200m in depth.

    The story about acidification is fatally flawed and not fit for public consumption.

    2. Adaptation

    Will some corals be able to adapt to these rapidly changing conditions?

    Life survives changes in the environment not just by adaptation, requiring genetic changes, but by its robustness, its tolerance to changes and methods of adjustment. The latter include such obvious things as changes in color, deciduation, changes in fur thickness, fat layers. Before appealing to required evolutionary changes, the scientist needs to determine the ranges of tolerance of any species in its existing form.

  60. What the hell?! Why have half the coral reefs disappeared from the world?!
    Denial is strong with this one.

    [“Half the coral reefs”?? .mod]

    • There are exposed, fossilised, coral reefs that are millions of years old here in Australia where sea levels were at least 3m higher than today at places like Fairbridge Bluff and Point Maxwell.

  61. Interesting fact: Most people believe that as CO2 dissolves into the ocean, the buffering capacity of the ocean decreases. In actuality, as more CO2 dissolves into the ocean, its buffering capacity is INCREASING. As more CO2 dissolves into the water….
    H2CO3 +CaCO3 -> 2HCO3- (CaCO3 comes from the vast (many gigatons) limestone deposits)

    More HCO3- means the concentration of the buffering ion that keeps the pH of the ocean at ~pH 8 is increasing. A .1M solution of HCO3- solution has a much larger capacity than a 0.0001M solution. In addition, at constant pH, as HCO3- ion concentration increases, CO3– increases as well since
    Ka2 = [H+][CO3=]/[HCO3-].

    The ocean acidication scare is totally without merit. The oceans were basic when CO2 was 6000ppm and life was flourishing in the oceans, probably way better than they are today at a mere 400ppm.

  62. I have handy a Bjerrum Plot of the carbonic acid system. Not really very strange, I AM a professional chemist.
    This shows that the aqueous equilibrium of H2CO3 HCO3- CO3+ is dominated by the bicarbonate ion HCO3- over the pH range from 6.37 to 10.36. At the pH midpoint, 8.36, the bicarbonate ion is 100 times (!) as concentrated as either the carbonic acid or the carbonate ion. This is a good thing, since the bicarbonate ion is the one required for plankton and mulloscs to produce the carbonate shells they need for their skeletons/homes/reefs.
    Most atmospheric carbon dioxide absorbed by the oceans will end up on the ocean floor…as limestone.

  63. I think the experiment that needs to be done is to set up a large aquarium filled with clean sea water and line the bottom with limestone rock. Add the sea creatures and make sure they are thriving as they are currently in the ocean. Then add NaHCO3 to the aquarium stepwise (like one step every 6 months or so), maintaining the pH at a constant 8.0 and see how the shell forming sea creatures respond over time as the HCO3- is increased. Could also maintain the atmosphere above the aquarium with an appropriate amount of CO2 gas such that CO2 does not escape from the water as the HCO3- is added if so inclined.This should mimic ocean behavior fairly closely. I personally expect to find that a HCO3- concentration about 4x higher than current sea levels will be found to be ideal for the sea creatures, which corresponds to about the optimum CO2 level for plant growth in green houses.

    • Alcheson, My word – you would need a big laboratory-tank/aquarium!! Where would you get your funding? – (try claiming it is to prove climate-change is real!). You would also need masses of basaltic rock and gravel thrown in, a self-sustaining system of three-dimensional water currents, a bit of gravity to make the denser particles move up or down — and, don’t forget, a huge source of radiating energy above appearing every 24 hours, just to keep things moving in your tank and winds blowing above it! Experiments like that don’t come cheap – best of luck!

      • I think this could be set up for less than 100million, which is pocket change given the amount of money being spent on Climate research.

  64. “‘Based on lab experiments and studies of other naturally low pH reef systems, this is the opposite of what we expected,” says lead author Hannah Barkley, a graduate student in the WHOI-MIT joint program in oceanography.

    Once again….
    Feynman (on the scientific method): “If the experimental [or experience] results don’t agree, then your guess is WRONG. It doesn’t matter how SMART you are, what your NAME is… It’s WRONG.

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