Coral Reefs and Ocean Acidification By: Michelle Li

What are coral reefs?

Tiny polyps (coral) build reefs by using limestone skeletons

Algae helps the coral by using photosynthesis to give them food

Polyps make waste products that help the algae

That is called a symbiotic relationship

How does global warming affect coral reefs?

When oceans get too warm the algae is released from the tissue, which causes coral bleaching.

This is what bleached coral looks like

If sea temperatures rise as little as 1° or 2°C there is a risk of a major bleaching event

If the temperature rises 3° or 4°C, the algae will never return.

It takes about 5 years for a reef to recover

The Great Barrier Reef is about to have its 3rd bleaching event in 6 years. Many scientists don't think that the reef will ever recover.

The Great Barrier Reef

Coral reefs are also more likely to get diseases brought on by climate change/pollution

When the oceans have too much acid in them (ocean acidification), it makes it difficult to build reefs


15% of the world's coral reefs are lost already

And over half will be gone by 2050

How does this affect us?

The ecosystem will be damaged

The wildlife that lives in the reefs will be lost. Many organisms depend on reefs for shelter.

We'll also lose income from tourism

Coasts will be unprotected from storms and hurricanes (coral reefs absorb most of the power)


Oceans help regulate the temperature by absorbing carbon dioxide

Because there are more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, oceans now absorb more carbon dioxide.

This causes the oceans pH levels lower, which means there is more carbonic acid in the water


The acid breaks down the shells and skeletons of calcifiers (crustaceans, echinoderms, etc.)

The entire food chain will be thrown off


It's unknown how many reefs will survive

Severe bleaching will occur every year on 99% of the world's coral reefs in less than a century if trends continue

Annual bleaching will start in 2043

If countries cut more carbon than they agreed to in the Paris Agreement, then reefs would have about 11 more years to adapt

But still more than 3/4 of the world's reefs will bleach every year before 2070


"Coral Reefs on a Changing Planet." Windows 2 the Universe. Windows to the Universe, Feb.-Mar. 2011. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

Shulman, Seth. "Coral Doctor." Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

"Dialogue | Why Is Ocean Acidification Caused by Global Warming Such a Serious Problem?" Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientists, 2011. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

Cool, Johnny. "Posts about Effects on Cool Kids For A Cool Climate." Cool Kids For A Cool Climate. Cool Kids For A Cool Climate, 7 Dec. 2016. Web. 05 Mar. 2017.

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. "Future of coral reefs under climate change predicted: High-resolution predictions of annual coral bleaching can help prioritize reefs for conservation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 January 2017.


Created with images by Hans - "reef coral reef sponges" • Pexels - "water corals underwater" • NOAA Photo Library - "reef0809" • pvandyke3 - "Pocillopora meandrina bleach 1" • Kyle Taylor, Dream It. Do It. - "The Great Barrier Reef - 039" • skeeze - "tropical fish underwater" • visavietnam - "fish aquarium sea" • Jan-Mallander - "coral coral reef reef" • Cilnette - "ocean aquarium underwater"

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