[Vision2020] Clarification: Re: Coral Reefs: CO2 Source or Sink? Re: Four Levels of Global Warming: A Climate Change Update

Sam Scripter MoscowSam at charter.net
Sat Dec 18 18:46:23 PST 2010

Ted . . . Thanx for the interesting abstracts. Sam

Ted Moffett wrote:
> On 12/18/10, Sam Scripter<MoscowSam at charter.net>  wrote:
> "Or are Nick and the ensuing discussants in particular just choosing to focus
> on whether coral is/are participants in chemical balance repositioning among
> atmospheric, oceanic, and coral carbon?"
> -----------------------
> Yes, I was exploring coral reefs' activity in the Earth's carbon cycle
> and in ocean chemistry, and the question of whether or not coral reefs
> are in total sinks or sources for atmospheric CO2, a question that
> might be answered differently depending on the time scale involved...
> I'm not sure.
> The scientific basis, the concern, for addressing ocean acidification
> from human CO2 emissions, has increased over the past decade, thus it
> is not a false alarm.
> On this subject below is an excerpt from a Woods Hole Oceanographic
> Institution website, and below that are references to published
> science on ocean acidification indicating verification of the problem:
> http://www.whoi.edu/OCB-OA/FAQs/
> If ocean acidification is so potentially serious why isn’t it included
> in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
> Conference of the Parties (COP) climate mitigation negotiations?
> Although scientists have known for decades that ocean acidification
> would occur as CO2 increased in the atmosphere, the consequences to
> marine life were not realized until about 10 years ago. At that time,
> biologists discovered that ocean acidification affected the ability of
> many marine organisms to form their shells or skeletons. Since then,
> many more effects of ocean acidification have been found to influence
> a wide array of organisms and marine processes. Because the scientific
> process relies on formal research protocols, peer-review, and
> publishing, it takes some time for a new finding to be verified and
> accepted by the scientific community. However, sufficient evidence
> about ocean acidification existed by 2007 that the IPCC Fourth
> Assessment Report on Climate Change (2007) stated in the Summary for
> Policy Makers, “The progressive acidification of the oceans due to
> increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide is expected to have negative
> impacts on marine shell-forming organisms (e.g. corals) and their
> dependent species.” Ocean acidification and its effects have now been
> documented to the point that they are widely accepted by the
> scientific community and it will be seriously addressed by the Fifth
> Assessment Report of the IPCC. In fact, ocean acidification was a
> major topic of discussion at side events such as Oceans Day at the
> December 2009 COP15 climate change negotiations in Copenhagen even
> though specific considerations about oceans had little or no mention
> in the text of the proposed agreement. — Joan Kleypas, Scientist III,
> National Center for Atmospheric Research, USA; Carol Turley, Senior
> Scientist, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK
> ------------------------
> http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/20100712_pugetsound.html
> Scientists Find Rising Carbon Dioxide and ‘Acidified’ Waters in Puget Sound
> July 12, 2010
> Scientists have discovered that the water chemistry in the Hood Canal
> and the Puget Sound main basin is becoming more “acidified,” or
> corrosive, as the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide from the
> atmosphere. These changes could have considerable impacts on the
> region’s shellfish industry over the next several decades.
> --------------------------
> International Scientists Find ‘Acidified’ Water on the Continental
> Shelf from Canada to Mexico
> http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2008/20080522_oceanacid.html
> “Acidification of the Earth’s ocean water could have far-reaching
> impacts on the health of our near-shore environment, and on the
> sustainability of ecosystems that support human populations through
> nourishment and jobs,” said Richard W. Spinrad, NOAA assistant
> administrator for oceanic and atmospheric research.
> --------------------------
> Science journal article on ocean acidification:
> Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification
> http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/318/5857/1737
> > From article above:
> Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is expected to exceed 500
> parts per million and global temperatures to rise by at least 2°C by
> 2050 to 2100, values that significantly exceed those of at least the
> past 420,000 years during which most extant marine organisms evolved.
> Under conditions expected in the 21st century, global warming and
> ocean acidification will compromise carbonate accretion, with corals
> becoming increasingly rare on reef systems. The result will be less
> diverse reef communities and carbonate reef structures that fail to be
> maintained. Climate change also exacerbates local stresses from
> declining water quality and overexploitation of key species, driving
> reefs increasingly toward the tipping point for functional collapse.
> This review presents future scenarios for coral reefs that predict
> increasingly serious consequences for reef-associated fisheries,
> tourism, coastal protection, and people.
> ------------------------
> http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6665147.stm
> Polar ocean 'soaking up less CO2'
> By Paul Rincon
> Science reporter, BBC News
> One of Earth's most important absorbers of carbon dioxide (CO2) is
> failing to soak up as much of the greenhouse gas as it was expected
> to, scientists say.
> The decline of Antarctica's Southern Ocean carbon "sink" - or
> reservoir - means that atmospheric CO2 levels may be higher in future
> than predicted.
> These carbon sinks are vital as they mop up excess CO2 from the
> atmosphere, slowing down global warming.
> As CO2 is absorbed by the oceans, it makes them more acidic, harming
> populations of marine organisms such as coral. The latest study
> suggests that phenomenon will only get worse over the century.
> The study, by an international team, is published in the journal Science.
> -------------------------
> http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2008/20081121_coralacidification.html
> NOAA: Study Details Ocean Acidification in the Caribbean
> Conducted by scientists from NOAA and the University of Miami's
> Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the study was
> published in the Oct. 31, 2008 issue of the Journal of Geophysical
> Research – Oceans.
> Previous NOAA studies have shown that a quarter of the carbon dioxide
> that humans place in the atmosphere each year ends up being dissolved
> into the ocean. The result is the ocean becomes more acidic, making it
> harder for corals, clams, oysters, and other marine life to build
> their skeletons or shells. A number of recent studies demonstrate that
> ocean acidification is likely to harm coral reefs by slowing coral
> growth and making reefs more vulnerable to erosion and storms.
> ----------------
> https://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ocean-chemistry-changing
> Ocean chemistry changing at 'unprecedented rate'
> By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
> WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to
> global warming are also turning the oceans more acidic at the fastest
> pace in hundreds of thousands of years, the National Research Council
> reported Thursday.
> "The chemistry of the ocean is changing at an unprecedented rate and
> magnitude due to anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions," the council
> said. "The rate of change exceeds any known to have occurred for at
> least the past hundreds of thousands of years."
> Ocean acidification eats away at coral reefs, interferes with some
> fish species' ability to find their homes and can hurt commercial
> shellfish like mussels and oysters and keep them from forming their
> protective shells.
> ------------------------------------------
> Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett
> On 12/18/10, Sam Scripter<MoscowSam at charter.net>  wrote:
>> Since Nick's piece, with a sentence or so about "coral", I have been
>> following
>> the ensuing discussion regarding ocean acidification and coral.
>> But I am puzzled.
>> Maybe that's because I am not on top of the changing views of "science"
>> about the dangers of ocean acidification, caused by carbon dioxide
>> increasingly
>> dissolving into oceans' waters, from an increasing concentration of carbon
>> dioxide in the atmosphere [anthropogenic or not].
>> I thought -- until recently at least -- that the concern for coral, and
>> for shellfish
>> at large, was that the chemical shift to increasing acidity in the
>> oceans was feared
>> to dissolve the shells of some shellfish and  perhaps even prevent
>> formation of
>> shells in other shellfish trying to live.
>> E.g., some or many shellfish could be put out of existence, "screwing
>> up" some
>> ecological food chains as well as sources for human food. These are not
>> small
>> matters!
>> Am I off base? Has that concern gone away and/or shown to be false alarms?
>> Or are Nick and the ensuing discussants in particular just choosing to focus
>> on whether coral is/are participants in chemical balance repositioning among
>> atmospheric, oceanic, and coral carbon?
>> Sam Scripter
>> Ted Moffett wrote:
>>> Thanks for the response to my question from the post which can be read
>>> in full at the website below, which will offer more context:
>>> http://mailman.fsr.com/pipermail/vision2020/2010-December/073255.html
>>> --------------------------
>>> I have found credible scientific information that relates to my
>>> question regarding coral reefs lowering ocean water acidity, though
>>> this information does not address coral reef calcium carbonate
>>> formation effects on ocean water acidity.  It addresses the
>>> dissolution of calcium carbonate in the oceans, lowering ocean
>>> acidity.  Calcium carbonate is a treatment for acid stomach.  But this
>>> process in the oceans is too slow to stop increasing ocean
>>> acidification from billions of tons of human CO2 emissions:
>>> http://www.elcamino.edu/faculty/tnoyes/Readings/10DR.pdf
>>>>  From website above:
>>> "Recall that additional carbon dioxide makes ocean water acidic, and
>>> that the acid dissolves calcium carbonate ...this neutralizes the acid
>>> (the carbonate absorbs it). ...coral are said to "buffer" the ocean."
>>> This academic source also states "...corals 'permanently' remove CO2
>>> from the atmosphere by building their reefs" a statement that could be
>>> used to conclude that coral reefs are in total atmospheric CO2 sinks,
>>> which is disputed.
>>> ------------------------
>>> http://www.whoi.edu/OCB-OA/FAQs/
>>>>  From website above:
>>> As the oceans become more acidic, more calcium carbonate minerals
>>> underwater will dissolve. Will that offset ocean acidification?
>>> The dissolution of calcium carbonate minerals in the water column and
>>> in the sediments does increase the alkalinity of seawater, which
>>> offsets the decreased pH and carbonate ion concentrations associated
>>> with ocean acidification. However, as with rock weathering, this
>>> process is slow and would take thousands to tens of thousands of years
>>> to neutralize all of the CO2 from human activity that is entering the
>>> oceans. Over the decades to centuries that affect human communities,
>>> these processes are not fast enough to counteract CO2 invasion into
>>> the ocean, and so the chemical changes associated with ocean
>>> acidification will last for several centuries. — Richard A. Feely,
>>> Senior Scientist, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, USA
>>> ------------------------------------------
>>> Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett
>>> On 12/17/10, Andreas Schou<ophite at gmail.com>   wrote:
>>>>> Now I wonder, if coral reefs remove carbon from ocean water, do they
>>>>> help to lower ocean water accidification from human sourced CO2
>>>>> emissions?
>>>> Not really. Coral reefs remove carbon from ocean water by constructing
>>>> their calcium carbonate exoskeletons; calcium ions, rather than
>>>> carbonate ions, create a bottleneck w/r/t how much carbon they can
>>>> remove.
>>>> -- ACS
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