Many enzymes and processes that occur in the ocean, like test building, are pH sensitive (Calderia, 2003). Any change in the pH would result in the breakdown of important functions to which the outcome is uncertain. Many marine organisms, such as corals, algae, and pretty much anything with a shell, rely on CaCO3 to form their hard parts. An increase in ocean acidity causes this CaCO3 to rapidly dissolve, and makes it generally harder for these organisms to build their calcifying parts (Kleypas, 1999). If we maintain this current rate of CO2 increase, the pH of the ocean is expected to decrease by 0.5 by 2100 (Kudela, 2013).
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There are many causes of coral reef bleaching. The biggest concern of oceanographers is the effect global warming is having on the reefs. It is a stress condition that involves a breakdown of the symbiotic relationship between corals and unicellular algae called zooxantheallae. These microscopic plants live within the coral tissue, giving it color and food. One of the first symptoms of bleaching is the loss of color (?Coral Bleaching?).
The Economics of Worldwide Coral Reef Degradation. Cesar Environmental Economics Consulting, Arnhem, and WWF-Netherlands, Zeist, The Netherlands. Http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/blue_planet/coasts/coral_reefs/ FAO (2000) The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2000. FAO, Rome, Italy. Clive Wilkinson, David Souter 2005, Status of Caribbean Coral Reefs After Bleaching and Hurricanes in 2005, p.20)
2010 Norse, Elliot A., et al. eds. Marine Conservation Biology: the science of maintaining the sea's biodiversity. Washinginton DC: Island Press, 2005.