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Ocean acidification = a reduction in the pH of the ocean over an extended period of time, caused primarily by uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.
Abstract: Ocean acidification, the increase in seawater CO2 with all its associated consequences, is relatively well understood in open oceans. In shelf seas such as the Great Barrier Reef, processes are much less understood, due to complex interactions with water quality and biological processes. I will show new data how ocean acidification has been progressing in the Great Barrier Reef, and its direct and indirect effects on coral reefs of the GBR, including shifts from corals to seaweed, impaired coral recruitment, and increasing bioerosion. Our new data from the Great Barrier Reef suggest that functional changes are already occurring, measurably affecting coralline algae, and coral recruitment and promoting macroalgae. Although most reefs are still net accreting, some reefs in marginal locations and high latitudes have started to dissolve in winter. The future integrity of GBR reefs under increasing ocean acidification will depend on their specific biophysical properties, and effective mitigation of the cumulative stressors from nutrient pollution. Unlike a clean-up of water quality, OA is irreversible on time scales of thousands of years, and there is no latitudinal escape, re-emphasising the imperative for rapid action on atmospheric CO2 pollution.