The rising acidity of the oceans threatens coral reefs by making it harder for corals to build their skeletons. A new study identifies the details of how ocean acidification affects coral skeletons, allowing scientists to predict more precisely where corals will be more vulnerable.
Corals grow their skeletons upward toward sunlight and also thicken them to reinforce them.
The new research, led by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), shows that ocean acidification particularly impedes the thickening process—decreasing the skeletons' density and leaving them more vulnerable to breaking. The study was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.