How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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Will Coral Reefs Survive Global Change?
Wilkinson, C.R. 1996. Global change and coral reefs: impacts on reefs, economies and human cultures. Global Change Biology 2: 547-558.

What was done
This paper examines the ability of coral reefs to cope with the potential changes in climate that are predicted by many coupled ocean-atmosphere general circulation models.

What was learned
The author reports that "reefs on average should cope well with regional climate change, as they have coped with similar previous fluctuations." For example, coral reefs survived the grip of the last ice age when, at its maximum, sea levels were over 100 meters lower than present and mean temperatures were 8C cooler. In addition, reefs weathered the rapid rise in sea level that followed the demise of the Last Glacial Maximum, as well as large changes in "CO2 concentrations, ... rainfall, cloud cover, storms and currents."

What it means
If sea level rise rates do increase according to model predictions, they will still be low "compared to Holocene rates of rise." Yet, any rise, the author notes, "should be 'beneficial', permitting increased growth over the previously limited [by current sea level] reef flats."

Reviewed 1 July 1999