How does rising atmospheric CO2 affect marine organisms?

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Volume 3 Number 21:  6 September 2000

Back from the Dead: Coral Recovery Signals Resiliency of Reef Ecosystems: We report on the "impossible" recovery of many coral reefs from the mother-of-all bleaching events.

Journal Reviews
Assessing the Future of Earth's Coral Reefs: A review of the literature reveals the scientific community to hold a wide spectrum of views on the subject of CO2, global warming and coral reefs, ranging from presumptions of impending disaster to intimations of better times to come.  On one important issue, however, there is general agreement: the amelioration of bona fide local environmental stresses may do much to alleviate whatever global stresses may be experienced by reefs.

Young Corals: In a study of coral recruits just prior to and following a severe bleaching event in Belize, it was found that although 70 to 90% of the adult coral experienced severe bleaching, the net bleaching-induced mortality of coral recruits was negligible.

Coral Reef Recovery Following the 1982/1983 ENSO Event: After suffering near-annihilation during the 1982/1983 ENSO event, two species of eastern Pacific corals return to pre-ENSO abundances within the following decade, actually thriving in increasingly warmer waters, but succumbing once again to the 1997/1998 ENSO in a manner that casts great doubt upon the proposition that the population crashes suffered in both events were due to elevated temperatures.

It Lives!  Return of the Giant Kelp: An important new study describes the "unexpected" recovery of giant kelp forests that were completely decimated by the extreme heat of the 1997-1998 El Niņo event.

Does the Calcium Carbonate Saturation State of Seawater Absolutely Constrain Coral Calcification Rates?: Artificial manipulations of certain aspects of water chemistry in the algal-dominated marine mesocosm at the Biosphere-2 facility are claimed to support the proposition that "globally increasing atmospheric CO2 has a negative impact on coral reef ecosystems."  We argue that the data are insufficient to draw that conclusion.