Ocean acidity major reef threat

2012-07-09 08:25
Greenpeace activists perform above an underwater art museum in Cancún to draw attention to the risk for millions of people living in coastal areas. (Jason Taylor, Greenpeace, AP)

Greenpeace activists perform above an underwater art museum in Cancún to draw attention to the risk for millions of people living in coastal areas. (Jason Taylor, Greenpeace, AP)

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Sydney - The head of a US scientific agency says ocean acidification is now one of the biggest threats to coral reefs across the world, acting as the "osteoporosis of the sea".

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco said on Monday that the speed by which the oceans' acid levels has risen surprised scientists. She says the problem could threaten everything from food supplies to tourism to livelihoods.

Oceans absorb excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to an increase in acidity. Scientists are worried about how that increase will affect sea life, particularly reefs, as higher acid levels make it tough for coral skeletons to form.

Lubchenco is in Australia to speak at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, near the Great Barrier Reef.

- AP
Read more on:    environment  |  climate change
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