Rising atmospheric carbon levels as a result of global warming is making waters around the Great Barrier Reef acidic at a higher than expected rate.
Ocean acidification occurs when excess carbon dioxide dissolves into the ocean and becomes carbonic acid. It is potentially devastating for the marine environment, affecting corals, crustaceans and plankton in particular.
Prof. Malcolm McCulloch of the Australian National University has now said, "ocean acidification is taking place over decades rather than centuries as originally predicted".
Prof. McCulloch and his team studied a type of reef coral called porites off Cairns and found that pH levels were falling faster than previously thought, meaning acidity levels were increasing.
"This new data on the Great Barrier Reef suggests the effects are even greater than forecast. There is definitely something happening on the reef and this is in a coral opposite Cairns - where all the tourists go - so the implications are huge," Prof. McCulloch said.
Prof. McCulloch will present his research Oct 18 at the Coral Reef Futures 07 forum in Canberra, reports The Age.