Coral and other sea critters suffer as CO2 makes oceans more acidic

By the end of the century, oceans may no longer be livable habitat for coral, a coalition of U.S. scientists warned yesterday in a new report. The world’s oceans absorb about a third of the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide, which these days is a little more than they can handle: rising CO2 levels are making oceans more acidic, which weakens coral reefs and can dissolve the calcified exoskeletons of plankton and marine snails. “These organisms probably don’t have the adaptive ability to respond to this new onslaught,” says marine biologist Christopher Langdon. Plankton may not be the sexiest sea creatures around (hello, dolphins!), but as the base of the marine food chain, their fortunes reverberate outward. Ocean acidity is now higher than it has been in years, possibly millions of years. “It’s the single most profound environmental change I’ve learned about in my entire career,” says prominent biodiversity expert Thomas E. Lovejoy.