Acidification of the ocean could make low-lying island nations like the Maldives and Kiribati more vulnerable to storms since it can significantly weaken coral reefs, according to a new report. When the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, carbonic acid forms, which makes it more difficult for sea critters like coral and starfish to form shells and skeletons. “If ocean acidification weakens the structure of reef-forming corals and algae, tropical systems (islands) will be more vulnerable to physical impacts from storms and cyclones,” the report said. So far, the world’s oceans have absorbed roughly half the carbon dioxide emitted by human activities since preindustrial times. And if acidification keeps increasing, as it’s expected to, the ecological effects on sea life could be even more extensive. “Ocean acidification is likely to have an ecological cascade effect right up to parts of the food web that are important to human beings, such as fish and shell fish,” said Will Howard of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center.