Ships that release alkalinizing agents might just save the Great Barrier Reef

We at The Optimist Daily are always interested in new and innovative ideas to help save our oceans. The ever-increasing quantity of carbon dioxide emissions present in the atmosphere is making our oceans warmer and more acidic which in turn degrades coral reefs and threatens marine biodiversity.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Hobart, Australia, has conducted research to come up with another concept that could potentially remedy the damage that the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs have already sustained.

To mitigate ocean acidification’s disruption of the ocean’s pH level, they propose releasing alkalinizing agents from special ships.

Why does ocean acidification matter to coral reefs?

When the ocean becomes more acidic, it reduces the concentration of carbonate ions in the water. Coral reefs use these carbonate ions to make aragonite, a form of calcium carbonate. Corals grow and fortify themselves by building upward with bundles of aragonite crystals stacked on top of each other. The buildup of the aragonite crystals strengthens the coral skeletons so that they can withstand currents and the crashing of the waves underwater. If there aren’t enough carbonate ions in the sea, then the structure of coral reefs is compromised, especially following bleaching events.

How will the alkalinizing ships work?

To treat the region of the Great Barrier Reef, the ship would be required to carry 30,000 tons of the alkalinizing agent, and it would have to be able to reach the entire reef which spans a distance of over 2,000 km.

The team at CSIRO states that this strategy is expected to offset 10 years of ocean acidification in the area. They realize that it isn’t a solution that solves the root of the issue, but that there is value to temporary, quick fixes such as these, especially for vulnerable areas of the world. They hope that this method of ocean de-acidification will buy us time to adequately address the issue of global climate change and its detrimental effect on the world’s oceans.

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