A coral reef represents the net accumulation of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) produced by corals and other calcifying organisms. If calcification declines, then reef-building capacity also declines. Coral reef calcification depends on the saturation state of the carbonate mineral aragonite of surface waters. By the middle of the next century, an increased concentration of carbon dioxide will decrease the aragonite saturation state in the tropics by 30 percent and biogenic aragonite precipitation by 14 to 30 percent. Coral reefs are particularly threatened, because reef-building organisms secrete metastable forms of CaCO3, but the biogeochemical consequences on other calcifying marine ecosystems may be equally severe.
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Geochemical consequences of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on coral reefs