A year-long test of how corals react to more acidic ocean conditions has found that they are unable to adapt.

The study led by The University of Western Australia has found the future of the world’s coral reefs is under threat from ocean acidification, as many corals will be unable to adapt to the conditions.

Researchers examined four species of coral and two types of calcifying algae in a year-long test.

“We found that corals and coralline algae weren’t able to acclimatise to ocean acidification,” said co-author Professor Malcolm McCulloch, ARC Laureate Fellow from UWA’s Oceans.

“The effects of ocean acidification on the calcifying fluid were rapid and persisted after one year in the experimental conditions.

“Two coral species that were resistant to ocean acidification were resistant from the start while the two sensitive ones were affected from the start and were not able to acclimatise.

“The two species resistant to ocean acidification used different mechanisms to alleviate the effects of ocean acidification.”

Lead author Dr Steeve Comeau said the results validated previous research that found coral reefs were under threat from ocean acidification.

“The results also confirm that ocean acidification could have repercussions on the competition between species which could in turn affect the ecological function of reefs,” Dr Comeau said.

The full report is accessible here.