NORMANBY ISLAND, Papua New Guinea — Katharina Fabricius plunged from a dive boat into the Pacific Ocean of tomorrow.
A bleak portrait emerged: Instead of tiered jungles of branching, leafy corals, Fabricius saw mud, stubby spires and squat boulder corals. Snails and clams were mostly gone, as were worms, colorful sea squirts and ornate feather stars.
Instead of a brilliant coral reef like the one living a few hundred yards away, what the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences ecologist found resembled a slimy lake bottom. The cause: carbon dioxide.
In this volcanic region, pure CO2 escapes naturally through cracks in the ocean floor, altering the water’s chemistry the same way rising CO2 from cars and power plants is changing the marine world.
As a result, this isolated bay offers a chilling view of the future of the seas under ocean acidification.
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