Warmer ocean waters and changing ocean chemistry are harming coral reefs and preventing some animals from forming shells.
What's going on here? Corals build rocky skeletons from calcium and carbonate, chemicals found naturally in the ocean. But when oceans become more acidic, acid soaks up the loose carbonate. With less of that critical building block, it's much harder for corals to form a reef.
More acidic oceans may also affect tiny, free-swimming shelled animals—called pteropods or "sea butterflies." If pteropods disappear, animals that rely on them—everything from small schooling fishes to commercially important species like Pacific salmon—will be affected in ways no one can predict.
Can corals, pteropods and other sea life survive? Maybe, if we give them time to adjust. Animals must adapt to this new ocean chemistry, and that'll be easier for some than for others. If we slow down ocean changes now, we can give ocean species a chance to survive.