I have a super-earth world. The surface of the world is shallower due to extra gravity, so shorter mountain ranges and less ocean depths. The world orbits a binary star system at a distance of the furthest region of the habitable zone, both of the stars having masses of 0.93x that of our suns. The world is highly volcanic, approximately 15 to 16 times more volcanic than our planet. The lithosphere is 4x richer in calcium, magnesium and has much more other minerals than present on earth that is very useful for marine life such as boron and strontium.

Surface gravity: 1.35x of Earths.

Atmosphere thickness: 10x of Earths (a result of it being highly volcanic in comparison to earth.)

Atmospheric composition: Nitrogen 78%, 15% Oxygen, 5% Carbon dioxide, 2% Trace gases.

Temperature: rather hot, the tropical regions being 90 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. (based on what I've tested on Universe Sandbox 2)

Land coverage: 75% water, and 25% land (but less water being present on this world as the oceans oceans are shallower mostly due to a lot of island formations)

Radius: 7750 kilometers

Day/Night length/full rotation: 28 hours.

Axial tilt: 53 degrees.

Orbital period: 1.15 years

Eccentricity: 0.025

How could you make it possible for coral reefs to thrive in such a world based on the fact carbon dioxide makes the oceans acidify?

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    $\begingroup$ You can edit your question as much as you want (as long as the edit does not invalidate existing answers). Also, we advise to wait at least 24 hours before accepting an answer. Solved questions attract less attention, and our good members are spread all around the 24 time zones, so it might be worth giving them time to contribute. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jul 23, 2018 at 7:52
  • $\begingroup$ By the way, sorry for seeming a bit hostile previously, just a bit of anger issues L. Dutch $\endgroup$
    – Neuryte
    Jul 23, 2018 at 8:11
  • $\begingroup$ Am I missing something obvious regarding why gravity would cause the oceans to be shallower? I would think that sort of thing just depends on where you are in terms of tectonic plate activity. Doesn't seem like it would affect the answer to this question, but maybe something to think about. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2018 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @user3390629 Given the higher gravity, there's going to be less difference between the highest point of the planet's crust and the lowest (i.e. the rocky surface will be more uniform). Thus, to have a similar percentage of dry land to the Earth (25% dry land vs. the Earth, which is 29%), the overall depth of the ocean will be shallower. $\endgroup$
    – Makyen
    Jul 23, 2018 at 16:55
  • $\begingroup$ Shallower oceans are beneficial because they allow for more light to penetrate into the ocean floor, which is essential for coral reefs. Although you can have deep sea coral reefs I assume... Similar to that of Subnautica, I'm not quite sure. $\endgroup$
    – Neuryte
    Jul 23, 2018 at 18:40

2 Answers 2


So, let’s be clear about the ocean acidification problem here: it’s happening really fast. As in, we’ve dropped the ocean’s pH by ~.1 pH units in the last 200 years, which is about a 30% increase in H+ ions because logarithms. That’s incredibly fast on both geologic and evolutionary timescales.

Corals are dying because they’re having a hard time making calcium carbonate (CaCO3) shells/structures. That’s harder in an acidic environment because calcium carbonate is composed of calcium and carbonate, and there’s less carbonate in an acidic ocean because more of it is in the form of carbonic acid instead. You’ve actually taken the first step toward solving this problem by increasing the calcium reservoir of your planet - that alone will mitigate some effects.

However, barring any recent and dramatic atmospheric changes, your corals will already be capable of handling the atmosphere. There are some species of coral in the real world that are more acid-resistant, but on an evolutionary timescale they’re spending energy on overly-efficient enzymes to catalyze carbonate precipitation, and are largely outcompeted by less energy-intensive varieties. In your world, however, they’ll already have been selected for and will survive quite happily in the 5% CO2 atmosphere.

An especially rainy world might have some additionally helpful effects on the health of corals, but all major influences would be limited to inland seas or areas very close to river inputs. Elsewhere, the solubility pump will work to offgas additional CO2 from the river inputs.

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    $\begingroup$ Happy to help! Btw, it’s usually a good idea to wait ~24 hours before accepting an answer. A better marine geochemist than I might be asleep somewhere in the world right now and could provide a better answer. $\endgroup$
    – Dubukay
    Jul 23, 2018 at 7:36
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    $\begingroup$ 5% CO2 would make acidic seas on earth, but these seas will be 10x more acidic than would be the case on earth because atmospheric pressure is 10x. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jul 23, 2018 at 12:17

I can think of two options:

If you want to keep lime based coral you need a higher "calcium flux", the calcium cycle on your world needs to be accelerated. This will make more calcium carbonate available to the oceans, some of that will offset the acidity from dissolving carbon dioxide but most of it will be taken up by biological processes. To do this you need to accelerate the carbonate rock cycle of the world. Luckily your atmosphere is already highly acidified due to abundant atmospheric carbon which will dissolve in rainwater to form carbonic acid; that will accelerate chemical erosion of the land and rocks of the continents. To balance that you need more geological activity, uplifting of existing coastlines and reefs above sea level and subduction of calcium rich sediments for volcanic recycling.

Alternatively you could change the chemistry a little, diatoms are a subset of oceanic plankton that use silica instead of calcium carbonate to make their hard shells, if you were to apply a similar mechanism to coral formation then far from being an issue the acidity of the ocean becomes an advantage as it will mobilise more silicon for biological uptake. Rather than limestone reefs and reef deposits now resemble quartzite.

  • $\begingroup$ Can I apply having calcium carbonate and silica hybrid corals as well? $\endgroup$
    – Neuryte
    Jul 23, 2018 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Neuryte Maybe but I'm sure what the chemistry of that looks like that, Silicon and Calcium are very different elements in terms of their physical properties, their reaction patheways, even their physical size and how they fit within a crystal lattice is an issue to combining them in a coralline structure. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jul 23, 2018 at 18:44
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm... What about possibly including boron? 4 percent of the crust is Boron on this world $\endgroup$
    – Neuryte
    Jul 23, 2018 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Neuryte Borosilicates are already a thing, there's no reason they couldn't be deposited organically. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jul 23, 2018 at 18:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Neuryte Have a look at Glass Sponges for a possible visual reference. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jul 23, 2018 at 18:56

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