Friday, July 11, 2008

Coral Reefs: the threats continue to grow

The week-long International Coral Reef Symposium, being held in Fort Lauderdale, FL, wraps up today having brought together nearly 3,000 scientists to discuss issues and possible solutions to address the ongoing degradation of our coral reef ecosystems. Many of the results and discussions are making their way into scientific journals and newspapers worldwide.

You have all probably heard about how corals reefs have been negatively impacted by pollution, climate change, and the souvenir trade from the Caribbean to the South Pacific. The latest worldwide assessment of over 700 species shows 32.8% threatened with extinction, with a capital E. With the loss of these reefs, the inevitable domino effect follows with the loss of fish and other animal life - which carries an economic impact on tourism and subsistence fisherman in many of these tropical locales.

When I do underwater presentations as a volunteer diver at the Aquarium of the Pacific back home in Southern California, I try to impress upon the audience the importance of these marine ecosystems even though they may be thousands of miles away - they can never be "out of sight, out of mind."
  • Non-biodegradable trash (plastic bags, styrofoam, etc.) and chemicals (oil, fertilizers) originating from the California coast, can travel thousands of miles to tropical locales.
  • Carbon emissions and its subsequent effect on temperatures impact the coral in a variety of ways, from disrupting the symbiotic relationship of internally-stored zooxanthellae (single-celled algae) to an increase in external algae and bacteria that crowds out or kills coral species.
  • Conversely, the loss of faraway coral reefs effects the chemical balance of the seas and the exchange of chemicals between sea and air, which in turn can affect temperature gradients, currents, and winds - all of which can impact us worldwide.
Just another example of all we're all connected - land, sea and air - from coral to humans, we're all part of Nature. Here's some links to learn more about what you can do: NOAA,

No comments: