Some good news for coral reefs within U.S. territorial waters: the National Marine Fisheries Services (NMFS) will spend the next year conducting an evaluation on the status of 82 different coral species in light of data presented by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). The review will determine the current health of the various corals in Florida, Hawaii, and other island territories. By doing so, the NMFS can ascertain whether any coral species warrant threatened or endangered status under the Endangered Species Act, similar to elkhorn and staghorn coral which are currently listed as threatened.
Corals are the building blocks of tropical reefs but exist within a narrow band of environmental factors. Changes in water temperature, ocean acidification, pollution from commercial development - any one of these can lead to a degradation of the reef, often through a process called "coral bleaching." Unhealthy or dead reefs can be torn down by wave action, and this can have a serious effect on coastline or island erosion - not to mention the disruption to tropical reef ecosystems when corals that provide shelter and food for a variety of aquatic species disappears.
"The status review is an important step forward in protecting coral reefs, which scientists have warned may be the first worldwide ecosystem to collapse due to global warming," said Miyoko Sakashita, lawyer for CBD.
Read Washington Post article.