Skip to comments.Immediate Action Needed To Save Corals From Climate Change
Posted on 12/14/2007 8:41:13 AM PST by cogitator
The journal Science has published a paper that is the most comprehensive review to date of the effects rising ocean temperatures are having on the world's coral reefs. The Carbon Crisis: Coral Reefs under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification, co-authored by seventeen marine scientists from seven different countries, reveals that most coral reefs will not survive the drastic increases in global temperatures and atmospheric CO2 unless governments act immediately to combat current trends.
The paper, the cover story for this week's issue of Science, paints a bleak picture of a future without all but the most resilient coral species if atmospheric CO2 levels continue on their current trajectory. Marine biodiversity, tourism and fishing industries and the food security of millions are at risk, the paper warns. Coral reef fisheries in Asia currently provide protein for one billion people and the total net economic value of services provided by corals is estimated to be $30 billion.
Dr. Bob Steneck, of the University of Maine and co-author of the paper, said the time was right for international leaders to commit to meaningful action to save the world's coral reefs: "The science speaks for itself. We have created conditions on Earth unlike anything most species alive today have experienced in their evolutionary history. Corals are feeling the effects of our actions and it is now or never if we want to safeguard these marine creatures and the livelihoods that depend on them."
Scientists have long thought that the effects of climate change and the resulting acidification of the oceans spells trouble for reefs. Coral skeletons are made of calcium, and reef development requires plenty of carbonate ions to build these skeletons, a process called calcification. When carbon dioxide is absorbed in the ocean, the pH level drops, along with the amount of carbonate ions, slowing the growth of coral reefs.
Atmospheric CO2 levels are currently at 380 parts per million (ppm) and the paper's authors, members of the Coral Reef Targeted Research and Capacity Building for Management Program (CRTR), calculate that once levels reach 560ppm, the calcification process could be reduced by up to 40 percent. Recent science also suggests that by 2100 the oceans will be so acidic that 70 percent of the habitat for deep-water corals, once considered relatively safe from the effects of climate change, will be uninhabitable.
Ocean acidification is just one example of the threats corals are facing. Bleaching, a process that is triggered when summer sea temperatures rise above normal for weeks at a time, causes corals to expel the algae that gives them their colour and nutrients. This phenomenon killed 16 percent of reef-building corals in 1997, according to the paper's authors. Destructive fishing methods, oil and gas exploration and pollution have also contributed to the global decline of coral reefs, with 20 percent already destroyed and another 50 percent threatened or verging on collapse in just the past few decades.
Consumer demand has also placed corals at risk. Popular products include coral jewelry, home decor items and live animals used in home aquaria. Corals grow so slowly it can take decades for them to recover, if at all. Catches of precious red corals, the most valuable of all coral species, provide a striking example of how demand for a fashion item can decimate a species. Red coral populations have plummeted 89 percent in the past two decades. Conscientious companies such as Tiffany and Co. removed real coral from their product lines over five years ago.
Fernanda Kellogg, president of The Tiffany and Co. Foundation, said, "Tiffany and Co. is committed to obtaining precious materials in ways that are socially and environmentally responsible. We decided to stop using real coral in our jewelry and feel that there are much better alternatives that celebrate the beauty of the ocean without destroying it."
Yet there is hope for corals and the life that depends on them. Scientists are calling for a reduction of carbon emissions to ensure corals' survival. It is also vitally important to reduce local pressures on corals such as overfishing, removal for consumer items, and pollution. If these local pressures are addresssed, coral populations will be stronger and will have a better chance of surviving climate change. Tiffany and Co. is forming new partnerships with fashion designers, scientists and conservation organizations to raise awareness of the urgent need for coral conservation.
Dawn M. Martin, president of SeaWeb, said, "Corals belong in the ocean, not in our homes or in our jewelry boxes. Consumers and the fashion industry can play an important role in the ocean's recovery by simply avoiding purchases of red and other corals. These jewels of the sea are simply too precious to wear."
In 2008, scientists, conservationists and governments will mobilize around the world to celebrate the International Year of the Reef (IYOR), a worldwide initiative to raise awareness of the importance of corals and coral reefs. The 11th International Coral Reef Symposium will be held July 7-11, 2008, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Over 2,500 attendees from academic, government and conservation organizations are expected to attend to discuss the latest coral science and its implications for the survival of these international treasures.
The extraordinary thing is that people can actually say stuff like this with a straight face.
Read Creichton’s “State of Fear” if you want to find out about the environazi’s tactics. This is right out of that book.
What’s a mutha to do?
If they’re that fragile then who needs them.
CO2! Wow, lets all hold our breath until we die.
So how exactly do we save the coral reefs from the natural cycle of warming that follows the previous cycle of cooling? What is their plan to stop the Earth from recovering from the last Ice Age?
How arrogant to think that in the four billion year history of this planet, with its wide range of high and low temperatures, the Earth’s natural, optimal temperature just happens to be the one they’re experiencing right now...and that they are powerful enough to change it by simply using different light bulbs.
Sounds like something out of a Cheech and Chong movie LOL. I'm about to start tearing up from laughter. I can't take this.
I didn't realize that. So you think that the coral reefs are actually in great shape?
That was over 10,000 years ago. Holocene temperatures have been very stable.
What is their plan to stop the Earth from recovering from the last Ice Age?
The last vestiges of the LIA may have persisted into the early 1900s.
And temperatures are one thing; corals are also imperiled by ocean acidification.
These whacks really need to get it all on the same page. I was watching (Well, it was on) a show on Discovery/History/TLC about the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. On the one hand it was all about Global Warming(TM) and how it was affecting the reef, but they failed to stop the mention of the last Ice Age, where sea levels were down 300+ feet and the reef was completely out of the water and DEAD.
Of course, when the levels rose to today's levels the currents brought in more animals to populate the reef and SURPRIZE! It was back again.
Gone yesterday, here today, gone tomorrow? So what? Nature has it's ways and we aren't separate from them we are part of them.
“So how exactly do we save the coral reefs from the natural cycle of warming that follows the previous cycle of cooling?”
i’m currently looking for a project and would like to volunteer myself to investigate this tropical disaster. all i humbly ask is my expenses to be paid as my per diem.
thank you in advance.
So, is it your contention that this supposed ocean acidification is the Fault of Man? That somehow, since it is All Our Fault, that we will be able to stop the process?
Like anything alive today would REMEMBER what they have experienced in their evolutionary history!!
It's not a contention, it's a fact.
Symbiodinium D: Coral's All-Purpose Clade for Coping with Stress
Lien, Y.-T., Nakano, Y., Plathong, S., Fukami, H., Wang, J.-T. and Chen, C.A. 2007. Occurrence of the putatively heat-tolerant Symbiodinium phylotype D in high-latitudinal outlying coral communities. Coral Reefs 26: 35-44.
What was done
The authors examined the symbiont diversity in a scleractinian coral, Oulastrea crispata, throughout its entire latitudinal distribution range in the West Pacific, i.e., from tropical peninsular Thailand (<10°N) to high-latitudinal outlying coral communities in Japan (>35°N), using "polymerase chain reactions (PCR), restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), and phylogenetic analyses of DNA sequences of the nuclear large subunit (lsu) of rDNA," while "single-stranded conformational polymorphism (SSCP) of PCR products was employed to assess its higher sensitivity for low-abundance PCR products in mixed samples."
What was learned
The results of this enterprise convincingly demonstrated, "for the first time," in the words of the six scientists who conducted the study, "that phylotype D is the dominant Symbiodinium in scleractinian corals throughout tropical reefs and marginal outlying non-reefal coral communities." In addition, they learned that this particular symbiont clade "favors 'marginal habitats' where other symbionts are poorly suited to the stresses, such as irradiance, temperature fluctuations, sedimentation, etc."
What it means
Being a major component of the symbiont repertoire of most scleractinian corals in most places, the apparent near-universal presence of Symbiodinium phylotype D provides, according to Lien et al., "a flexible means for corals to routinely cope [our italics] with environmental heterogeneities and survive the consequences (e.g., recover from coral bleaching)," which suggests that the climate-alarmist claim of the impending demise of the majority of earth's corals in the face of continued global warming may be little more than a fairy tale from the dark side.</p> Reviewed 12 September 2007
“....and that they are powerful enough to change it by simply using different light bulbs.”
Cow farts...it’s all in the cow farts I tell ya.
“It’s not a contention, it’s a fact.”
To clarify; the critiques of the IPCC report do not address the fact of ocean acidification. The IPCC is more concerned about climate change and global temperature. If the report mentions ocean acidification at all, it’s only peripherally.
O.K. Thanks for confirming that you have drank deeply from the Global Warming Kool-Aid.
I look forward to your zotting.
What is a chemical buffer?
Isn’t the Great Reef something like 500,000 years old.
I read another study that said that farm runoff was responsible for the death of the coral beds.
If you have visited coral reefs over the years you cannot help but notice the deterioration. I have my doubts about the relative vulnerability of reefs to slight temperature or acidity variations. I suspect the combination of nitrogen runoff pollution that creates algae carpets to grow over the reefs and overfishing of the species that normally keep algae at bay is the major factor. Coral reefs need nutrient-poor seas or they get outcompeted by algae. We need to stop dumping fertilizer into the oceans.
You can start by using the 300 acres of old coral reef in my back yard, at 4,000’ elevation.
Corals are some of the oldest critters still around, despite multi-hundred foot fluctuations of sea level; several degrees fluctuation up & down of sea temperatures, and MUCH HIGHER CO^2 concentrations during some eras.
Not only do the enviroes try to maintain that our climate is “optimum” and should be stabilized; they say the same about cliff erosion, beach formation; barrier islands, and every other aspect of nature that is in a constant state of flux and change.
They are worshipers of Darwinian evolution, but expect it to stop, now that it has reached the highest state of creation: THEM, and their pet areas.
Some of us Freepers have saltwater aquariums with coral in our homes. We know how difficult it can be to provide the right conditions for their health and growth.
Algae is the one thing that almost destroyed my corals and it has been a constant battle. Keeping a nutrient-poor environment for the corals is rather difficult, when you are also trying to maintain a healthy fish population.
Salt is a chemical buffer, so minor variations of acidity is not possible with seawater.
Locally man made ocean acidification is possible but if you consider the amount of ocean water (about 3.612 x 10²º gallons of sea water in the ocean)then I am no scientist but I strongly suspect the amount of man made carbon dioxide needed to change the ocean is way above what is currently being produced.
There should be a chemist on Free Republic who can do the calculations.
What is lime? Is that not the deposits from an ocean?
Amazing how lime will neutralize acidity.
Someone needs to review their high school chemistry.
Please review "buffers" and "weak acids"
“So how exactly do we save the coral reefs from the natural cycle of warming that follows the previous cycle of cooling? What is their plan to stop the Earth from recovering from the last Ice Age?
How arrogant to think that in the four billion year history of this planet, with its wide range of high and low temperatures, the Earths natural, optimal temperature just happens to be the one theyre experiencing right now...and that they are powerful enough to change it by simply using different light bulbs.”
Ding ! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!
Your post is right on! Excellent points!
They survived the last global warming “crises” didn’t they?
Wow, that video is amazing!
So you can actually mine the coral deposits? Are any hard enough to be the kind that they are decrying a loss in the Jewelry industry? The colors that can be polished up?
SD as in South Dakota, Yes? Guess the Indians got the coral from somewhere other than the South Pacific. Sounds like you have some interesting resources. Enjoy!
No. The Oceans are saturated and always have been.
It is rather well done. Share this with as many people as you can. We've got to enlighten people who are being constantly propagandized by the media. Global warming/climate change is a complete scam with no scientific basis! It is being used by politicians and UN bureaucrats to fill their coffers with our money.
In a buffered system, the constituents of the system respond to changes in pH induced by addition of acid or base by altering their concentration to establish new equilibrium concentrations which result in only a small change in pH.
(Off the top of my head.)
Increased pH makes calcification more difficult for calcareous organisms.
Now, can you explain how a very weak acid will react in a buffered solution?
With my own personal coral reef, I must measure the quality of the water on a daily basis. For example, as the water evaporates, the salinity will increase. The pH of the saltwater is one thing that I never worry about.
In my living room, I have a two aquariums.
One is 90 gallons, and the other is 55 gallons. In the basement, I have another 300 gallons of saltwater that is constantly being circulated to the aquariums in my living room.
Maintaining a healthy fish population, while keeping my corals alive, has always been a challenge.
But have I ever worried about a change in pH, because of the CO2 from my breathing? You have got to be joking!
The pH of my saltwater aquariums is the one thing that does not change.
In this book Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1,500 Years, S. Fred Singer notes that the corals have a technique to survive climate change. They 'bleach'. That is, they eject their current algae buddies, and then accept a different algae species more suited to the changed temperature. The bleached state is short lived.
Considering how the corals survived the warm of the dinosaur periods and the various Ice Ages, they must be tougher than they appear to these scientists.
My guess is that any given coral colony might not survive a change in temp or sea level, but their offspring will simply colonize other more suitable spots. Since the sea level has risen 400 feet since the ice age, none of the current coral sites can be over 10,000 years old anyway, since coral doesn't grow too far below the surface.
When hurricane Wilma sat over Cozumel for almost a week, everything was destroyed. My wife and I went diving there the following month.
All the the coral was covered with sand. Nothing was the same, and we feared that this coral reef had been destroyed.
Instead, everything was healthy, and if anything, this hurricane improved the conditions of life on the coral reef. The coral was nice and healthy, and we observed more "baby" fish than we had ever seen before.
Nature is absolutely amazing, if you simply stop and watch how it actually operates.
Cousteau took to complaining about the quality of the favorite SCUBA diving areas before he retired. Water murky, sea life dead and gone. Long before Global Warming.
I suggest immediate eradication of marine vertebrates and invertebrates.
The important change is to the pH of the surface ocean waters (down to about 200 meters or so); this is a lot less volume than that of the entire ocean.
You could peruse this:
If you're talking about natural changes, the time rate of change is a very important factor. Organisms can and do adapt, up to a point; it is more difficult for organisms to adapt to rapid change than slow change.
Rapid climate change is more difficult to adapt to than slow climate change. The current climate trends are quite rapid.
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