On track for the second worst coral bleaching on record

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 08 December 2010

The once-vibrant coral reef shielding these sun-soaked beaches from the wrath of the sea is withering away under the stress of pollution and warmer water.

Coral bleaching - a “hideous” sight for veteran scuba divers

It’s not likely to get much help from world governments meeting in Cancun for talks on a new climate pact. Their so-far elusive goal to limit global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 F) is too little too late, says coral expert Roberto Iglesias.

“That represents the end of the coral reefs in the world,” says the Mexican scientist, who works at a marine research station in Puerto Morelos, about 20 kilometres south of the beach resort hosting the annual UN climate conference.

Coral reefs are like underwater jungles that host 25 percent of marine species and provide food and income to hundreds of millions of people, mostly in the developing world. They also serve as shock absorbers to storm surges whipped up by hurricanes.

But many reefs, including the one off this hotel-packed coastline, have been damaged by water pollution and overfishing, leaving them vulnerable to a warming ocean that “bleaches” corals and sometimes kills them, Iglesias said.

This year, preliminary reports show global coral bleaching reached its worst level since 1998, when 16 percent of the world’s reefs were killed off, said Mark Eakin, a coral reef specialist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Clearly, we are on track for this to be the second worst (bleaching) on record,” he said. “All we’re waiting on now is the body count.” Continue reading

Bleaching devastates coral populations

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 21 August 2010

A dramatic rise in the surface temperature of Indonesian waters has resulted in a large-scale bleaching event that has devastated local coral populations. Following a report of a bleaching incident in May, WCS-Indonesia dispatched a “Rapid Response Unit” of marine biologists to investigate. Their initial survey revealed that over 60 percent of corals have bleached. The incident took place in the province of Aceh, on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra.

Coral bleaching

Coral “bleaching,” or whitening, occurs when algae living within coral tissues are expelled. The condition results from stress triggered by environmental factors such as sea surface temperature fluctuations. Some bleached corals may recover over time, while others die.

Subsequent monitoring conducted by marine ecologists from WCS, James Cook University in Australia, and Syiah Kuala University in Indonesia were completed in early August. The rate and extent of the coral mortality exceeds that of most other bleachings on record. The scientists found that 80 percent of some species have died since the initial assessment and more colonies are expected to die within the next few months.

Sea surface temperatures in the Andaman Sea—an area that includes the coasts of Myanmar, Thailand, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and northwestern Indonesia—have been on the rise. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Hotspots website, temperatures in the region peaked in late May, when the temperature reached 34 degrees Celsius. This represents a dramatic 4-degree rise over the long-term averages for the area.

“It’s a disappointing development, particularly in light of the fact that these same corals proved resilient to other disruptions to this ecosystem, including the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004,” said WCS-Indonesia Marine Program Director Dr. Stuart Campbell. Continue reading

World’s plants and animals at risk of collapse

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 11 May 2010

Far too many of the world’s plants and animals — and the wild places that support them — are at risk of collapse, a U.N. report finds, despite a global goal set in 2002 for major improvement by this year.

Frogs and other amphibians are most at risk of extinction.

Frogs and other amphibians are most at risk of extinction, coral reefs are the species deteriorating most rapidly and the survival of nearly a quarter of all plant species is threatened, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity said Monday in a report issued every four years.

The outlook on the planet’s ecological diversity and health is produced under a 1993 treaty since joined by most of the world’s nations. It says the planet is falling short of its goal to achieve by this year “a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national levels.”

Pollution, climate change, drought, deforestation, illegal poaching and overfishing are among the many culprits named.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns in the report that the consequences of “this collective failure” will be severe for everyone on the planet if it is not quickly corrected.

“We must give it higher priority in all areas of decision-making and in all economic sectors,” he says. “Conserving biodiversity cannot be an afterthought once other objectives are addressed — it is the foundation on which many of these objectives are built.”

The U.N. had declared 2010 would be the “International Year of Biodiversity,” seeking to raise awareness.

But the report provides extremely dire projections of the state of biodiversity globally, such as the loss of huge areas of the Amazon rainforest and many fresh water lakes. Continue reading