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Corals Are The Sad Story That Can Change The World

Corals Are The Sad Story That Can Change The World

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Experts say we need to care about climate change. The ongoing coral carnage may be what makes it real.

In the case of global climate change, convincing the world that time is of the essence has been no easy task for the scientific community.

A snorkeler swims over a dead coral reef in May after a bleaching event. (Photo by: XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY.)

A snorkeler swims over a dead coral reef in May after a bleaching event.
(Photo by: XL CATLIN SEAVIEW SURVEY.)

Coral reefs, however, which have been devastated by the “longest and most widespread“ bleaching event on record, are telling a story that may shine a global spotlight on the the seriousness of the threat.

“There is something akin to a train crash about to occur,” Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a coral reef expert and director of Australia’s Global Change Institute, told scientists gathered Tuesday at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu.

Corals — often described as the “canaries“ of ocean ecosystems — are perfect for “turning up the heat” about the larger issue, Hoegh-Guldberg said.

“They’re important, they’re beautiful and they’re visually impacted by climate change,” Hoegh-Guldberg said. “It’s that storyline that’s so important, I think, that you can take out there and change the world.”

Hoegh-Guldberg was one of several who spoke during a town hall meeting organized by the International Society for Reef Studies as part of the week-long symposium. In addition to discussing the impact of climate change and coral bleaching on reef ecosystems, panelists brainstormed ways to better reach both the public and policymakers.

Earlier this month, researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that the world’s coral reefs, many of which are already dead and dying, would likely experience a third straight year of bleaching.

Coral bleaching is a phenomenon in which stressed corals expel algae and turn white, often as a result of warming ocean temperatures. If not given time to recover, bleached corals can perish.

In a particularly devastating example, scientists said last month that bleaching killed more than a third of corals in parts of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Mark Eakin, coordinator of NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch, said Tuesday that images of dead and dying corals around Australia’s Lizard Island are “so, so sobering.” Many reports this year, he said, have caused him to literally walk away from his computer.

“We’re seeing complete changes to ecosystems,” Eakin said, adding the devastation is beyond what scientists thought was possible.

“If we’re losing over half of the corals in some of the best-protected places, and these events are becoming more frequent and severe, what does the future hold for coral reefs?” Eakin asked.

(Read the full article from The Huffington Post.)

Avatar of Coral Triangle Written by Coral Triangle

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