Underwater ‘rainforests’, world warming and more – on water

These water stories have my attention right now…

  • Killer floods and landslides in eastern Sri Lanka where more than 360,000 people fled their homes…more
  • Massive crop losses and 70 deaths in South African flooding since December, with eight out of nine provinces declared disaster zones…more
  • A story on climate…it’s official apparently – 2010 was the wettest year on record, and it was one of the warmest tooequal with 2005
  • Brazil is in the news still, with disastrous floods and landslides killing more than 700 and displacing many since January 11, north east of Brazil’s capital Rio. …more
  • With Australia’s still unfolding flood crisis affecting Tasmania and Victoria, in addition to Queensland and parts of NSW, water and climate stories threaten to eclipse other news
  • As I edit this, Tutong District in Brunei Darussalam (on the island of Borneo, S.E Asia – pop. 400,000) is under more than their fair share of water, and rain warnings are out for parts of NZ (see link below). After the golden weather we’ve had, flooding is all the more likely, with the dry earth sometimes as hard as concrete.

In 2010, snowstorms shattered seasonal statistics across the USA and Europe; a scorching summer heatwave broke records in Russia; floods forced people from their homes in Pakistan, Australia, and a number of US states; and Thailand experienced a widespread wipe-out of its coral reefs – what records can we expect in 2011? We’ve chalked up a couple already…

One more water story – some (potentially) good news about saving the coral reefs…thanks to Todayonline and the Guardian for this…

TODAYonline | Science | Saving the rainforests of the sea

05:55 AM Jan 15, 2011

LONDON – Conservationists have unveiled plans to preserve and protect the world’s most important species of coral, in a response to increasing threats that they say will lead to “functional extinction” within decades.

Led by scientists at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the Edge Coral Reefs project has identified 10 coral species in most urgent risk of becoming extinct.

The scientists say that reefs are under pressure from a variety of threats including rising sea temperatures due to climate change, increased acidity, overfishing and pollution.

The Edge plan, which focusses on the most evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered species, will take a regional approach to conservation.

Unbleached and bleached coral.

Image via Wikipedia

This means focussing on the “coral triangle” around the Philippines, the west Indian ocean around the Mozambique channel, and in the Caribbean channel.

“Coral reefs are threatened with functional extinction in the next 20 to 50 years, due predominantly to global climate change,” said Ms Catherine Head, coordinator of the reef project.

“In these regions, we’ll be supporting and training in-country conservationists to carry out research and implement targeted conservation actions.”

Coral reefs are the planet’s most diverse marine ecosystem – known as the rainforests of the oceans. Despite taking up under 0.2 per cent of the ocean floor, they harbour up to a third of all marine life.

Climate change, which leads to rising sea temperatures, causes corals to bleach. “Bleaching occurs when sea temperatures rise and this causes the coral tissue to expel their symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae – these are what give the coral their colour,” said Ms Head. “2010 seems set to have been one of the worst years for coral bleaching. There have been reports on the coast of Indonesia of up to 100-per-cent bleaching of many coral colonies. In 1998, 16 per cent of the global coral reefs were killed through bleaching.

While it is bleached, a coral cannot photosynthesise and it is, in effect, not feeding. There is a limited period of time, around a few months, where the coral needs to reacquire zooxanthellae or else it will die. “Bleached reefs take several years to recover from that sort of insult. As bleaching events get closer together, the potential for mortality increases.”

Among the 10 species chosen to start the Edge project are the pearl bubble coral (Physogyra lichtensteini), a food source for the hawksbill turtle, and the mushroom coral (Heliofungia actiniformis) – which supports at least 15 brightly coloured shrimp including the popcorn shrimp (Periclimenes kororensis).

Thanks to enjoy.org for this image

Part of the solution in the future will be to designate more of the ocean as marine protected areas, said the conservationists.

Until then, the focus will remain on increasing the resilience of reefs to environmental change.

“That means trying to reduce overfishing and pollution pressures,” said Ms Rachel Jones, a keeper at the London Zoo aquarium. She added: “The environment is changing faster now than it ever has done before. Corals have evolved to live within a very specific set of parameters. They’re right at the interface between air and sea and it’s a very difficult environment to live in. But they’ve evolved to live there as long as those parameters are steady. At the moment those parameters are shifting in a way that the corals just can’t keep up with.” THE GUARDIAN  –  END

About robynmmoore

Anything to do with people and the environment and I'm interested! I have been writing and commenting about education, the environment and other community-related matters since 2006. I'm a compulsive researcher. In 2009, I finished a thesis on Kapiti's water issues and am still researching outcomes there. This website and the work I do as a trustee for the Whitireia Foundation are part of my aspiration to contribute to 'shaping more sustainable communities'...also the title of my thesis. Look it up - it's free at www.j.co.nz.
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1 Response to Underwater ‘rainforests’, world warming and more – on water

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