Year 3, Month 4, Day 25: Nothin’s Gonna Bother Me Atoll…

The Wyndham Weekly (Austrialia) writes about a newly released study that suggests coral may have a hope in hell after all:

Rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change are unlikely to mean the end of the coral on the Great Barrier Reef, according to a new scientific study.

The Cell Press journal Current Biology this morning published what it says is the first large-scale investigation of climate effects on corals and found while some corals were dying, others were flourishing and adapting to the change in water temperatures.

For the study researchers identified and measured more than 35,000 coral colonies on 33 reefs across the length of the Great Barrier Reef to see how they were responding to warming ocean waters.

In results they have described as ‘‘surprising’’ the study found while one species declined in abundance, other species could rise in number.

One of the researchers, Professor Terry Hughes from James Cook University, said while critical issues remained he now believed rising temperatures were unlikely to mean the end of the coral reef.

‘‘The good news is that, rather than experiencing wholesale destruction, many coral reefs will survive climate change by changing the mix of coral species as the ocean warms and becomes more acidic,’’ he said.

‘‘That’s important for people who rely on the rich and beautiful coral reefs of today for food, tourism, and other livelihoods.’’

He said earlier studies of climate change and corals had been done on a much smaller geographical scale, with a primary focus on total coral cover or counts of species as rather crude indicators of reef health.

The problem with good news… Sent April 15:

While a recently released study on coral reefs’ potential for survival in a climate-transformed world reassuringly suggests that oceanic acidification and global warming may not mean extinction, it should prompt us all to work harder on controlling and reducing the planetary greenhouse effect. Gigantic coral colonies like the Great Barrier Reef may well continue living even as their ability to form structures is compromised by higher pH seawater — but this good news cannot be our civilization’s newest excuse for inaction.

Just as the long-term health and prosperity of coral reefs is compromised by climate change, humanity will find its long-term health and prosperity to be surprisingly vulnerable. While we clever apes will surely figure out ways to go on living, our species faces significant dangers from the rapidly emerging effects of the past century’s worth of atmospherized carbon. In the long run, perhaps we are all coral.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 6: Deep Blue Sea, Baby, Deep Blue Sea…

Last week’s Time Magazine had an article about Sylvia Earle, who’s trying to establish marine reserves — internationally protected parts of the ocean. It’s worth a read; she’s clearly one of the good guys. While it’s a little late now that the new issue of Time is out, I thought I’d write and cheer her on a bit.

Sylvia Earle’s proposal for Marine Protected Areas is essential. Whether our rationale for attempting to restore the health of our oceans is aesthetic (because a living sea is beautiful), moral (because it is wrong to use the ocean as a dump) or practical (because if the phytoplankton that provide much of our oxygen die, so will we), it makes sense to establish a precedent: this part of humanity’s common property is inviolate. Indeed, if we are really interested in our own long-term survival, it’s clear that Mission Blue’s plans don’t go far enough. It’s not just that we need to stop treating the oceans as supermarkets and sewers — we must recognize that an economic system which rewards environmental destruction and exploitation will bring severe and tragic consequences, not only for our species, but for all the others with whom we share our planet.

Warren Senders