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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Deadly decline

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ECOLOGISTS have raised the bulletin board that coral around the world is turning white and even dying as recent record ocean heat takes a devastating toll.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this has triggered the fourth global mass coral bleaching event, which happens when coral gets stressed and turns white because the water it lives in is too hot.

Coral sustains ocean life, fishing, and creates trillions of dollars of revenue annually, according to scientists.

Ecologists say coral reefs provide countless benefits to our Ocean Planet, supporting over half a billion people with food, income, and protection.

Regardless of the contribution coral reefs make toward mitigating climate change, over 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 30 years, and up to 90 percent may die within the next century if immediate action is not taken

Some threats to coral reefs are natural, like diseases, predators, storms and a warming planet due to climate change.

But other threats are caused by human activity, including increased runoff and pollution, sedimentation, destructive fishing practices, and tourism.

Many of these threats can stress corals, leading to degradation, coral bleaching, and wide spread mortality of these delicate ecosystems.

Coral reefs occupy less than one per cent of the ocean floor, but they are home to more than 25 per cent of marine life.

NOAA has confirmed the mass stress in all oceans (the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean) after weeks of receiving reports from scientists.

The bleached coral can look beautiful in pictures but scientists that dive to examine the reefs say that up close the coral is clearly ill and decaying.

The first warning signs were in the Caribbean last year when bathers found the water off the coast of Florida as warm as a hot tub.

That heat moved into the southern hemisphere. It has now affected more than half the world’s coral including in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and in coastlines in Tanzania, Mauritius, Brazil, Pacific islands, as well as in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf.

Climate change is driving up sea surface temperatures as the warming gases emitted when we burn oil, coal and gas are absorbed by the oceans, according to scientists.

El Niño, a natural climate event, has also contributed to warmer temperatures since last June, though there are signs it is now weakening and may be over by end of this month.

At home, a recent national survey estimated the country lost 30 percent of its coral reefs with the decline of average live hard coral cover.

Research authorities have said the condition of Philippine coral reefs has been in constant and rapid decline, with a recent study showing 90 percent of our reefs are in poor to fair categories and none in excellent state.

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