SAN FRANCISCO, California -- The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) responded today to the release of a study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters that suggests it may be too late to save coral reefs. While CORAL—whose mission is to protect the world's coral reefs through ecosystem management, sustainable tourism, and community partnership—shares the researchers' concern that our reefs are in trouble, CORAL's Conservation Programs Director Rick MacPherson is less pessimistic.
Chemical oceanographers Long Cao and Ken Caldeira looked at the effect of global CO2 emissions on our oceans. As CO2 saturates in the ocean, the net effect is more acidic seawater and greater difficulty for corals to build and maintain their calcium-based exoskeletons. Caldeira said the affected reefs would not disappear straight away, but the change in water chemistry would leave them vulnerable to attack, bleaching, or disease. He further summarized that "the likelihood [coral reefs] will be able to persist is pretty small."
However, a consensus of the world's leading coral reef scientists at the recent International Coral Reef Symposium focused on possibilities rather than gloomy predictions. The scientific forum held every four years addressed not only the issue of acidification, but also the impacts that increased ocean temperatures and rising sea levels will have on reefs. "Those in attendance agreed that the demise of coral reefs is not a foregone conclusion," said MacPherson. "Though time is running out, building resilience through large networks of marine protected areas will be key in securing the future of coral reefs."
CORAL acknowledges that reefs are in for tough times as society grapples with the climate issue. Moreover, ongoing research is required to understand how climate will affect the complex processes that underlie reef ecosystems. "Our concern is the finality of the recent study," said Brian Huse, CORAL's Executive Director. "Cao and Caldeira have written the post mortem while the patient is still alive. There are currently a large number of conservation projects worldwide that get to the heart of building resilience to climate impacts—and many are already showing positive results."
CORAL is the only international organization working exclusively to save coral reefs. It builds grassroots partnerships among local communities, government leaders, marine recreation operators, and marine park managers to identify and solve conservation challenges through education, training, and effective management of marine protected areas. For more information, log on to www.coral.org.
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