Overfishing, developing and pollution have all contributed to the reefs deterioration, but climate change is its biggest threat. UN targets must be met to stop ocean acidification
The great Florida coral reef system stretches hundreds of miles down the eastern seaboard of the US. It is the world’s third largest, and nearly 1,400 species of plants and animals and 500 species of fish have been recorded there.
But last year marine scientists procured almost half the reef was missing. They took the most recent satellite images, compared them with precisely described 250 -year-old British admiralty charts and found them nearly identical.
But where the historic charts presented there had been extensive coral reef close to the coast in the 1760 s, the satellite maps disclosed simply sea grasses and mud. Merely those reefs far from the coast were still intact and alive with fish and plants.
So when and why did so much of the world’s third largest reef system only disappear?
Natural forces like spells of extreme rainfall and heatwaves may have played some portion, but it is more likely that human was responsible.
In those 250 years, fishing off the Florida Keys intensified, causeways and cities were built, pollution increased and the flow of freshwater, sediments and nutrients from the land all changed. Any of these factors could have led to the stress and decline of the reef, but it probably took a combination to kill off half the corals.
Something similar to what took place over 250 years off the Florida coast is now accelerating across reefs around the world as natural and new anthropogenic threats emerge and blend with deadly effect.
Corals are intolerant both of temperature and salinity change and it just takes a rise of 1C for a few weeks or extreme rainfall for them to begin to die. In the past 20 years, extreme climate links between El Nino events and climate change has hit the world’s shallow reefs hard.
Abnormally warm water caused the world’s first recorded widespread coral bleaching in 1998. Stretchings of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, and other reefs off Madagascar, Belize and the Maldives, were left white and seemingly dead.
Most recovered because corals survive if conditions return to normal. But since then, widespread bleaching and other events have occurred nearly every year, leaving many of the world’s reefs stressed and vulnerable to cancer.
Over 20 years the trend of deterioration and loss has been inexorable. In 2001, and again in 2005, even warmer oceans damaged many more reefs. From 2008 -1 1, extreme summer temperatures led to major flooding and pollution in Australia which badly damaged the Great Barrier Reef.
Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com