News

US Agency Says Coral Reef Destruction is Slowing This Year

US Agency Says Coral Reef Destruction is Slowing This Year
US Agency Says Coral Reef Destruction is Slowing This Year
Zulima Palacio

There's some good news, for a change, in the latest climate forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  NOAA scientists say the world's threatened coral reefs, which for decades have been bleaching out and dying off because of climate-induced changes in ocean conditions, might be getting a respite this year.


For nearly three decades, marine scientists and environmentalists have been issuing distress calls about the rapid destruction of coral reefs around the world.  This time, predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration indicate that cooler water temperatures make it unlikely there will be any major bleaching events anywhere in the world this year.  Mark Eakin, who coordinates NOAA's Coral Reef Watch program said the new forcast shows that while "there is a little bit of stress, [it] is not too bad and the forecast for this year doesn’t look bad at all.”

Coral bleaching is caused by a variety of factors, such as excessive chemical nutrients, pesticides and other land-based pollutants washed into the sea by rivers.  Most of these factors affect coral in localized regions.  But the major cause of global bleaching events is warmer ocean temperatures, a direct effect of the climate change triggered by greenhouse gases and higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.  Warmer ocean waters can stress or kill coral communities.

Bleaching is easy to identify: the coral literally turn white.  Some of the coral could recover and regain their natural colors, but these are in critical condition and many will probably die.  

Eakin explains that toward the end of last year, massive bleaching occurred around the world and NOAA is now collecting data on the extent of that die-off.  In 2005, 90 percent of the coral in the Caribbean bleached and nearly 60 percent died.  

Last February a coalition of more than two-dozen environmental groups published a study called "Reefs at Risk, Revisited."  At a Washington news briefing, the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Jane Lubchenco, described the report's main findings.

"Approximately 75 per cent of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened by a combination of local and global pressures," she said.

And the report predicted that if the international community does nothing to ease those pressures, 90 percent of the world’s reefs will be threatened by 2030 and virtually all of them will be at risk in less than 40 years.  

NOAA scientists describe coral reefs as the "rainforests of the sea," noting that these fragile marine ecosystems provide important services such as coastal protection, commercial fish habitats and ecotourism, estimated to be worth as much as $375 billion globally each year.  And if predictions are right, the coral reefs will survive, at least for another year, to share these benefits with the world around them.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs