How Global Warming Effects on Coral Reefs
Coral reefs – are the unique biocenosis for their beauty and ecological feasibility. Coral reefs formed the basis of the life of nations, the native inhabitants of the islands of Oceania for ages. These islands are inhabited by Polynesians, Melanesians and Micronesians and are composed of purest coral limestone. The reefs gave and give these people the bulk of their livelihood. They play an important role in the spiritual life and material culture of the native inhabitants of the islands of Oceania. Centuries of experience of these people allows them to enjoy all benefits of the reef without undermining its foundation.
Coral reefs are one of the most productive terrestrial ecosystems; however, in recent decades, the media swept a wave of reports of total and widespread extinction of corals. Environmental activists dashingly bind the death of coral ecosystems and global warming together. Nevertheless, the issue of how critical is the threat of coral reefs’ existence is going to be discussed in the essay.
According to ScienceDaily, “If world leaders do not immediately engage in a race against time to save the Earth’s coral reefs, these vital ecosystems will not survive the global warming and acidification predicted for later this century” (“Global Warming Is Destroying Coral Reefs, Major Study Warns,” 2007). Such statement was found in the article in Science dated by December 13, 2007 and was among the findings of a research conducted by few maritime field scholars from the around the globe.
Corals are extremely sensitive to changes in water temperature. Raising the temperature of water only in a couple of degrees of Celsius causes the visible damage of adult corals and their offspring. Over the 27 years, Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its total number of corals.
Beautiful reefs lose their original color, turning into scary white ghosts. In some places of the world, coral reefs will never be recovered.
In September 1987, divers near the coast of Puerto Rico plunged not in the crystal clear water, but in the yellow-ore thickness that was formed as a result of violation of corals and algae symbiosis.
The presence of algae helps coral polyps to produce lime, which is necessary for building the reef. Muddy cloud (where divers were), was formed from algae that floated freely, separated from polyps due to violation of symbiotic process. The main cause of violation of polyps and algae symbiosis is the raising temperature of seawater.
Some variations in temperature within the normal range are possible and have a natural origin. However, the intensity and extent of the white epidemic of coral reefs that happened in the 80s (it was the warmest decade of the XX century) suggests that the cause of this phenomenon was global warming. As long as people do not learn to limit or at least control the greenhouse effect, coral reefs will disintegrate.
Science Daily emphasizes, “The rise of carbon dioxide emissions and the resultant climate warming from the burning of fossil fuels are making oceans warmer and more acidic, said co-author Harvell, which is triggering widespread coral disease and stifling coral growth toward ‘a tipping point for functional collapse’” (“Global Warming Is Destroying Coral Reefs, Major Study Warns,” 2007).
Ocean acidification is caused by increasing of oceans’ absorption of CO2 that reduces the pH and the concentration of carbonate ions and saturation of water with calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is important for the balance of marine ecosystems. It is absorbed by many marine species to build their shells and is vital for the growth of coral reefs. These ecosystems have experienced a huge impact from raising temperatures before. However, steep increases in CO2 lead to acidification that adds up a new danger – incapacity of these hard substances formed in the sea to build calcic skeletons. Acidification also threatens the maritime plants and animals with calcic skeletons (including crabs, snails, corals and clams). The levels of carbon dioxide are unstable for analyzed natural formations.
Unfortunately, global warming threatens coral reefs considerably, and the fact that if these vital ecosystems erase from the earth’s surface, it will affect a third of the planet’s marine biodiversity and other ecosystems that are associated with coral reefs, directly or indirectly.
Nevertheless, nature does not give up! Suffering corals quickly move their colonies to the poles.
Japanese biologists from the Center of Global Environmental Research (CGER) first described the mass migration of coral reefs. The fact that such a movement exists, experts evidenced before. Moreover, one type of corals moves with the average rate about 14 kilometers per year due to ocean currents. It means that ecosystems can move promptly because of various changes in climate (warming).
The speed of corals’ movement is fabulous as the average rate of migration of species of terrestrial plants and animals is about one kilometer per year (the average rate of migration of sea creatures is about 5 kilometers per year).
The researchers analyzed that: “Of nine different coral types for which Yamano and his team had enough information to determine the location of colonies, they found that four had moved polewards over the decades, and five had remained stable. The four that moved, they note, have been listed as ‘near threatened’ or ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature since 1998” (Jones, 2011).
Thus, according to all mentioned above, the nature itself has found the way out of the problem of extinction of coral reefs.