AFRICAN DUST AND CORAL REEF
eakin at ogp.noaa.gov
Wed May 21 15:03:39 EDT 1997
Subject: Time: 2:53 PM
AFRICAN DUST AND CORAL REEFS Date: 5/21/97
I beleive this origniated on the GreenWire:
CORAL REEFS: AFRICAN DUST MAY CAUSE DETERIORATION
A federal geologist has concluded that iron-rich dust generated by
"drought-stricken" fields in northern Africa is damaging coral reefs from
the Florida Keys to the Caribbean Sea.
Gene Shinn initially believed that sewage in the Keys was the cause of
disease in nearby corals, until he also found the diseases "on little
islands in the Caribbean where nobody lives." So he began to focus on the
correlation between African dust "episodes" and coral disease outbreaks.
As desertification began to spread across northern African in the
early 1970s, measuring stations in the Caribbean also began recording large
dust increases. At the same time, coral reef scientists began to notice
new disease outbreaks. Dust levels peaked again in 1987, the year corals
all over the Caribbean bleached white.
Shinn, working at the Center for Coastal Geology in St. Petersburg, FL,
noted that iron in the dust stimulates the growth of algae which damage
the reefs, and the dust also contains bacterial spores.
If the dust proves harmful to corals, efforts to reverse
desertification in northern Africa should increase, according to Duke U.
marine biologist Richard Barber. Barber: "Wouldn't it be wonderful if
some rock group took saving the coral reefs to heart, and the action would
be to plant trees and fences in Chad and Mali?" (David Olinger, ST.
PETERSBURG TIMES, 5/11).
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