[Coral-List] FW: Race on to save coral reefs (St. Petersburg Times, 7/6/06)

Precht, Bill Bprecht at pbsj.com
Thu Jul 6 09:59:20 EDT 2006

See excerpt below


Race on to save coral reefs

Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are causing the change, says 

the federal study by a coalition of scientists.

By CRAIG PITTMAN, craig at sptimes.com
Times Staff Writer
St. Petersburg Times - http://www.sptimes.com Published July 5, 2006

Carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuels has altered the chemistry

of the world's oceans so much it threatens the health of coral and othe
r marine life, a federal study released Wednesday found.

The carbon dioxide blamed for global warming is mingling with the seas
an d making the water more acidic, a coalition of federal and university
researchers reported.

"Coral reefs across the world will feel the effects of this," said re
port co-author Lisa Robbins, a senior scientist with the U.S. Geological
Surve y in St. Petersburg.

The 96-page study, the first of its kind, resulted from a meeting in St.

Petersburg last year of about 50 top oceanographers from around the
to discuss the problem.

The three-day meeting marked the first time such a group of researchers 

agreed on the need to tackle the issue.

The report's lead author, Joan Kleypas, a scientist at the National Cen
ter for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., compared the chemical
in the world's oceans to avian flu: a newly discovered crisis that
requires immediate attention.

"There's a lot that needs to be done," agreed Robbins, 47, who hold s a
Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics and has worked for the Geological

Survey for seven years. She previously taught at the University of South


A building block for undersea life, the world's coral reefs are a
sheltered habitat for fish, lobsters and other animals to feed and
They are crucial to the marine food chain. A quarter of all marine
specie s spend part of their lives in a coral reef.

But coral reefs, the rain forest of the oceans, are dying at an
unprecedented rate. As many as one-fifth of the world's coral reefs
already have been destroyed, according to a 2004 study.

A big reason: global warming heating up the oceans. Caribbean sea
temperatures have reached their annual high two months ahead of
That's a sign that coral reefs, including those in the Florida Keys, mi
ght suffer the same widespread damage as last year, when up to 40
percent of 

coral died in abnormally warm seas around the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Sea temperatures around Puerto Rico and the Florida Keys reached 83.48 

degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday, a high not normally expected until
September, said Al Strong, a scientist with the U.S. National Oceanic
Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch.

Another hot summer could be disastrous for coral still recovering from 

last year.

The primary greenhouse gas causing a warming of the earth is carbon
dioxide, much of it emitted by fossil fuel-burning motor vehicles. As it

drifts into the atmosphere it traps the earth's heat - much like a 


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has refused to regulate carbon 

dioxide emissions, saying they are not a pollutant.

Last month the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a suit over the EPA's 


The new study, titled "Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Coral Reefs an
d Other Marine Calcifiers," found that the world's oceans absorbed abou
t 142- billion metric tons of carbon between 1800, the start of the

Revolution, and 2006. The baseline measure from 1800 was found by
analyzing Arctic ice cores.

Cut ....

Chris Langdon, a professor at the University of Miami, said studies show

that coral calcification consistently decreases as the oceans become
acidic. That means these organisms will grow more slowly, or their
skeletons will become less dense, a process similar to osteoporosis in 

humans. That threatens reefs because corals may be unable to build reefs

as fast as erosion wears them away.

The report outlines a series of research priorities that should be
pursue d over the next five to 10 years.

"We really don't have a good grasp of what it means for ocean biology ,"

said Kleypas, but it is probably not good news.

The co-authors, all scientists, shied away from discussing the political

ramifications of their report. "I'm not going to get into that one,"
Robbins, a resident of St. Petersburg's Pink Streets and a mother of th

Mainly, she said, "we're all interested in figuring out where the
scientific community can best put their efforts to deal with this."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.


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