[Coral-List] New Science Paper Says Carbon Emissions Threaten Coral Reefs

Mark Eakin Mark.Eakin at noaa.gov
Thu Dec 13 18:15:39 EST 2007

> *** NEWS FROM NOAA ***
> Contact: Anatta, NOAA Public Affairs, 303-591-2530 (cell, at  
> AGU)                Ben Sherman, NOAA Public Affairs 301-713-3066
> New Science Paper Says Carbon Emissions Threaten Coral Reefs
>       NOAA Coral Reef Watch coordinator Mark Eakin, and 17 fellow  
> coral scientists from around the globe say corals could begin to  
> disappear in 50 to 75 years due to steadily warming temperatures  
> and increasing ocean acidification caused by carbon dioxide  
> emissions. Their findings were published today as the cover story  
> in the peer-reviewed journal Science.
>       "Our findings are simple.  Increasing concentrations of  
> atmospheric carbon dioxide are warming and acidifying the oceans,”  
> said Eakin, who will discuss the Science paper findings Friday  
> afternoon at the annual American Geophysical Union fall meeting in  
> San Francisco. “The impacts will be dramatic. Coral reef ecosystems  
> will begin to disappear within the next 50 to 75 years.  Warming  
> and acidification will have devastating impacts on marine  
> biodiversity and human livelihoods, especially in developing  
> nations that depend on reefs for much of their economic well being."
>       On the eve of the International Year of the Reef 2008, the  
> scientists from seven countries are warning that most coral reefs  
> will not survive the rapid increases in global temperatures and  
> atmospheric CO2 that are forecast over this century by the  
> Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change unless drastic action is  
> taken to curb CO2 emissions. Even emission curbs will not be enough  
> without concerted management of other threats to these ecosystems.
>       The scientists, who are leading members of the international  
> Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building for Management  
> Program of which NOAA is a member, argue that rising global CO2  
> emissions represent an ‘irreducible risk’ that will rapidly  
> outstrip the capacity of local coastal managers and policy-makers  
> to maintain the health of these critical ecosystems, if CO2  
> emissions are allowed to continue unchecked.
>       The warmer and more acidic oceans threaten to destroy coral  
> reef ecosystems, exposing people to flooding, coastal erosion and  
> the loss of food and income from reef-based fisheries and tourism,"  
> says the paper's lead author, Ove Hoegh-Guldeberg of the University  
> of Queensland in Australia. "It is estimated that coral reef- 
> related tourism generates tens of billions of dollars per year  
> worldwide. They are the economic engine of a vast number of  
> economies around the world.
>       Under guidance from the NOAA co-chaired US Coral Reef Task  
> Force, ecosystem managers at the local level have been devising  
> "local action plans" to cope with coral bleaching impacts.  
> Developing partnerships with the World Bank and others, local  
> managers have been seeking to reduce over fishing, pollution and  
> unsustainable coastal development - the major local environmental  
> threats caused by human activity.
>       One of the important tools these managers have been using is  
> the NOAA Coral Reef Watch warning system which was launched in  
> 2000, including providing managers with automated e-mail alerts  
> when NOAA satellite observations indicate rising water temperature  
> beyond critical limits, conditions warranting extra measures to  
> reduce stress on the local reefs. NOAA’s polar-orbiting operational  
> satellites are a key part of the warning system.  NOAA recently  
> expanded the warning system adding 36 new virtual stations designed  
> to monitor conditions that can lead to coral bleaching and reef  
> disease or death. The new virtual stations, while currently in an  
> experimental phase, more than double the available monitoring  
> stations of coral ecosystems, increasing from 24 to 60 sites.
>       "The data collected from the coral reef components of the  
> developing integrated ocean observing system are documenting the  
> increase in water temperature caused by global warming and  
> providing additional measures of the impacts of human activity on  
> corals," notes Eakin. "Corals are the sentinel of the seas and it  
> is critical for us to listen and make adaptive responses to the  
> warnings they are giving us."
>       NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national  
> safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate- 
> related events and information service delivery for transportation,  
> and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal  
> and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation  
> System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal  
> partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to  
> develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the  
> planet it observes, predicts and protects.
> On the Web: http://www.noaa.gov/ http://coralreefwatch.noaa.gov/
> - 30 -

C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
Coordinator, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Center for Satellite Applications and Research
Satellite Oceanography & Climate Division
e-mail: mark.eakin at noaa.gov
url: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov

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