Written by SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel
We’ve all heard that stress kills. But, did you know it can kill the Earth’s eco-systems, too – especially coral reefs?
The bright, vivid orange, pink, purple and blue colors we’ve all come to associate with coral reefs may be a thing of the past if the impact of ocean temperature changes, water run-off pollution, and other environmental stressors aren’t reduced.
SurfWriter Girls Sunny Magdaug and Patti Kishel learned that there is a worldwide coral bleaching crisis with colorful coral reefs turning from a healthy glow to a sickly white. This not only threatens the life of the reefs, but of the sea animals that inhabit them. And, with a fourth of the world’s marine species calling the reefs their home, this is no small matter.
When the ocean is too warm or acidic coral expel the algae living in their tissues, draining themselves of nutrients and bleaching their colors until they turn white.
SurfWriter Girls contact at The World Federation for Coral Reef Conservation, Vic Ferguson, the Executive Director, says this is one of the worst coral bleaching events in human history. “Scientists are calling it the severest yet. The human race has put its footprint on these precious ecosystems and we may lose them faster than we think.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “we may be losing somewhere in the range of 10 to 20 percent of the coral reefs this year.” It’s been especially bad in Hawaii in part because of the hot ocean waters produced by the the El Nino conditions.
Other troubled coral reef spots include Florida, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Surf and ocean painter Nathan Paul Gibbs – a self-described “enviro-soldier” – captured the coral reef damage in his moving painting Acidification of the Great Barrier Reef.
Gibbs has seen the dying coral firsthand. On a dive boat charter in Australia headed to the Barrier Reef’s outer reef, Gibbs remembers “we had to travel nearly an hour to get to the ‘good’ reef.'” This was because much of the reef had been destroyed, bleached by acidification due to toxic agricultural run-off from the farms in Queensland.
NOAA Coral Reef Watch Coordinator Mark Eakin said, “This isn’t just a problem for divers and fish; coral reefs are crucial globally. Coral reefs protect shorelines, produce tourism dollars and help provide food for 500 million people around the world.”
Ferguson, of the World Federation, says that his organization is working at the grass roots level around the world to share information with other environmental groups, governments, and individuals about the steps to take to better understand the coral reefs and how to protect them. He emphasizes that “we have a responsibility to share what we know about coral reef conservation with the rest of the world.”
What can we do to keep the color in the world’s coral reefs?
Reducing our carbon footprints of energy use is a good place to start because that reduces global warming.
Cutting back on water usage and disposing of trash properly will help, too, by keeping waste water run-off and pollutants out of the ocean.
Letting business and government leaders know it’s important – with our comments, purchases and votes.
With a little help from us, orange can be the new color of life.
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