Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Lately, it seems that almost every time I pick up a newspaper, I find an article about something that is endangering our world ocean and its inhabitants and ecosystems. I’m sad to say that most of the problems have arisen due to the behavior and activities of humans, and we need to reverse the negative trend before it is too late!
Global climate change, which I mentioned in a previous blog is causing, among other things, an increase in water temperature that is resulting in such occurrences as the dying off of coral reefs, which are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth.
The dying off of coral, called coral bleaching, is a topical subject these days and also happens to be one of the Aquarium of the Pacific’s top 10 ocean issues. If more people don’t start taking up the mantra, “reduce, reuse, recycle, and rethink,” we may not be able to save the world’s corals, or, possibly, ourselves!
I know, I sound dramatic. But this would be a dramatic issue even if other problems caused by global climate change were not happening. Cures to terrible diseases come from corals. Corals provide homes for fish that help sustain some coastal populations. Coral are one of the buffers that we humans have to protect us from raging storms that are becoming progressively stronger in intensity due to global climate change.
Corals are important to us and to the Earth itself!
In terms of their biodiversity, coral reefs, which cover an estimated 600,000 km squared, or more than 372,820,000 square miles, are homes and nurseries to 25 percent of all known marine species. Reefs and the biodiversity they support contribute directly to food security and provide biologically active compounds for the treatment of diseases including: AIDS, arthritis, asthma, cancer, and other inflammatory disorders. Coral reefs also safeguard land from destructive tsunamis that occur because of such things as oceanic earthquakes and landslides.
When coral is disturbed or destroyed, biodiversity and marine ecosystems are demolished, and coastal areas are put in peril.
In addition to being important in maintaining both ocean and human health, coral reefs also contribute to one of the fastest growing sectors of the global economy—coastal tourism.
Coral are interesting animals that have a symbiotic relationship with small organisms, called zooxanthelae. Zooxanthelae eat the waste of the coral polyps, and in return provide the corals with nutrients that help create the bright and varied colors of the coral reef.
Warmer temperatures cause coral bleaching which is the whitening of coral colonies due to the loss of zooxanthelae from the tissues of polyps or by the decrease of photosynthetic pigments within the zooxanthellae, is predicted to be a great problem that will drastically diminish the number of the world’s coral reefs by 2050, but each of us can do things to help reverse the trend.
The ocean’s temperature is rising because carbon dioxide—caused by such things as cars, factories, and coal and other energy plants—is collecting in the atmosphere like a thickening blanket, thus trapping the sun’s heat and causing the planet to warm, which in turn causes the ocean to warm.
Therefore, to help slow and maybe even reverse pending disaster for the world’s coral reefs, start conserving as much energy as you can, in whatever ways you are able, like planning to make all stops to a given area on the same day in order to avoid excess car trips. Better yet, if you can, take public transportation, walk, or ride a bicycle, DO IT!!!
You could also buy energy efficient appliances when you need to replace old ones, use compact fluorescent light bulbs—those squiggly light bulbs also called CFLs—and conserve water as much as possible; did you know that using a flow of water that is the diameter of a pencil when washing your hands or doing dishes can save a lot of water while still getting the job done efficiently and effectively? Even if we all do only one or two things to conserve our environment, we CAN make a difference!
So again, I reiterate, that in whatever ways you are able, please reduce, reuse, recycle … and rethink!
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