Thursday, January 5, 2012

Coral Reefs are a Tell Tale Sign for Climate Change by Kate Pellow

Coral Reefs are at the forefront of climate change and at least two of the three main impacts you will have noticed: coral bleaching and storm damage, both of which derive from increased sea temperatures. The third major change to coral reefs however is a little less obvious, and that is the acidification of the ocean. Acidification happens when the sea absorbs increasing levels of CO2 from the atmosphere. At its most simple, the more CO2 in the atmosphere, the more the sea absorbs and the current levels are 50 times higher than normal (Cadeira, 2006). The result? Less carbonate is available for biological systems such as coral reefs, which will weaken the reef system. Weak reefs mean less resiliency to pollution, storm damage, disease, a shift in biodiversity (an abundance of parrot fish for example who love to chomp on the reefs) and damage by humans.

Climate change has extremely high awareness levels but incredibly low response rate – people know what it is but feel they do not have the capacity to change it themselves (Tomkinson 2005). Knowledge is often the key to change and climate change action gets caught up in a myriad of scientific debate, which muddies the waters of understanding for normal people. However, reefs are a little more straightforward when it comes to the impacts of climate change, as they are generally visible. Being able to see real change helps give it a very real context. 

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