Coral Triangle: Your problem is our problem

Recent moves by countries bounding the coral triangle – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands – to protect the reefs of Southeast Asia and the Pacific are both timely and laudable. But they cannot be fully effective without focused help from friends.

Some of the threats to coral have been well characterized by biologists. Warming ocean temperatures cause corals to bleach. The removal of predators through overfishing and habitat loss causes algae and other enemies of coral to flourish. The poking, kicking and chipping away at coral over the years by myriad tourists, resort developers and fishermen is another.

Perhaps the most insidious threat is the one only now being fully appreciated. The acidity of the oceans is rising to levels that could soon start to substantially stunt coral growth – within decades.



Of all the excess carbon dioxide placed into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels, at least a quarter has been absorbed by the oceans. There it is converted into carbonic acid.

This has already increased the acidity of the oceans by a stunning 30 percent over the last 100 years. As this continues, the ability of corals and other marine invertebrates to acquire the calcium carbonate they need for their shells becomes greatly diminished, and eventually impossible.

Some estimates project that the collected effects of acidification, bleaching, disease and human-caused damage could begin to cause coral reefs to deteriorate faster than they can grow by mid-century.

Tony Haymet, The Jakarta Post, 15 May 2009. Full article.

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