Saturday, August 21, 2010

Indonesia's coral reefs dying at alarming rate

AZCentral via Associated Press: Coral that survived the 2004 tsunami is now dying at one of the fastest rates ever recorded because of a dramatic rise in water temperatures off northwestern Indonesia, conservationists said, warning Wednesday that the threat extends to other reefs across Asia.

The Wildlife Conservation Society deployed marine biologists to Aceh province, on the tip of Sumatra island, in May when surface waters in the Andaman Sea peaked at 93 degrees Fahrenheit (34 degrees Celsius) - a 7 degree Fahrenheit (4 degree Celsius) rise over long-term averages.

The teams discovered massive bleaching, which occurs when algae living inside coral tissues are expelled. Subsequent surveys carried out together with Australia's James Cook University and Indonesia's Syiah Kuala University showed 80 percent of those corals have since died.

Though the scientists have yet to submit the data for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, they and others say the speed and extent of mortality appears to exceed that of other bleachings in recent history. The cause appears to be the warming seas, which to some degree can be blamed on global warming.

"This is a tragedy not only for some of the world's most biodiverse coral reefs, but also for people in the region," said Caleb McClennen, the New York-based group's marine program manager for Indonesia, noting that many depend on the rich marine life for their food and money earned through tourism. Coral formations were severely damaged by El Nino-linked warming in 1997 and 1998….

Image of Gorgonian coral Muricella plectana with a camouflaged Pygmy seahorse. Hippocampus bargibanti. Taken at Lembeh Straits, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, by Jens Petersen, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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