Loss of coral reefs is grim news for world’s oceans

Most people have a vague awareness that huge swaths of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil are either on fire or being clear-cut by farming and lumber industries.

We also know that much of the scrubbing of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is accomplished by that same massive rainforest, a region that has been poetically but accurately described as the “lungs of the world.”

Just as the Amazon helps us land creatures to breathe, coral reefs provide a similar function for the fragile ecosystems beneath the world’s oceans. For the millions of sea creatures living in proximity to the great reefs, they are indispensable and irreplaceable links in the ocean’s ecosystem.

Last month in the science journal “One Earth,” a study concluded that half of the world’s coral reefs have been destroyed since 1950. This is a catastrophe.

Climate change, over-fishing and pollution are believed to be the primary culprits in the destruction of the source for food and shelter for the fish, crustacean, algae and plant life that have depended on a symbiotic relationship with the reefs since before humans took to the seas.

The accelerating destruction of the coral reefs also affects the economies of nearby indigenous populations who depend on fishing and tourism to provide a living. There isn’t much demand to visit once-healthy multi-colored coral reefs now bleached white and marinated by acidic waters toxic to all life.

Because they are extremely sensitive to changes in water temperature and acidity levels, coral reefs provide an early warning system indicating the general health of the oceans. Even so, those who deny the reality of global warming won’t be convinced that a global coral collapse has been triggered by human activity.

We are rapidly approaching the point where it won’t be possible to reverse the damage to the coral reefs and, by extension, the world’s oceans. Somehow, we have to find the collective will to curb the fossil fuel emissions that lead to temperature rise in the oceans.

This is not a problem that humanity can afford to look at in isolation. The likely death of the world’s magnificent coral reefs isn’t the same as a species or two going extinct. It is a sign of a dismal future where biodiversity is willingly sacrificed on the altar of profit, regardless of the cost to humanity and the planet.

–The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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Source: Einnews

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