Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Bad News International Coral Reef Symposium

Fort Lauderdale FL USA- The 11th International Coral Reef Symposium is at its midpoint and the word from the reef gurus is out. The buzz word now is coral reef resilience. The effects of global climate change has resulted in more acidic oceans and warmer seas. While some corals can indeed tolerate warmer seas, none of them can survive an acidic ocean. Those who have taken college chemistry or have drank Coca Cola would know. Calcium carbonate (which make up coral skeletons) will dissolve in acidic water.

The corals have had a double whammy. Increased sea temperatures result in coral bleaching where their symbiotic zooxanthellae are expelled. These symbionts provide the coral their nutrition and help them build their skeletons. Increased carbon dioxide in the air results in more carbonic acid in water. Under these conditions, corals can't build their skeletons.

Coral reefs have been poetically referred to by none other than Jacques Costueau as the "Stones Alive". Here he writes that the reef itself is a living wreath. The corals were "The Stones Alive at the Fringe of Death" By this he meant that the corals were existing at a very narrow range of ecological tolerance. The corals were not a wreath to the dead but for the living.

The word is that any carbon dioxide reduction strategies dicussed by the G8 countries and China and India are too little,too late. The scientists are now looking at focusing their attention in coral reef areas that will be least impacted by these global environmental changes. The center of coral reef diversity, the Philippines, is not in this area.

Coral reefs in the Philippines have experienced heaps of abuse over the years and global climate change may be the last proverbial straw as the sages say. There are 47 Pinoy scientists in the symposium and what we have heard and learned are not much to hope for. But there is room for hope.

The symposium organizers have put much effort in informing the public. The symposium exhibition caters to public educators and environmental advocates.There was a special workshop on why scientists can't get their message through to journalists (very timely).

So a global multisectoral movement is needed if we want to save the coral reefs.

If we fail, the corals will be a funeral wreath for the dead. And who are the dead? It is no less than us!

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