Sunday, 14 December 2008

Coral Monitoring, Coral Bleaching and Climate Change

Why Monitor Coral Reefs? CoralWatch Data
Very little is known about the trends of coral bleaching on a global scale. There are many questions that need to be answered regarding patterns of bleaching and recovery as well as the severity and duration of bleaching events. CoralWatch volunteers will contribute data to help answer many of these questions.
Dive and snorkel volunteers make it possible to measure small natural fluctuations in the coloration of healthy corals to immediately identify changes outside of the normal range. With your support it’s also possible to monitor coral health throughout the year, not just during bleaching events, and help determine factors that influence coral health.
*What is climate change?
Earth is surrounded by a blanket of gases that keep the surface warm and helps make life possible. This blanket is currently getting thicker largely due to greenhouse gas release caused by burning fossil fuels and deforestation. As the blanket gets thicker more heat is retained underneath, which alters the climate. Because the ocean comprises nearly 70 percent of the earth’s surface, it is not only crucial to influencing the global climate, but also harbors some of the most diverse and important ecosystems. In addition, research currently indicates that climate change will increasingly challenge coastal and marine ecosystems in the next century. If current trends continue temperatures may increase 2.5 – 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1.4 – 5.8 degrees Celsius) by 2100.

What can you do?
Some changes are inevitable – even if gas emission stops today, the gases already released will have an effect in the future. This means that it is essential to do everything to avoid further changes. The good news is that because everyday activities also contribute to climate change there are many ways to tackle the issue on an individual level and as a diver. Here are 10 easy things you can do:

  1. Switch off your lights and electric appliances when not needed
  2. Choose energy saving appliances
  3. Use a line to air dry clothing instead of a dryer
  4. Use lids when cooking (water heats quicker with the lid on)
  5. Use energy saving light bulbs and recycle
  6. Walk or cycle when traveling short distances
  7. Use rechargeable batteries
  8. Share your concern with your local politicians
  9. Become educated and inform friends and family on climate change issues
  10. Contribute to awareness's and help with data collection by participating in coral monitoring activities
For more information on the effects of climate change on marine ecosystems, you can go to the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre's Biodiversity and Climate Change Programme website or the online Climate Change Communication Initiative.

**Coral Bleaching
Bleached Coral Sample
Healthy Coral Sample CW
Couresy of CoralWatch, example
of bleached coral
Couresy of CoralWatch, example
of healthy coral
Increases in ocean temperatures contribute to coral bleaching episodes – a process whereby corals lose symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae), living inside their tissue supplying coral with energy. This loss leaves coral transparent and reveals the white coral skeleton underneath. This potentially fatal process yields the “bleached” appearance.
Although corals can slowly recover from brief bleaching episodes, coral death is common when high temperatures are sustained for long periods. And once bleached, coral is even more susceptible to additional pressures including pollution, overfishing and disease that often lead to coral mortality. Although the effects of bleaching range from moderate to severe, experts agree that bleaching episodes have become much more severe in the past few decades. And they are likely to reoccur in the future with increased frequency.

Coral Monitoring, Coral Bleaching and Climate Change