Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Worst coral death strikes at Southeast Asia

Date:
October 21, 2010
Source:
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies
Summary:
International marine scientists say that a huge coral death which has struck Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean reefs over recent months has highlighted the urgency of controlling global carbon emissions. Many reefs are dead or dying across the Indian Ocean and into the Coral Triangle following a bleaching event that extends from the Seychelles in the west to Sulawesi and the Philippines in the east.

Reefs of Pulau Weh -- before, during and after the bleaching event. (a) April 18, 2009; (b) May 31, 2010; and (c) July 26, 2010.
Credit: Left to right: R. Graham, N. Fadli, Y. Herdiana

International marine scientists say that a huge coral death which has struck Southeast Asian and Indian Ocean reefs over recent months has highlighted the urgency of controlling global carbon emissions.

Many reefs are dead or dying across the Indian Ocean and into the Coral Triangle following a bleaching event that extends from the Seychelles in the west to Sulawesi and the Philippines in the east and include reefs in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and many sites in western and eastern Indonesia.

"It is certainly the worst coral die-off we have seen since 1998. It may prove to be the worst such event known to science," says Dr Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook Universities. "So far around 80 percent of Acropora colonies and 50 per cent of colonies from other species have died since the outbreak began in May this year."

This means coral cover in the region could drop from an average of 50% to around 10%, and the spatial scale of the event could mean it will take years to recover, striking at local fishing and regional tourism industries, he says.

The bleaching event has also hit the richest marine biodiversity zone on the planet, the 'Amazon Rainforest' of the seas, known as the Coral Triangle (CT), which is bounded by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

"Although the Coral Triangle is the richest region for corals on Earth, it relies on other regions around its fringes to supply the coral spawn and fish larvae that help keep it so rich," Dr Baird explains. "So there are both direct and indirect effects on CT reefs which will affect their ability to recover from future disturbance."

"Also the reefs of the region support tens of millions of people who make their living from the sea and so plays a vital role in both the regional economy and political stability. For example, in Aceh, northern Sumatera, where the bleaching is most severe, a high proportion of the people rely on fishing and tourism for their livelihoods. While it may take up to two years for some fish species to be affected by the loss of coral habitat, fisheries yields will decline and this combined with a drop in the number of SCUBA divers visiting could have major long-term effects on the local economy."

The cause of the bleaching event was a large pool of super-hot water which swept into the eastern Indian Ocean region several months ago, shocking the corals and causing them to shed the symbiotic algae that nourish them, thereby losing color and "bleaching." If the corals do not regain their algae they starve to death.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Hotspots website, sea surface temperatures in the region peaked in late May, 2010, and by July the accumulated heat stress was greater than in 1998. Local dive operators recorded water temperatures of 34 C, over 4 degrees higher that than long term average for the area.

The event was first detected on reefs in Aceh by marine ecologists from Wildlife Conservation Society, CoECRS and Syiah Kuala University. They already rate it as one of the worst coral diebacks ever recorded.

"My colleagues and I have high confidence these successive ocean warming episodes, which exceed the normal tolerance range of warm-water corals, are driven by human-induced global warming. They underline that the planet is already taking heavy hits from climate change -- and will continue to do so unless we can reduce carbon emissions very quickly.

"They also show this is not just about warmer temperatures: it is also threatening the livelihoods of tens of millions of people and potentially the stability of our region."

Dr Baird said it was not yet clear whether Australia would suffer a similar coral bleaching event this year: this would emerge only with the arrival of warmer waters from the north in January/February 2011. The previous worst events to strike the Great Barrier Reef were in 1998 and 2002 when over 40% of the reefs along the length of the GBR were affected.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. "Worst coral death strikes at Southeast Asia." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 October 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101020091903.htm>.
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. (2010, October 21). Worst coral death strikes at Southeast Asia. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101020091903.htm
ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies. "Worst coral death strikes at Southeast Asia." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101020091903.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers

California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) — California's record drought is hurting honey supplies and raising prices for consumers. The lack of rainfall means fewer crops and wildflowers that provide the nectar bees need to make honey. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Species Found In Lake Under Antarctic Ice

Thousands Of Species Found In Lake Under Antarctic Ice

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — A U.S. team found nearly 4,000 species in a subglacial lake that hasn't seen sunlight in millennia, showing life can thrive even under the ice. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins