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Coral reefs, and the ecosystems depending on them, are at serious risk this centuryCoral reef survival is balancing on a knife edge as the combined effects of ocean acidification and ocean warming events threaten to push reefs to the brink of extinction this century, warned a meeting of leading scientists.

Organised by ZSL, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) and the Royal Society, the meeting identified the level of atmospheric CO2 predicted to result in the demise of coral reefs.

At anticipated rates of emission increase, it is expected that 450 ppm CO2 will be reached before 2050. At that point, corals may be on a path to extinction within a matter of decades.

By 2050, the remaining coral reefs could fall victim to ocean acidification. Such a catastrophe would not be confined to reefs, but could start of a domino-like sequence of the fall of other marine ecosystems.

Sir David Attenborough who co-chaired the meeting said "We must do all that is necessary to protect the key components of the life of our planet as the consequences of decisions made now will likely be forever as far as humanity is concerned".

Scientific evidence shows that we have long passed the point at which the marine environment offers reefs a guaranteed future.

"The kitchen is on fire and it's spreading round the house. If we act quickly and decisively we may be able to put it out before the damage becomes irreversible. That is where corals are now." said Dr Alex Rogers of ZSL and IPSO.

The meeting was held to identify tipping points for corals and to expose the issues raised by the plight of coral reefs. A statement detailing these concerns will be submitted to the UN FCCC process currently underway.

Until now, world leaders negotiating emissions reductions have not taken the ocean into serious account, but with so much at risk, the oceans can no longer be ignored.

Now, there is every reason to believe that the oceans may in fact be the most vulnerable sector of our planet to climate change – with dire consequences for us all.

See original news item: ScienceDaily, Jul-16-2009  
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Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Aug-13-2009)   Web site
Thanks for the thoughts, ESS.

I am curious, do you have any good online references, or even printed ones, that analyze some of the links upward from coral reef and on through to the "food chain"?
Comment by: EnviormentalSci (Enviormental Science Student) (Aug-13-2009)   

And not to mention the domino affect. Think of the millions of creatures that depend on the coral reefs entirely. Think of how many species would become extinct due to lack of shelter and food. The domino affect would fall even farther than that as well. Predators also depend on coral reefs as a food source. This is one loss we as human beings can not afford.
Comment by:  PT (David Alexander) (Jul-21-2009)   Web site

I agree with your thoughts -- even though they are underwater and so less visible, the coral reefs are (as oceanographers and other keep repeating) the indicator of and home for much of the ocean's biodiversity, and a source of beauty and appreciation for people.
Comment by: City Worker (Jul-20-2009)   

We can think of coral reefs and their death as a separate entity, not something to be that concerned about since, yes, life on the planet will most likely continue, at least for a while, even if coral reefs are gone, if we are unfortunate enough to not prevent their end. But the death of the coral reefs can be looked at as the death of a “canary in a coal mine” portending bigger doom and gloom. Also, the coral reefs can be looked at as a special, spectacular part of our globe. If we step aside, for the moment, from scientific data, and just think about what our planet, as a whole looks like, what makes it look beautiful and healthy, I think many will agree that coral reefs rank way on top, in a big way, close to rain forests and blue water and clean air. I think it’s like looking at a plant: I remember once owning a cactus that, when I first got it, looked to me like the healthiest cactus I’d ever seen. It just looked that way. And, it ended up living longer than any other cactus I’d ever had. You can just feel that our planet’s health is dependent upon making sure that the coral reefs survive.

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