Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Disappearing Act: Florida’s Coral Reeves affected by Warming Waters

by Michael Grossi (Class of '06)

It is real folks. Global Warming is here to stay. Many people think that Global Warming is characterized by shrinking ice caps, smog, and warmer temperatures. This may all be true, but one of the most unnoticed conditions caused by Global Warming is the destruction of the world’s coral reeves. This problem is hitting close to home as well. Florida is known as a great tourist destination. It has pristine waters and beautiful sea life to explore. However, because of Global Warming, Florida’s Coral Reeves are on the brink of nonexistence. Scientists are frantically trying to import polyps of coral into areas where much of the coral has died.

Recently two different species of coral were added to the endangered species list: staghorn and Elkhorn. “The species have declined 97 percent since the late 70's”

Scientists believe that one of the main culprits in the murder of the coral is from coral bleaching. Coral bleaching is when the coral shed their colors, turn white and then die. Coral bleaching is directly tied to rising water temperatures which is a symptom of Global Warming. The episodes of Coral bleaching have been occurring with greater frequency over the past few years. While the ocean’s temperature has only gone up a degree or two over the past few years, it is still enough to have a catastrophic affect on the fragile ecosystems the coral reside in.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that “climate change, whether due to natural variability or human activity is central to several of the threats impacting coral reef ecosystems” (www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12631773/). Scientists have linked the rise in water temperature to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Global Warming is one of the main forces in the destruction of some of the most beautiful creatures on the planet. “Requiring greenhouse gas emitting industries to consider how their activities are impacting our most productive marine ecosystems is not only scientifically sound, but also eminently sensible,” Plater added. “The destruction and loss of these coral species would result in the loss of billions of dollars to our economy, the loss of an unknown number of medicines, and decimate local biodiversity. It’s just common sense to consider these impacts before it is too late” (www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12631773).

Despite the negative affect that the rising water temperatures have on coral in some places, other places seem to be flourishing. Not all the news is bad. There are fresh stands of elkhorn and staghorn off Broward County, Fla., in waters where such coral would have never been seen two decades ago. Therefore, one can say that in one area there can be death, in another, new ecosystems can be born.

People have to realize the affect that Global Warming has on our planet. Not only does it make the air we breathe unclean, it kills valuable parts of the world. We have neglected this problem for long enough and now it is coming back to bit us big time. With the water temperatures rising, all of the coral is being killed. Global warming isn’t only killing beautiful creatures to observe, but a valuable part of our life as a whole. The coral provides us with medicine, and it keeps the balance in the ocean. Due to Global Warming we are going to lose these ecosystems, and there is no telling how that will affect us in the long run.



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