Coral Bleaching, El Nino and the ICRS 2012
(July 11, 2012) This week about 2,000 scientists from 80 countries have gathered at the Cairns Convention Center in Australia to attend the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS 2012).
The four-year event acts as a collective funnel for research and the latest advances in coral reef conservation. The research and findings presented at the symposium are fundamental to informing and guiding international and national policies in the sustainable use of coral reefs globally.
In the not so distant past, the degradation of our planet’s coral reefs was viewed by many from an aesthetics point of view and to a lessor extent, the potential loss of a tourism resource. Both industrialization and a rapidly growing population were given rightful blame. However, most viewed the problem as something that might occur in a fishbowl, either unwilling or unable to postulate any far reaching negative affects.
Science today now views our planets coral reefs as an integral part of our marine biosphere that makes up two-thirds of our planet’s surface. And just like a canary in a coal mine, the health of our coral reefs may be our greatest indicator as to the health of our vast oceans.
The solutions to saving both our coral reefs and oceans have been widely known and accepted for decades now. They include, reducing the earth’s population, reducing and stabilizing carbon emissions into the atmosphere -which are absorbed by our oceans, stringent global fisheries management and the implementation of more marine protected areas.
Dozens of plans are now being implemented or are presently being devised with these solutions as the ultimate target.
What an incredible challenge!
Outside of the ICRS 2012, two other major announcements were made this week in regard to the monitoring of conditions vital for coral reef health. And although monitoring, sampling, coral counts, etc., have no direct positive effects on our reefs, they provide invaluable information as to whether or not we’re getting it right.
One of these announcement was made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who have devised a system that can predict mass coral bleaching events.
Coral bleaching occurs when stress, usually high temperature, causes corals to expel their symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) and, if prolonged or particularly severe, may result in coral death.
The other news release, sourced from Reuters News Agency, revealed the prediction by both the Japaneses Weather Bureau and the U.S. Climate Prediction Center of a retuning El Nino event later this year.
El Nino is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific that occurs every four to 12 years, affecting crops from Asia to the Americas. Aside from its potential to disrupt global food production, El Nino can also exasperate condition that lead to increased coral bleaching. In addition the warmer sea temperature spawn more frequent hurricanes, which can cause tremendous physical damage to coral reefs.
Prediction of Coral Bleaching
NOAA announced today a major advance in the ability to predict mass coral bleaching – providing the probability of bleaching up to four months into the future – with a newly developed global seasonal outlook system.
Using the new seasonal ecological forecast system, unveiled at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia, NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch does not anticipate any large scale coral bleaching events in the Northern Hemisphere through October 2012.
“This advance in bleaching warning systems represents another milestone in our efforts to save the world’s critically important reef systems,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator, in the symposium’s keynote address. “The state of reefs today should raise concerns for everyone. Reef ecosystems are globally important, and healthy reefs are the life-line for local communities. Their continued existence is a moral imperative for the global community.
Every week, the new system uses 28 runs of NOAA’s latest climate model to warn coral reef managers, scientists, stakeholders, and the public of large-scale bleaching events. It builds upon the first global seasonal bleaching outlook system, released by NOAA in 2008.
“NOAA is firmly committed to bring new scientific efforts to change the current trajectory of loss of reefs and the services they provide,” said the NOAA Administrator.
El Nino Predicted
(Reuters) – Japan’s weather bureau said on Tuesday its climate models indicate there is a strong possibility the El Nino weather pattern, which is often linked to heavy rainfall and droughts, will emerge this summer.
The Japan Meteorological Agency changed the language in its monthly assessment of the six-month outlook for El Nino that it used in June, when it said it was more likely that normal weather patterns would prevail in Asia through to December.
“The chances are now high that the El Nino weather phenomenon will emerge in the summer,” the agency said in a statement on its website.
During this week’s International Coral Reef Symposium, organizers will launch the Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs. The consensus, which urges governments to take action for the preservation of coral reefs, has garnered more than 2,400 signatures from the scientific community, worldwide.
Photos care of ICRS 2012, Media Portal