19.2 C
Byron Shire
March 6, 2021

Climate change ‘may lead to collapse of Pacific corals’

Latest News

Not quite ‘too late’

Desmond Bellamy, PETA Australia Sir David Attenborough, the world’s most famous naturalist, has just addressed the United Nations Security Council to...

Other News

Blue-green algae amber alert still active at Uki

Last Thursday Tweed Shire Council issued an amber alert for blue-green algae in the Tweed River at Uki, with Clarrie Hall Dam remaining on a green alert. This morning they say the alerts are still active.

Interview with Janet Swain

Janet Swain is 14. She’s in love with the tragic and brilliant cellist Jacquleine DuPré. But one day her mother arrives home with a bassoon.

PM forced

Narelle Rendalls, Ballina With reference to the recent serious sexual assault allegations in Canberra, our Prime Minister has a lot to...

Storylines: Uluru Statement from the Heart

The 'Uluru Statement from the Heart' seeks constitutional reform to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have a say and be involved over matters that impact their lives.

Byron’s new road: the good and not so

After more than 30 years of talk, debate, disagreements, tears and political gridlock, Byron Bay has a new road to divert traffic from the CBD to the southern end of town.

New Greens team

Matthew O’Reilly President of CABS and a proud member of the NEW Byron Greens team It seems that some readers have...

Coral reef ecosystem at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. Photo Jim Maragos/US Fish and Wildlife Service

Eva Aguilar, SciDev.net

Climate change may lead to the collapse of coral reef ecosystems in the Pacific, of the kind last seen 4,000 years ago, according to a study published in Science last week (5 July).

Researchers found that coral reefs along the Pacific coast of Panama stopped growing for 2,500 years, or 40 per cent of their history, during a period that coincides with an increase in the strength and frequency of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) – a fluctuation of the inter-tropical surface pressure patterns and circulation in the Indian and Pacific Oceans – some 4,000 years ago.

This gap in coral growth, also seen from sites in Australia, Costa Rica and Japan, may correspond to a Pacific-wide ‘collapse’ in reef ecosystems, which could repeat in the future if climate warming creates a stronger and more frequent ENSO pattern, as is predicted by current forecasts, say the study’s authors.

Higher water temperatures, caused by climate events such as El Niño, disturb the symbiotic relationship between corals and the microalgae living inside them, which provide nutrients for the corals to grow faster.

‘Global climate change is probably driving eastern Pacific reefs towards another regional collapse,’ the authors say.

‘Many of the scenarios for future climate change caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases predict extreme conditions similar to what we saw in the fossil record and that seem to explain the shutdown of the reefs,’ Richard Aronson, a biologist at the Florida Institute of Technology in the United States, and one the authors of the study, told SciDev.Net.

‘If we keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we could be in for another long-term collapse of coral reefs, which would be very bad for the developing world,’ Aronson added.

Around 500 million people, mainly living in the tropics, depend on the services that coral reefs provide, such as fisheries and tourism. But in the past three decades, scientists have reported a dramatic increase in coral mortality and reef degradation owing to their vulnerability to environmental change, which could have the most far-reaching effects on the Pacific and Caribbean regions, and could threaten traditional fisheries.

But Héctor Guzmán, a marine biologist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama, told SciDev.Net there is growing evidence that some coral species in the eastern Pacific are becoming more heat-tolerant.

‘In modern times we have seen the resilience of coral reefs, less than two decades after several severe ENSO [events] that affected Panama and the adjacent region.’

So Guzmán, who also runs STRI’s Panama Coral Reef Monitoring Network, said that talking about a future ‘collapse’ could be an ‘exaggerated’ way of presenting the issue.

Aronson agreed there was some evidence that the corals were adapting, but warned that ‘the eastern Pacific coast seems not to do so well during El Niño’.

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Suspicion and belief

Fast Buck$, Coorabell My suspicion is that the mayor and the senior staff have been helping Michael Lyon become electable as mayor by scripting his...


I Menahemi, Myocum In his editorial Hans Lovejoy says – ‘the optics from The Echo have been and hopefully always will be independent.’ As long as more...

Suffolk Park pump track

Jinesh Attard, Suffolk Park Many in the local community of hillside Suffolk Park have come to understand the impact the pump track will have on our...

New Greens team

Matthew O’Reilly President of CABS and a proud member of the NEW Byron Greens team It seems that some readers have taken my comments on the...