19 July 2003

Coral reefs in steep decline

The Caribbean is losing coral reefs at a horrific rate, British scientists say.

A team from the University of East Anglia reported in the journal Science yesterday that the average amount of hard coral cover on the reefs had fallen from 50 per cent to 10 per cent in the past 30 years.

Tropical coral reefs are among the world's richest habitats, and are at risk everywhere, chiefly from overfishing, pollution, storms and sedimentation.

Experts have warned repeatedly that corals are sensitive to temperature. Reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans have suffered dramatic bleaching during cycles of warming. But in the Caribbean the problems have been of a different kind.

"The feeling has long been that the Caribbean corals are doing badly," said Toby Gardner, who led the study. "We are the first to pull information together from across the region and put a hard figure on coral decline. The rate of decline we found exceeds by far the well publicised rates of loss for the tropical forests."

There are similar troubles much closer to home. The State of the Reef Report:

The Great Barrier Reef is under mounting pressure. For example:

since the European settlement of Australia, the annual flow from the land of sediments and nutrients into the Great Barrier Reef has increased four fold;

since 1998, the Great Barrier Reef has suffered its two worst ever recorded coral bleaching events, caused by unusually hot sea water;

the effort in the Reef Line Fishery has doubled since 1995;

recreational fishing effort continues to increase as population increases and fishing and boating technology improves;

over the last 40 years, numbers of nesting loggerhead turtles have declined by between 50 percent and 80 percent; and

estimates of dugong populations adjacent to the urban coast of Queensland indicate that they are currently only about 3 percent of what they were in the early 1960�s.

While many areas of the Great Barrier Reef are in good condition, mounting pressures on the Reef leave no room for complacency.

Similar pressures, elsewhere in the world, have contributed to the loss of up to 25 percent of the world�s coral reefs.

None of these problems are (of course) due to global warming which as (as we all know) is not happening and if it is happening (which it isn't) has no effect on the economy.

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