Saturday, September 15, 2007


Two interesting stories appeared this week on coral. The fact they are endangered and that they have been discovered off the Canadian East Coast.

Corals Added To IUCN Red List Of Threatened Species For First Time

"There is a common misconception that marine species are not as vulnerable to extinction as land-based species," said Roger McManus, CI's vice president for marine programs. "However, we increasingly realize that marine biodiversity is also faced with serious environmental threat, and that there is an urgent need to determine the worldwide extent of these pressures to guide marine conservation practice."

"Marine ecosystems are vulnerable to threats at all scales -- globally through climate change, regionally from El Niño events, and locally when over-fishing removes key ecosystem building blocks," said Jane Smart, head of the IUCN Species Program. "We need more effective solutions to manage marine resources in a more sustainable way in light of these increasing threats."

Scientists find trio of coral 'hot spots' off Canada's East Coast

Scientists have for the first time discovered a string of coral 'hot spots' in waters off Canada's East Coast and will use the surprising finds to press global fishing interests to steer clear of areas they say are vital marine habitats.

Canadian researchers, in a study to be released Tuesday, said they found heavy concentrations of about 30 species of coral along a stretch of the seabed that extends from the Hudson Strait off Labrador to the Grand Banks off southern Newfoundland.

Their 40-page report says three main sites serve as sanctuaries for a variety of marine animals, but are being damaged by intense fishing.

"We're recommending an immediate fisheries closure in those areas where coral concentrations can be identified within those hot spots," said Bob Rangeley of the World Wildlife Fund, which released the study.

While large scale trawler fishing is a problem for coral reefs so is offshore oil and gas exploration in countries like the Philippines.

Gov’t Selling Protected Seas to TNCs – Environmental Groups

In line with its thrust of attracting foreign investments, the Arroyo government is now opening up the country’s protected seas to oil and gas exploration by transnational corporations.

In our brave new world of genetic modification coral genes have been added to tropical fish.

GlowFish - freshwater zebra fish native to Asia that have been genetically modified to express fluorescent proteins so they glow red, green or yellow. The genes come from a coral and an anemone.

And ancient coral reefs are being studied because of the impact that volcanic global warming had millions of years ago on the extinction of almost all life on earth.

In 1991, scientists reported that the largest known volcanic event in the past 600 million years occurred at the same time as the end-Permian extinction. Magma extruded through coal-rich regions of the Earth's crust and blanketed a region the size of the continental United States with basalt to a depth of up to 6 kilometers. The eruptions that formed the Siberian Traps not only threw ash, debris and toxic gases into the atmosphere but also may have heated the coal and released vast quantities of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

Rapid release of these greenhouse gases would have caused the oceans first to become acidic and then to become supersaturated with calcium carbonate. In the July Bulletin, Payne presents evidence that underwater limestone beds around the world eroded at the time of the end-Permian extinction. This finding, coupled with geochemical evidence for changes in the relative abundances of carbon isotopes, strongly suggests an acidic marine environment at the time of the extinction. The rock layers immediately covering this eroded surface include carbonate crystal fans, which indicate oceans supersaturated with calcium carbonate.

More than 90 percent of all marine species disappeared from the Great Bank of Guizhou and other end-Permian fossil formations 250 million years ago. Land plants and animals suffered similar losses. Douglas Erwin, curator of the Paleozoic invertebrates collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, has dubbed this event "the greatest biodiversity crisis in the history of life." An unusually long period of time passed before biological diversity began to reappear.

"This end-Permian extinction is beginning to look a whole lot like the world we live in right now," Payne said. "The good news, if there is good news, is that we have not yet released as much carbon into the atmosphere as would be hypothesized for the end-Permian extinction. Whether or not we get there depends largely on future policy decisions and what happens over the next couple of centuries."

Reef communities are a sort of canary in the mineshaft, Payne explained. Today, coral reef health is considered a measure of environmental stability. When stressed by environmental conditions, the algae that inhabit the reef leave, and the reef loses color-and one reason why algae might leave is temperature. For example, when ocean temperatures rise during El Niño years, corals bleach. This type of immediate response to environmental change is hard to track in the geologic record.

The climate change deniers will probably blame El Nino and El Nina for this.

In mid-2007, scientists announced the results of an examination of the geological record of coral reefs in the Caribbean, dating back over 3,000 years.

Using core samples from the coral, these scientists found that – for thousands of years – reefs grew rapidly. But, since about 1980, reef-building has faltered.

Richard Aronson: The kinds of changes that we’ve seen over the last several decades are unprecedented on a scale of at least several thousand years.

That’s Rich Aronson of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama. He said that reef cover – the percentage of living coral on a reef – has shrunk from covering about 50 % to 10 % of Caribbean reefs since the late 1970s.

Threats to coral come from water pollution – from destructive fishing with dynamite – from carbon-based greenhouse gases, which can acidify the ocean and stunt coral growth and from warmer ocean waters causing coral bleaching.

Another recent study found a nearly identical trend in the much broader Indo-Pacific region, which contains 75% of the world’s coral reefs.

Canada's Coral Museum on

Welcome to Canada's Coral Museum which turned out to be the greatest coldwater coral museum in the entire world. Canada had more coral on our East Coast than 11 Great Barrier Reefs but we destroyed it all in our mindless quest for fishsticks while we blamed seals and handliners for the disaster. Too bad nobody helped and I only run the very sucessful museum for a few months.


Strange Sea Creatures

Climate Catastrophe In Ten Years

They Walk Among Us

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