Global warming: Outlook for coral reefs gloomy, scientists say at Prague conference

‘We will have algal-dominated, rubble-strewn, slowly eroding limestone benches’

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Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius may not be enough to save ocean ecosystems, according to scientists.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even if this year’s COP21 talks in Paris result in a global climate treaty, it may not be enough to save the world’s coral reefs. A global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius — targeted by the talks — means most reefs could be dead by mid-century, according to presentations at the Goldschmidt conference in Prague.

Speaking to the world’s major gathering of geochemists, Professor Peter F Sale (University of Windsor, Canada) spelled out the stark choice facing climate scientists in the run-up to the Paris conference.

“Even if Paris is wildly successful, and a treaty is struck, ocean warming and ocean acidification are going to continue beyond the end of this century,” Sale said.

“I find it very unlikely that coral reefs as I knew them in the mid-1960s will still be found anywhere on this planet by mid-century. Instead, we will have algal-dominated, rubble-strewn, slowly eroding limestone benches,” Sale said. Continue reading

Loss of coral reefs could make some islands uninhabitable

The residents of

Some reef-ringed atolls will see their drinking water supplies wiped out due to global warming.

Island flooding likely to increase dramatically as coral reefs die

Staff Report

FRISCO —Besides losing critical marine nurseries, the decline of coral reefs will put some island communities at direct risk of flooding and even threaten freshwater drinking supplies, according to a new study that tries to project how climate change will affect the ability of coral reefs to mitigate coastal hazards.

About 30 million people living on low-lying coral islands and atolls are dependent on ecosystem services provided by reefs. Right now, some of those islands see flooding from large waves a few times each decade, but that number is expected to increase dramatically. Continue reading

Study maps biodiversity in Bering Sea canyon

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New research reveals biodiversity secrets deep beneath the surface of the Bering Sea.

Protection could benefit entire Bering Sea ecosystem

Staff Report

FRISCO — An undersea canyon in the Bering Sea is a biodiversity hotspot, scientists said in a new report that reinforces a push to establish protection for the area.

The study, conducted by the Marine Science Institute at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Greenpeace concluded that Pribilof canyon is the most significant location for deep sea corals and sponges along the entire eastern Bering Sea shelf.

With protections in place for coral and sponge habitat, Bering Sea fish and king crab populations could increase, according to conservation advocates. The study, published in Global Ecology and Conservation, also found that restricting bottom-contact fishing in Bering Sea canyons would not have significant negative impacts on the fishing industry. Continue reading

Climate: Coral reefs taking a big hit this year

A diverse coral reef in the U.S. Virgin Islands. PHOTO BY CAROLINE ROGERS/USGS.

Coral reefs in the Caribbean, like this one in the U.S. Virgin Islands, are at risk of bleaching as global warming heats up the world’s oceans. Photo by Caroline Rogers/USGS.

Warm oceans leading to widespread reef bleaching

Staff Report

FRISCO — Ocean researchers have updated their warnings of potential coral reef bleaching based on unusually warm ocean temperatures across the north Pacific, equatorial Pacific, and western Atlantic oceans this summer.

Scientists with NOAA’s coral reef watch say they expect  bleaching of corals on Northern Hemisphere reefs through October, potentially leading to the death of corals over a wide area and affecting the long-term supply of fish and shellfish.

“The bleaching that started in June 2014 has been really bad for corals in the western Pacific,” said Mark Eakin, NOAA Coral Reef Watch coordinator. “We are worried that bleaching will spread to the western Atlantic and again into Hawaii.” Continue reading

Climate: Genetic study shows some corals may have fighting chance to survive warmer oceans

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Can a genetic ‘mix-and-match effort save some coral species from global warming? Photo courtesy NOAA.

Mixing and matching corals from different latitudes may boost reef survival

Staff Report

FRISCO — If global warming can be capped at a reasonable level, some coral reefs may have a fighting chance to adapt to warmer ocean waters, according to new genetic research.

The new study suggests some coral species already have genetic variants necessary to tolerate warm ocean waters, and humans can help to spread these genes, said a team of scientists from The University of Texas at Austin, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Oregon State University. Continue reading

Climate: Hope for coral reefs?

Coral reef ecosystems are likely to change dramatically as oceans absorb more carbon dioxide. PHOTO COURTESY EPA.

Coral reefs may not be completely doomed after all, although it may all depend on exactly how hot it gets.

New study says temperature thresholds not the end-all to coral reef survival

Staff Report

FRISCO — Many coral reefs will definitely struggle to survive the global warming era, but the devastation may not be as widespread as once believed.

New research that looked beyond simple temperature thresholds shows a more nuanced picture in which the survival of reefs is linked not only to temperatures, but to how they respond to other stress, including pollution. Continue reading

Still more questions than answers about the ecological effects of oil dispersants used in Gulf of Mexico

Scientists say more study needed before the next big spill

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster approaches the Alabama coastline. Courtesy U.S. Navy.

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster approaches the Alabama coastline. Courtesy U.S. Navy.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Fallout from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is still rippling through the Gulf of Mexico — and through the scientific community studying the effects of the largest oil spill on record.

Along with 210 million gallons of crude oil that leaked from BP’s failed deep-sea well, cleanup workers applied 1.84 million gallons of chemical dispersant intended to break down the oil and prevent it from reaching the shoreline in massive quantities. Continue reading

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