World Oceans Day 2016 and Time is running out for certain Marine Ecosystems.
Dr Camilla Floros, Reef Programme Scientist – Oceanographic Research Institute, based at uShaka Marine World talks about Coral Reefs and climate change.
The ocean regulates climate, feeds millions of people, produces most of the oxygen we breathe, is home to an incredible array of species and provides us with cures for diseases. However, due to many threats facing the ocean, such as climate change, time is running out for certain marine ecosystems. Coral reefs are the most diverse ecosystems in the ocean, but unfortunately they are declining.
South Africa has beautiful coral reefs with high fish and coral diversity situated along the Maputaland coast. Although bleaching has occurred on our reefs with 13% of corals affected, this is considerably less than other parts of the world like the Great Barrier where up to 80% of their corals on certain reefs have suffered bleaching.
South Africa’s reefs are subtropical so the sea temperatures aren’t as high as tropical reefs and our reefs are also deeper, which has largely protected them from severe bleaching.
Corals are tiny animals that live in colonies that form coral reefs. These coral reefs are critically important to humans because not only do they provide shelter to 25% of all known marine species, they protect shorelines from oceanic waves and erosion, and they represent the medicine chests of the sea and generate millions through tourism annually.
Tiny algae provide corals with 90% of their nutritional needs but, when sea temperatures are too high, the symbiotic relationship between the coral and algae breaks down and the algae are ejected by the coral, leaving the corals ghostly white and literally starving.
Corals may recover if the temperature stress is short-lived, but they will die if it is prolonged. The loss of coral reefs has huge implications for the ocean and human health. Let’s all do what we can to remain conscious of our environmental footprints and live with the ocean in mind.
Because humans tend to be forgetful, I recommend setting up reminders if we want to make changes to reduce our personal impact on climate change. Some suggestions I have are as follows.
- Don’t overfill the kettle – what you don’t use will only go cold again
- Turn off appliances before going to sleep at night
- Make meat a treat – the meat industry contributes 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions
- Walk more – people don’t emit pollution when they walk
- Take short sharp showers – (every minute in the shower uses 10 litres of water)
Saving our Wold starts with the little things we do. These little things lead to a big difference. The change is up to you.