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Thread: Coal And Coral: Australia's Self-Destructive Paradox

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    Coal And Coral: Australia's Self-Destructive Paradox

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/...uctive-paradox

    well lookie here

    It's not every day you open an in-flight magazine and read an ad touting "spitwater pressure cleaners for the mining industry." Flip the page and you'll also see an ad cajoling you to "snorkel, sip, snooze" on the Great Barrier Reef.

    This is Australia, and the ads illustrate a self-destructive paradox: Coal mining could eventually kill the reef that Australians revere.

    Nowhere is this more evident than in the city of Gladstone, a jumping off point to the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and the world's fourth largest coal-export hub. Dredges have turned the harbor brown as they work to expand the coal port. And three massive liquefied natural gas terminals are being constructed on an island that is a World Heritage Site — a United Nations designation for places of exceptional natural value.
    my junk is ugly

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    People really don't realize sometimes how these things can affect the environment. When you add in the construction to build industrial facilities for these operations, the trash build up from the workers and facilities, the pollution of the nearby ecosystems and water sources, the destruction of the forests and mountains surrounding it, and so on, it just because a hazard to life.

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    Coral reefs dying off...



    Scientists race to prevent wipeout of world's coral reefs
    Mar 12, 2017 - There were startling colors here just a year ago, a dazzling array of life beneath the waves. Now this Maldivian reef is dead, killed by the stress of rising ocean temperatures. What's left is a haunting expanse of gray, a scene repeated in reefs across the globe in what has fast become a full-blown ecological catastrophe.

    The world has lost roughly half its coral reefs in the last 30 years. Scientists are now scrambling to ensure that at least a fraction of these unique ecosystems survives beyond the next three decades. The health of the planet depends on it: Coral reefs support a quarter of all marine species, as well as half a billion people around the world. "This isn't something that's going to happen 100 years from now. We're losing them right now," said marine biologist Julia Baum of Canada's University of Victoria. "We're losing them really quickly, much more quickly than I think any of us ever could have imagined."





    Even if the world could halt global warming now, scientists still expect that more than 90 percent of corals will die by 2050. Without drastic intervention, we risk losing them all.
    "To lose coral reefs is to fundamentally undermine the health of a very large proportion of the human race," said Ruth Gates, director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. Coral reefs produce some of the oxygen we breathe. Often described as underwater rainforests, they populate a tiny fraction of the ocean but provide habitats for one in four marine species. Reefs also form crucial barriers protecting coastlines from the full force of storms.





    They provide billions of dollars in revenue from tourism, fishing and other commerce, and are used in medical research for cures to diseases including cancer, arthritis and bacterial or viral infections. "Whether you're living in North America or Europe or Australia, you should be concerned," said biologist Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the Global Change Institute at Australia's University of Queensland. "This is not just some distant dive destination, a holiday destination. This is the fabric of the ecosystem that supports us."





    And that fabric is being torn apart. "You couldn't be more dumb ... to erode the very thing that life depends on — the ecosystem — and hope that you'll get away with it," Hoegh-Guldberg said. Corals are invertebrates, living mostly in tropical waters. They secrete calcium carbonate to build protective skeletons that grow and take on impressive colors, thanks to a symbiotic relationship with algae that live in their tissues and provide them with energy.


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    The Great Barrier Reef is experiencing its worst bleaching on record...

    Great Barrier Reef survival relies on halting warming, study warns
    Thu, 16 Mar 2017 - The survival of Australia's natural wonder relies on tackling warming, new research warns.
    Australia's Great Barrier Reef can be saved only if urgent steps are taken to reduce global warming, new research has warned. Attempting to stop coral bleaching through any other method will not be sufficient, according to scientists. The research, published in the journal Nature, said bleaching events should no longer be studied individually, but as threats to the reef's survival.


    Severe coral bleaching on Australia's Great Barrier Reef

    The bleaching - or loss of algae - in 2016 was the worst on record. "Climate change is the single greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef," said co-author Prof Morgan Pratchett, from Queensland's James Cook University. "It all comes down to what the governments in Australia and around the world do in terms of mitigating further rises in temperatures."

    Mass coral bleaching

    * Coral bleaching is caused by rising water temperatures resulting from two natural warm currents.
    * It is exacerbated by man-made climate change, as the oceans are absorbing about 93% of the increase in the Earth's heat.
    * Bleaching happens when corals under stress drive out the algae known as zooxanthellae that give them colour.
    * If normal conditions return, the corals can recover, but it can take decades, and if the stress continues the corals can die.

    Lead author Prof Terry Hughes warned bleaching events had become "the new normal". Last week, he said an aerial survey had shown evidence of mass bleaching in consecutive summers for the first time. The scale of the damage will be examined in the next three weeks by the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, a collaboration of scientists and reef managers.

    Prof Pratchett said he remained optimistic the reef could recover, but the "window of opportunity" to curb emissions was closing. "It's the number one thing we need to think about now to save the reef," he told the BBC. Improving fishing practices or water quality would not be enough, he said. he reef - a vast collection of thousands of smaller coral reefs stretching from the northern tip of Queensland to the state's southern city of Bundaberg - was given World Heritage status in 1981. The UN says it is the "most biodiverse" of all the World Heritage sites, and of "enormous scientific and intrinsic importance".

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-39226494

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    Granny says, "Dat's right - it's the end times...


    Scientists Issue Climate Change Alert for Australia's Great Barrier Reef
    March 18, 2017 — New research warns that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef can be saved only if urgent steps are taken to tackle climate change. The study, published in the journal Nature, says parts of the world’s largest coral system will never fully recover from repeated bleaching, caused by spikes in the water temperature.
    The Great Barrier Reef faces localized threats, such as the run-off of pesticides from farms and overfishing, but scientists believe its future depends on immediate efforts to reduce global warming.


    Worst bleaching on record


    They say last year’s bleaching of large parts of the reef was the worst on record. There’s evidence that a similar event is occurring this year. Corals begin to starve once they bleach, the main cause of which is heat stress resulting from high sea temperatures. The world heritage body, UNESCO, has threatened to put the Great Barrier Reef on its in danger list because of mounting concerns over its health.



    Dried coral lies on a beach as the sun sets on Lady Elliot Island, 80 kilometers northeast of Bundaberg in Queensland, Australia



    In response, Australia’s Queensland state government released a discussion paper to look at ways to improve water quality on the reef, which is contaminated by fertilizers and pesticides from farms near the coast. Nick Casule from the environment group Greenpeace says while localized threats must be addressed, so must the broader issue of climate change.


    'Warming killing the reef'


    “Poor water quality is a huge threat to the health of the Great Barrier Reef,” Casule said. “There is no denying that, and that comes from activities like agriculture and agricultural run-off into the reef. It also comes from activities like the industrial ports that are all up and down the Queensland coastline, but they can’t be viewed in isolation. At the core of that has to be the recognition that global warming is what is killing the reef.”


    The Great Barrier Reef stretches for 2,300 kilometers down Australia’s northeast coast. It is home to a wondrous array of wildlife, including more than 130 species of sharks, 500 types of worms and 1,600 varieties of fish. The reef pumps more than $4 billion into the Australian economy and employs 63,000 people mostly in the tourism industry, although some travel groups believe the damage inflicted on the coral system has been exaggerated, which has, in turn, seen many travelers from Europe and the United States cancel their trips.


    http://www.voanews.com/a/scientists-...f/3771653.html

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    Granny says, "Well, at least it ain't gettin' any worser...

    3-year Global Coral Bleaching Event Easing, But Still Bad
    June 19, 2017 | WASHINGTON — A mass bleaching of coral reefs worldwide is finally easing after three years, U.S. scientists announced Monday.
    About three-quarters of the world's delicate coral reefs were damaged or killed by hot water in what scientists say was the largest coral catastrophe. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a global bleaching event in May 2014. It was worse than previous global bleaching events in 1998 and 2010.


    The forecast damage doesn't look widespread in the Indian Ocean, so the event loses its global scope. Bleaching will still be bad in the Caribbean and Pacific, but it'll be less severe than recent years, said NOAA coral reef watch coordinator C. Mark Eakin. Places like Australia's Great Barrier Reef, northwest Hawaii, Guam and parts of the Caribbean have been hit with back-to-back-to-back destruction, Eakin said.



    Bleached coral is photographed on Australia's Great Barrier Reef near Port Douglas, February 20, 2017 in this handout image from Greenpeace.



    University of Victoria, British Columbia, coral reef scientist Julia Baum plans to travel to Christmas Island in the Pacific where the coral reefs have looked like ghost towns in recent years. “This is really good news,” Baum said. “We've been totally focused on coming out of the carnage of the 2015-2016 El Nino.” While conditions are improving, it's too early to celebrate, said Eakin, adding that the world may be at a new normal where reefs are barely able to survive during good conditions.


    Eakin said coral have difficulty surviving water already getting warmer by man-made climate change. Extra heating of the water from a natural El Nino nudges coral conditions over the edge. About one billion people use coral reefs for fisheries or tourism. Scientists have said that coral reefs are one of the first and most prominent indicators of global warming. “I don't see how they can take one more hit at this point,” Baum said. “They need a reprieve.”


    https://www.voanews.com/a/global-cor...d/3907564.html

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    Coral recovering from bleaching...

    Great Barrier Reef starts to recover after severe coral bleaching, survey of sites between Cairns and Townsville shows
    Optimism is rising among scientists that parts of the Great Barrier Reef that were severely bleached over the past two years are making a recovery.
    Scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science this month surveyed 14 coral reefs between Cairns and Townsville to see how they fared after being bleached. The institute's Neil Cantin said they were surprised to find the coral had already started to reproduce. "We're finding corals that are showing early signs of reproductive development, really visible eggs that we can see under the naked eye," Dr Cantin said. "[It's] very surprising as previous studies have shown a two-to-three year delay in reproductive activity following bleaching events. "It means they have enough energy, they've recovered the zooxanthellae and the symbiosis and they even have energy to invest in reproduction and egg development."


    Photo: Australian Institute of Marine Science scientists surveyed 14 coral reefs in Queensland to assess bleaching damage.

    Nearly two thirds of the Great Barrier Reef was affected by bleaching in 2016 and 2017, killing up to 50 per cent of coral in those parts. Dr Cantin said scientists found eggs at most of the reefs in the Cairns region, including at Arlington Reef and Fitzroy Island. "What it means is the corals along the entire Great Barrier Reef, are survivors that are going to reproduce earlier than expected which could help drive quicker recovery if we don't see another heat stress this summer," he said. "This is a positive news story for a change for the Great Barrier Reef. We're seeing eggs and we hope those eggs will lead to somewhat of a successful spawning season this summer."


    Photo: A before and after image of coral bleaching in March 2016 (left) and later dying in May 2016 (right) at Lizard Island.

    AIMS researchers will continue to monitor the reefs to assess if it will lead to a successful spawning season. "What we really need to understand now is if these eggs that are produced will mature and lead to viable eggs that can form coral larvae," Dr Cantin said. The mass coral spawning event on the Great Barrier Reef occurs between October and December.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-2...covery/9001518

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    Project they hope could restore damaged ecosystems around the world...

    Coral transplant raises hopes for Barrier Reef
    Mon, Nov 27, 2017 - Coral bred in one part of the Great Barrier Reef was successfully transplanted into another area, Australian scientists said yesterday, in a project they hope could restore damaged ecosystems around the world.
    In a trial at the reef’s Heron Island off Australia’s east coast, the researchers late last year collected large amount of coral spawn and eggs, grew them into larvae and then transplanted them into areas of damaged reef. When they returned eight months later, they found juvenile coral that had survived and grown, aided by underwater mesh tanks. “The success of this new research not only applies to the Great Barrier Reef, but has potential global significance,” lead researcher Peter Harrison of Southern Cross University said. “It shows we can start to restore and repair damaged coral populations where the natural supply of coral larvae has been compromised.”

    Harrison said his mass larval-restoration approach contrasts with the “coral gardening” method of breaking up healthy coral and sticking healthy branches on reefs in the hope they will regrow, or growing coral in nurseries before transplantation. He was optimistic his approach, which was successfully trialed earlier in the Philippines in an area of reef highly degraded by blast fishing, could help reefs recover on a larger scale. “The results are very promising and our work shows that adding higher densities of coral larvae leads to higher numbers of successful coral recruits,” he said.

    The Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on Earth, is reeling from an unprecedented second-straight year of coral bleaching, because of warming sea temperatures linked to climate change. David Wachenfeld, chief scientist of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority that manages the area, said there was a need for such efforts amid the accelerating effects of climate change. “The success of these first trials is encouraging — the next challenge is to build this into broader scale technology that is going to make a difference to the reef as a whole,” Wachenfeld said.

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/worl.../27/2003683007

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    Savin' the world's corals...

    As Corals Wither Around The World, Scientists Try IVF
    December 26, 2017 • Battered by climate change and pollution, coral reefs are dying off. But in Guam, one group of scientists is trying to revive these tiny animals — with the coral equivalent of IVF.
    A couple hours after sunset, everyone is donning a wetsuit. In minutes, 15 to 20 dark figures are standing in a graveyard on the west coast of Guam. But they're not here for the tombstones. They've come to help rescue something from dying in the waters nearby — the corals. Corals along Guam's coastlines have been dying in recent years, and they're not alone. Warming seawater and increasing ocean acidity are damaging reef ecosystems around the world. Some scientists and environmentalists fear a worldwide collapse by 2050. The coral reefs we see are actually colonies of millions of tiny animals. In a single night, the corals cast a fog of sperm and eggs into the water, some of which fertilize to make baby coral larvae. And some of those larvae settle back onto the reef, making it grow. Dirk Petersen says, "OK, let's go. It's gonna be the night, guys. Spawning time." Petersen is the founder and executive director of SECORE, short for sexual coral reproduction. His mission is to gather sperm and eggs from the corals, fertilize them in the lab and return the baby corals to the wild. Think of it like IVF for the reefs.


    One organization is trying to save dying reefs by fertilizing coral in the lab, like this spawning colony of Acropora digitifera.

    The team divvies up the collection containers and heads to the beach. Everyone adjusts their snorkels, sharing lights so they can see what they're doing. They wade out into the water. "It's just a constant safari," says Richard Ross, a biologist with the California Academy of Sciences. "You hope you're going to see the corals spawning. And you never know if it's even going to happen." Ross and the others are focusing their efforts on this night on staghorn corals, a species that forms thickets of branching antlers. The staghorn corals have been hit hard in Guam by four years of bleaching and one episode of extremely low tides, not to mention soil runoff and heavy fishing. "A bunch of us coral reef managers were just so sick of just watching things die," says Laurie Raymundo, a biologist at the University of Guam. "And [we] really felt we want[ed] to start doing something — restore, rehabilitate — those are technical terms. The emotional terms are: 'Let's just see if we can watch something live for once.' "

    This is in large part why SECORE is here. The group got its start in the Caribbean, and it has come to the Pacific to teach others its technique to restore reefs. The method depends entirely on spawn. Al Licuanan of De La Salle University in the Philippines is eagerly eyeing the water for any sign of it. He explains, "It's been described like an upside-down rain of yellow, blue, pink. You find this foamlike muck." At last, the spawning happens. A thick speckling of little white dots are swirling everywhere. This is the future of the reef. There is just one problem *— it's the wrong species. The spawn is from the big Porites boulder corals, and the team doesn't have the right equipment to collect it. Petersen admits defeat. "Patience," he says. "Tomorrow is another night." The next night, they bring the right equipment, but there is not enough spawning. The following night, they try a different location, but again, there is just not enough material to collect. The spawning window has closed. It's part of what makes the work so difficult.


    Corals around the world have been dying because of warming waters and pollution. Some researchers hope they can reverse the trend by growing new corals in the lab.

    A couple days later, a fiery sunset lights up the sky on the west coast of Guam. Nicole Burns, a graduate student at the University of Guam, kicks her way down to a coral nursery 1,200 feet from shore. When she surfaces, she is holding a cement pyramid in her hand with a staghorn the size of a crouton growing on its surface. This baby is 2 years old and came from spawn collected at sea and fertilized onshore. It has been growing in the nursery ever since, cared for by Burns and others. "We tend to them," Burns says. "Once they're big enough, then you plant them out to be in nature and in the wild." The next day, this baby will be placed on a reef farther up the coast, which is where everyone is hoping it'll grow up to stand guard against an uncertain future.

    https://www.npr.org/2017/12/26/55612...ntists-try-ivf

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    Granny thinks coral is like a canary inna coal mine...

    Coral reefs head for 'knock-out punch'
    4 January 2018 - Repeat bouts of warmer seawater are posing a significant challenge to the world's tropical corals.
    A study of 100 reefs, published in Science Magazine, shows the interval between bleaching events in recent decades has shortened dramatically. It has gone from once every 25-30 years in the early 1980s to an average of just once every six years today. Bleaching is caused by anomalously warm water, which prompts coral polyps to eject their symbiotic algae. This drains the corals of their colour and is fatal unless conditions are reversed in a reasonably short time.


    A diver surveys bleached/dead corals on Zenith Reef, part of the Great Barrier Reef

    But even if temperatures fall back quickly, it can still take many years for damaged reefs to fully recover. "If you go into the ring with a heavyweight boxer, you could probably stand up for one round, but once that second round comes - you're going down," said Dr Mark Eakin from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). "The acceleration in the return rate of bleaching events matches up very well with what the climate models have been telling us - that predict that by mid-century most of the world's coral reefs will be suffering yearly, or near yearly, heat stress," he told BBC News.


    Striking difference between bleached and healthy coral on the Great Barrier Reef

    One telling observation in the assessment is that as global warming has progressed - the "cold" phases in the famous La Niña-El Niño ocean oscillation have today become warmer than the "hot" phases were three decades ago. "There basically are no cool years anymore; they are just years that aren't too hot," said Dr Eakin. Aside from their beauty, tropical corals provide important ecosystem services upon which the livelihoods of many millions of people depend. Reefs, for example, afford coastal protection from big waves, storms, and floods; they also act as key spawning and nursery grounds for economically important fish and other aquatic species.


    A turtle swimming over a destroyed reef in the Indian Ocean

    This study concentrates on the climate challenge to corals, but many reefs are also experiencing other stresses, including pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction. Unsurprisingly, the authors, led by Prof Terry Hughes from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Australia, call for renewed efforts to constrain and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. But it is interesting to note how more radical conservation solutions are now increasingly being discussed. These touch on topics such as engineered super-corals that are better able to cope in very warm water, and how you might go about artificially cooling a reef at times of high stress.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-42571484

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