Climate change may cause massive coral reef destruction: study

May 13th, 2009 - 2:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Manado (Indonesia), May 13 (DPA) Coral reefs would disappear from the Coral Triangle by the end of this century unless effective action is taken on climate change, said a study released Wednesday.
The study, commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said the destruction of the Coral Triangle would reduce the ability of coastal environments to feed people by 80 percent and result in the livelihoods of around 100 million people being lost or badly affected.

The Coral Triangle, considered the world’s richest marine environment, spans the coasts, reefs and seas of Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and East Timor.

Such a scenario would be prevented if global action on climate change is taken and the problems of over-fishing and pollution in the region is tackled, according to the study presented at the World Ocean Conference in the Indonesian coastal city of Manado.

“In one world scenario, we continue along our current climate trajectory and do little to protect coastal environments from the onslaught of local threats,” Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, who led the study, was quoted as saying in a statement released by WWF.

In this scenario, people see the biological treasures of the Coral Triangle destroyed over the course of the century by rapid increases in ocean temperature, acidity and sea level, Hegh-Guldberg said.

“Poverty increases, food security plummets, economies suffer and coastal people migrate increasingly to urban areas,” he said.

The WWF said the Coral Triangle includes 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs, 76 percent of its reef building coral species and more than 35 percent of its coral reef fish species as well as vital spawning grounds for other economically important fish such as tuna. It sustains the lives of more than 100 million people.

Building a strong Coral Triangle in which economic growth, food security and natural environments were maintained could prevent the worst-case scenario, the report said.

Significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions must be backed up by international investment in strengthening the region’s natural environments, it said.

Even under the best-case scenario, communities will face loss of coral, sea-level rises, increased storm activity, severe droughts and reduced food availability from coastal fisheries.

But they will remain reasonably intact and more resilient in the face of these hardships.

WWF International Director General James Leape said in the statement that environmental pressures “are increasing at such an alarming rate that urgent regional and international action must now be taken to avoid an ecological and human catastrophe.”

More than 5,000 climatologists, ocean experts, government representatives and environmentalists from 80 nations are discussing the effects of climate change on the world’s oceans at the conference, which would end Friday.

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