21st century Noah’s Ark may help save coral reefs from extinction

June 6th, 2009 - 1:10 pm ICT by ANI  

London, June 6 (ANI): Marine scientists have painted a grim picture of the future, where the 21st century equivalent of Noah’s Ark would be needed to save coral reefs from extinction.

According to a report in the Times, marine scientists such as Alex Rogers, of the Institute of Zoology, London, warn that unless drastic changes are made, the only way that the rainforests of the sea will survive is through radical intervention such as transplanting them to a Noah’s Ark of enormous seawater tanks.

They envision a future in which the world’s only surviving coral ecosystems are contained in enormous aquaria where conditions can be carefully regulated.

“We’ve got at most ten years to do something really significant to turn things around,” said Dr Rogers.

“We have to start contemplating such huge engineering projects to preserve reefs. Of course, they would only save a fraction of the species, but it would at least be something,” he added.

Despite the immensity of the ocean, there are indications that it is approaching its tipping point.

For reefs, warming waters and acidification are closing in like a pair of jaws that threaten to make them the first global ecosystem to disappear.

Fast reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are crucial for the future of reefs because of a time lag between release into the atmosphere and absorption by the ocean.

Even if a total halt on emissions were accomplished immediately, seawater would continue to absorb CO2 for years to come.

“Overcoming this carbon dioxide ‘hump’ is going to be a critical challenge for coral reefs,” Dr Rogers said.

If an aquatic Noah’s Ark becomes the last chance for coral reefs, their troubles will not be over.

For example, lack of genetic mixing makes captive corals vulnerable to disease. Perhaps more alarming still, they will once again rely on humans for the stability of their environment.

“It’s not that difficult to get corals to grow in captivity,” said Ash Sharpe, formerly of London Zoo’s aquarium and now a coral farmer.

“The problem is maintaining genetic diversity. That and human error - if one person makes a mistake with the maintenance regimes, everything’s gone,” Sharpe added. (ANI)

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