Our Reefs at Risk Activity and Coloring Book teaches children about the wonders of coral reefs through fun and educational activities. The book takes students on a learning adventure through interactive activities, thought-provoking questions, and captivating coloring pages. It raises …
Climate change is affecting oceans globally, but many believe coral reefs are the world’s “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to irreversible damage resulting from climate impacts.
To understand the mechanisms of climate change, it is important to look at the history of carbon emissions. In the 1880s, the industrial revolution catalyzed the use of carbon-based fuel and helped advance human civilization in ways very few could imagine. However, one downside to this advancement was the exponential release and trapping of carbon in our atmosphere, usually in the form of carbon dioxide. For the past 140 years, this accumulation has resulted in substantial changes to the Earth’s climate.
The Earth’s ocean is a net carbon sink, meaning it absorbs more carbon than it releases. Within the ocean, there are many chemical changes that can occur as the amount of carbon dioxide is dissolved into the water. One of the most common changes is a decrease in the ocean’s pH as it becomes more acidic as more CO2 is absorbed, a term commonly referred to as ocean acidification (OA). This decrease in pH has led to numerous physiological problems in marine animals, particularly calcifying organisms like those found on coral reefs.
This week, the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 is taking place in Glasgow, United Kingdom. This conference will bring together world leaders so they can address global climate policy and action, and assess the progress made to address climate change that was promised in previous years. The decisions made at this meeting could have lasting consequences for marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, that are particularly sensitive to climate change.
The primary goals of COP26 are to secure global net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century and to adapt policies to protect communities and natural habitats. Net-zero carbon emissions does not mean no carbon will be released, but that any carbon emitted will be offset by other actions taken to remove it from the atmosphere.
Certain coastal marine ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and salt marshes, are particularly good at sequestering carbon by pulling it out of the air and storing it underground. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems (as we do in our Mangrove Education & Restoration Program) can not only conserve the marine environment, it can also help combat climate change. These ecosystems can also help coastal communities naturally adapt to other impacts of climate change by protecting the coast from storms, reducing erosion, and helping the shoreline keep up with sea level rise.
The Chagos Archipelago is one of the most remote, seemingly idyllic places on Earth. Coconut-covered sandy beaches with incredible bird life rim tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles from any continent. Just below the waves, coral reefs stretch for miles along an underwater mountain chain.
It’s a paradise. At least it was before the heat wave.
Having first visited the Chagos Archipelago in 2006, it was an immense pleasure to return with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation under the auspices of the Global Reef Expedition. Returning to the archipelago offered the chance to continue work that had been initiated nearly a decade earlier by other scientists—monitoring of the fish assemblages and health of the coral—but also begin new science initiatives.
Following the discovery of a rich portfolio of vintage aerial photographs for the Chagos Archipelago taken in 1963, we are examining the dynamics of the coastlines of the many islands in the archipelago in an effort to understand how low-lying atoll islands respond to rising sea level. Largely uninhabited, Chagos is one of very few places in the world where the behavior of islands can be tracked in the absence of artificial coastline modifications. That is, “natural” island behavior can be quantified.
As a marine ecologist, being able to survey the reefs of the Chagos Archipelago, considered the last frontier of coral reefs, was a very exciting prospect. After many hours flying, and even more on the ship transiting to our first destination, we finally arrived in the British Indian Ocean Territory Marine Protected Area where the Chagos reefs are found. From our first dive, I knew this would be a trip to remember. Prior to this, I had participated on many of the GRE expeditions, but this one felt different. I was awestruck by the beautiful reefs with large, healthy assemblages of corals and incredible fish communities. We came across unique reefs with monospecific stands of corals unlike seen in other parts of the world. The benthic communities appeared to be thriving with a balance of coral, CCA, other algae that supported the flourishing invertebrate and fish populations.
However, later in our trip, things started to change right before our eyes. We later discovered we were the first to observe what would be one of the most catastrophic global bleaching events on record. The water was exceptionally warm, causing the beautiful coral we had been observing to show signs of stress.
Coral Reefs: Trouble in Paradise tells the story of an international scientific team in the Chagos Archipelago, a tropical paradise in the British Indian Ocean Territory with some of the healthiest coral reefs on the planet. Initially, the scientists …
You can’t talk about coral in the Galapagos without talking about the atmospheric phenomenon called El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Normally, west-blowing trade winds push warm waters into the western Pacific Ocean. Every four or five years on average, though, …