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Reef Report for Monday, May 15, 2006

U.S. Declares Two Florida Coral Species to be Threatened with Extinction

In a recent press release, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA), a US government agency responsible for protecting the ocean environment, has declared two species of corals native to be threatened with extinction. © NOAA

These two species, known in the Caribbean as Staghorn and Elkhorn Coral, (Acropora cervicornis and Acropora palmate) have been shown by recent scientific research to be "likely to become in danger of extinction through all or a significant portion of their range in the foreseeable future."

This is an unfortunate first; the first time a coral species has ever been declared to be threatened with extinction. This alone is a significant event, and should make us all concerned about the impact of human activities on coral species worldwide.

Considering some of the facts associated with this news we should all be even more concerned. These two species, under ideal conditions, are fast growing and in the past have recovered quickly from storm damage and other forms of destruction. In the past these species were often the first species of corals to grow in an area following a disturbance, a provided a vital start to the formation of coral reefs.

Research by the Center for Biological Diversity has indicated that these once abundant species have declined by 80-98% in most parts of their range, with no strong signs of a recovery.

The causes? NOAA’s press release points to a combination of environmental stresses, global warming, pollution, and the increase of coral diseases that were once rarely seen in Caribbean coral species.

We find it disappointing that the connection of the decline of these coral species with global warming is not made more clearly in this announcement. NOAA prefers to use the term "temperature-induced" bleaching to describe the damage caused by increased ocean temperatures.

It’s interesting that in the same archive of NOAA press releases as the Coral Announcement are articles entitled "Warmest April on Record in U.S." "Area Where Hurricanes Develop is Warmer" and "NOAA Reports Record Warm January Across the US" We hope you will read up on the issue, and that you urge your political representatives to become more aware and concerned about global warming.

Here in Australia the Great Barrier Reef is in good shape for the moment, we not seeing the decline in coral abundance seen in Florida. Given the global nature of climate change, we are still very concerned, and wish to see grandchildren worldwide experience the magic of coral reefs, not just in Australia, but everywhere in tropical waters.

Further Reading:

Elkhorn and Staghorn Corals Listed as Threatened Status

Area Where Hurricanes Develop is Warmer

Warmest April on Record in US

(C) DiveTheReef The weekly reef report is written by Joel Groberg of DiveTheReef.com, who compiles them from the many conversations he has with dive staff in the area, as well as  many other local sources in the dive community.

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