Monday, March 27, 2017

CLIMATE CHANGE - Great Barrier Reef

"Climate change is killing the Great Barrier Reef" PBS NewsHour 3/22/2017


SUMMARY:  Coral reefs are more than examples of natural beauty; they harbor fish that feed millions and shield us against storms and floods.  Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on the planet, is dying.  As ocean waters steadily warm, extensive coral destruction continues, part of an unprecedented global crisis.  Science correspondent Miles O'Brien reports on what's at stake.

MILES O'BRIEN (NewsHour):  Half the size of Texas, spanning 1,400 miles, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the largest living structure on the planet.  It is rich in beauty and diversity, but it is dying, as the ocean waters steadily warm.

DAVID WACHENFELD, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority:  It's a very confronting situation.  And I hope the people of the world take this as a call to action to do more about climate change.

MILES O'BRIEN:  Coral reef ecologist David Wachenfeld is director for reef recovery at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.  It's the second consecutive summer of extensive coral destruction, or bleaching, on the reef.

DAVID WACHENFELD:  We are using aerial surveys and underwater surveys to try and cover that whole enormous area of the Great Barrier Reef to get a handle on the extent and severity of the event.  But, certainly, this year is shaping up to be another very bad year, as was last year.

MILES O'BRIEN:  Last year, two-thirds of the corals in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef died, the worst die-off in history.  As for this year, it is too early to tell.  But the outlook is grim, as this is one big piece of an unprecedented global coral crisis.

C. MARK EAKIN, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Watch:  Since June of '14, we have had continuous bleaching somewhere in the world.  Globally, over 70 percent of the coral reefs around the globe have been exposed to the high temperatures that cause bleaching.

MILES O'BRIEN:  Coral reef ecologist Mark Eakin is the coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coral Reef Watch.

He relies on data from scientific satellites operated by NOAA, the Europeans, and the Japanese that measure ocean water temperature.  He, along with David Wachenfeld, is co-author of a new study published in the journal Nature documenting the link between warm waters and dying coral in the Great Barrier Reef.

C. MARK EAKIN:  What we did here at Coral Reef Watch was to provide the satellite data that gives the information on the areas where the high temperatures occurred.

So, there are charts in there showing where the bleaching was worst and where the temperatures were highest for the longest time, and the correlation between that heat stress and where the bleaching occurred was very high.

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