Soaring temperatures spark mass coral death in Indonesia
Ocean temperatures in the waters off Indonesia have climbed into the 90s, devastating some of the world's most biodiverse coral reefs and threatening the livelihood of locals.
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"It's a disappointing development particularly in light of the fact that these same corals proved resilient to other disruptions to this ecosystem, including the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004," said WCS Indonesia Marine Program Director Stuart Campbell.Skip to next paragraph
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Surveys conducted in the wake of the 2004 tsunami revealed that the many reefs of Aceh were largely unaffected by this massive disturbance. Indeed, reefs severely damaged by poor land use and destructive fishing prior to the tsunami had recovered dramatically in the intervening years due to improved management. Government and community-managed areas in the region have been remarkably successful at maintaining fish biomass despite ongoing access to the reefs. But the bleaching and mortality in 2010 have rapidly reversed this recovery and will have a profound effect on reef fisheries.
Of particular concern is the scale of the warmer ocean waters, which the NOAA website indicates has affected the entire Andaman Sea and beyond. Similar mass bleaching events in 2010 have now been recorded in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia and many parts of Indonesia.
"If a similar degree of mortality is apparent at other sites in the Andaman Sea this will be the worst bleaching event ever recorded in the region," said Andrew Baird of James Cook University in Australia. "The destruction of these upstream reefs means recovery is likely to take much longer than before."
Efforts to bring back the reefs will have to be both local and global in scale, McClennen said.
"Immediate and intensive management will be required to try and help these reefs, their fisheries and the entire ecosystem recover and adapt," he said. "However, coral reefs cannot be protected from the warming ocean temperatures brought on by a changing climate by local actions alone. This is another unfortunate reminder that international efforts to curb the causes and effects of climate change must be made if these sensitive ecosystems and the vulnerable human communities around the world that depend on them are to adapt and endure."
- Oceans in Peril: Primed for Mass Extinction?
- Which Creatures Will Thrive in Warmer Oceans?
- How Corals Could Survive Climate Changes