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Climate problems underwater

November 6, 2010

I wonder if anyone did see a recent article in the Straits Times on corals in Asia becoming bleached, considering the small area dedicated to it in the papers. But if you missed out on it, here it is:

The effects of climate change are indeed far-reaching – temperature rises are steadily destroying the beautiful coral reefs of the oceans due to a process called coral bleaching. What exactly is coral bleaching? Coral bleaching happens when corals turn a deathly, eerie – yet strangely serene – white as the zooxanthellae (a type of single-cell plant organism) that lives inside corals are ejected out as they cannot make food for the corals in conditions of higher temperatures. Maybe the pictorial representation will help 🙂

Singapore is no stranger to this phenomenon, considering that we’ve experienced coral bleaching in 1998 as well. If you want to read this in more detail, check out 🙂 they offer quite a good explanation of coral bleaching (mine is sketchy in comparison) and also touch on the 1998 coral bleaching incident in Singapore. For those who aren’t really able to visualise coral bleaching – given that we have little contact with the marine ecosystem in Singapore – maybe this will show you the before-and-after of coral bleaching.

Humans aren’t the only ones suffering from the heat, coral reefs are as well!

Coral bleaching is a crucial issue as it results in an imbalance in the marine ecosystem – what will be left is an underwater graveyard that is difficult to revive once again. Perhaps many of us have enjoyed the wonders of the underwater world at (yes none other than) the Underwater World attraction at Sentosa, but let us take a look beyond that sheltered, human-tamed environment of the Underwater World, to look into the true waters of the Earth, to see what humans have done to the marine environment.

Not only has climate change adversely affected coral reefs, our human activities have damaged them so extensively that they are in danger of disappearing from the face of the Earth. Consider the planting of explosives into waters by fishermen who wish to increase the amount of fish they catch, or even the dumping of chemical waste into offshore waters by industrial plants – these have actually destroyed our coral reefs, which have been silently taking in the damage to little notice. My GP tutor did raise a point to me regarding this (I haven’t checked on the validity of this but oh well it was quite shocking) – most of the coral reefs near Jurong Island and industrial areas in the West have disappeared – I guess the explanation is quite simple. The industrial activities that contribute to climate change through carbon and greenhouse gas emissions harm coral reefs by twice the extent – not only by raising temperatures, but also by directly harming the environment they thrive in.

And here are two speakers who have really, really inspired me regarding this – considering that I really like marine animals (I still have alot to read though) – and they really do show the extent of damage that has been done to the marine ecosystem, not just because of human actions, but climate change as well. Do watch them in your spare time 🙂

One Comment leave one →
  1. Filbert Lam permalink
    November 11, 2010 2:03 pm

    I think that this piece on the impact of human actions on coral reefs is really insightful. The destruction of corals has outreaching effects beyond the loss of asthetic appeal. That would be one of the major concerns of areas such as the Great Barrier Reef as avid divers from all over the world flock to the Reef to explore the oceans annually, generating significant revenue for the tourism industry.

    However, there are other effects such as the effect on the marine ecosystems. When some fishes are dependant on these corals for survival, they balance of these ecosystems are usurped as well.

    Another impact could be the loss of natural barriers as well. Corals act as natural breakwaters against tsunamis too. 🙂

    Oh by the way, I love and everyone should watch the talks there (not only for the sake of GP 😀 )

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