The tsunami’s underwater victims
Jay Directo/AFP/Getty The earthquake off the coast of Indonesia in March 2005 not only killed over 900 people, but scientists have now found that the quake lifted an island almost four feet out of the water—causing one of the biggest coral die-offs ever recorded. Andrew Baird, one of researchers on the team that surveyed the ...
The earthquake off the coast of Indonesia in March 2005 not only killed over 900 people, but scientists have now found that the quake lifted an island almost four feet out of the water—causing one of the biggest coral die-offs ever recorded. Andrew Baird, one of researchers on the team that surveyed the area, explained that “[t]he scale of it was quite extraordinary …. Exposed corals were everywhere.” A number of species that lived in the corals were completely wiped out at several sites.
Sadly, this is just the latest in a long series of devastating problems afflicting coral reefs around the world. Some scientists fear that half the world’s coral reefs have already disappeared, and the other half will be completely destroyed in just fifty years due to a toxic combination of pollution, coastal development, overfishing, deadly diseases (such as “white-band” and “black-band”), and climate change. Perhaps the single greatest threat to corals around the world is higher sea temperatures, which causes thermal stress for corals, resulting in coral “bleaching.” This causes corals lose much of their symbiotic algae, which leads to irreversible damage and death after a prolonged period of time. Aside from their intrinsic value and their fundamental importance in preserving marine biodiversity, coral reefs also sustain a global coral tourism industry worth several billion dollars, offer medicinal properties for combating human diseases, and, when healthy, provide some (but obviously not total) protection against tsunamis. And since the reefs already have to battle natural disasters, it’s even more important for humans to avoid doing their part to destroy the increasingly few that are still left.
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