2010 GLOBAL CORAL
May 15 2010
President, Global Coral Reef Alliance
The Global Coral
Reef Alliance (GCRA) predicts that 2010 will turn out to be one of the
worst coral bleaching years ever, although the problems are only just
starting at this time.
the HotSpot method used to correctly predict location, timing, extent,
and severity of coral bleaching (Goreau, 1990; Goreau et al, 1993;
Goreau & Hayes, 1994; Goreau and Hayes, 2005 a,b; Goreau et al. 2005).
In 1998, the worst bleaching year in history, GCRA warned almost all
locations where bleaching took place early enough, usually before they
could see it in the field, to ensure the most detailed global field
observations. Coral bleaching, with severe coral mortality in most
places, occurred in almost all the world’s reefs, correlated with
excessive temperatures at each site (Goreau et al., 2000).
analysis of the GCRA long-term global coral reef sea surface temperature
database shows that temperature increases have strong regional patterns
linked to worldwide changes in ocean circulation, and that changes tend
to occur in jumps. We have long warned that complacency over the
apparent lack of continuous increase in bleaching was merely a fool’s
paradise, since relatively stable temperatures since 1998 were caused by
the fact that heat is penetrating into the deep sea rather than building
up at the surface, and that the next record hot year could kill most of
the remaining coral. Although 2010 is less than half over, it now
appears that massive bleaching death could happen this year.
Early this year
GCRA warned Mauritius coral researchers that bleaching was about to hit.
Bleaching there was the worst they have experienced. Subsequent high
temperatures caused bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef and Seychelles,
but high temperatures moved through those areas rapidly, so mortality
will be minor. Bleaching then broke out in many isolated small HotSpots
across Indonesia, and is still underway, although temperatures are now
moderating. Extremely hot temperatures then developed all across the
northern Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia. Severe bleaching is now
underway in Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Singapore, and
Malaysia, and is only just starting, so there are few field observations
as yet. The temperatures are intensifying, so this is only the start of
serious bleaching mortality unless there is an unprecedented sudden drop
in temperatures at a time when they are normally rising. Viet Nam and
the Philippines will be the next affected. At this time areas further
north are still too cool for bleaching, but it is very likely that in
the next few months the problem will spread to the Red Sea, Persian
Gulf, Pacific, and Caribbean. The Eastern Caribbean in particular is
very warm, and likely to be badly affected, although it is still too
soon to make predictions there.
There is nothing
that can be done in the short term about high temperatures, given the
flat refusal of the world’s governments at the UN Climate Change
Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 to seriously tackle the root
causes of global warming, or to adopt CO2 targets that could protect
coral reefs and low lying coasts, of about 260 parts per million
There is only
one thing that can be done now to save corals from dying from heat
shock: large scale use of wave, wind, solar, and tidal current powered
Biorock® Technology (Goreau and Hilbertz, 2009, a,b,c). Biorock
increases coral growth rates 2-6 times (depending on species and
conditions), and increased coral survival from severe heat shock by
16-50 times in the Maldives in 1998 (Note: that’s TIMES, not percent!).
Biorock corals bleach too, because that is caused by excessively high
temperature, but they don’t die, because the Biorock process provides
them with the metabolic energy to resist severe stress.
decades of denial and obfuscation by backward elements in the coral reef
research community, policymakers, and funding agencies, and their
irresponsible peddling of bogus politically-motivated myths of coral
reef “resilience”, we are now facing a critical emergency in which much
or most of the world’s remaining corals could die in the coming months.
large-scale application of GCRA’s Biorock technology is the only thing
that can be done to save severely bleached corals from dying, and grow
back vanishing reefs and beaches quickly in places where there has been
little or no natural recovery. The persistent refusal of those in charge
of policy and funding to acknowledge either the problem or the solution
has pretty certainly made this impossible in the urgent time frame
needed, and sealed the collapse of remaining coral reefs almost
everywhere. GCRA remains ready to work with all groups seriously
interested in saving their corals to immediately implement Biorock Arks
to save corals from global warming extinction wherever funding can be
found. This may be our last chance to preserve coral reefs and those who
rely on them.