Massive coral bleaching predicted in the Indo-Pacific
A December 2008 report from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts severe bleaching for parts of the Coral Triangle, a 3.4 million square mile expanse of ocean in the Indo-Pacific. This area, considered the centre of global marine life, is home to 75 per cent of all known coral species, including 500 species of reef-building coral, and more than 3,000 species of fish.
Tuna, sea turtles and humpback whales feed, breed and rest among the labyrinths of limestone reefs, extensive sea grass meadows, and coastal mangrove forests of this region, which stretches from the Philippines to Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and the Solomon Islands. “The Coral Triangle is perhaps the single most important marine ecosystem on the planet,” according to Kate Newman, Managing Director of Coral Triangle Support at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The region is crucial to seafood and tourism industries, and is matched in its importance to life on Earth only by the Amazon rainforest and the Congo basin. NOAA predicts that the coral bleaching will occur between December 2008 and February 2009. “This forecast bleaching episode will be caused by increased water temperatures and is the kind of event we can expect on a regular basis if average global temperatures rise above two degrees Celsius,” said Richard Leck of WWF’s Coral Triangle Program. Dr. Helen Fox, also of WWF, said, “This underscores the importance of reducing other stresses to coral reefs, such as pollution and overfishing, and highlights the urgent need to combat climate change worldwide.”