Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Okinotorishima and geopolitics

"Japan will begin studying how to expand coral reefs near two islets at the centre of a territorial dispute with China", AP reports, and China Daily relays.

(thanks to David Hayes - as someone once said, the man who reads

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

An Orkney man in Tobago

Something terrible happened last summer beneath the startlingly blue Caribbean seas off the island of Tobago, where we have just been staying. The Buccoo coral reef, home to one of the richest marine ecologies in the world, turned a brilliant white. “It looked as if it had been bleached,” said my brother-in-law, a marine biologist. “It was a strangely beautiful sight, but in fact it was sick, so sick that we wondered whether it could recover.”
Magnus Linklater: A stark message in deadly white coral, 19 April

Thursday, April 13, 2006

In the long term

At a conference earlier this week (see here), I mentioned to Oliver Morton of Nature that I was writing a book about coral reefs, the future of which looked precarious. What, he asked, had happened to the Great Barrier Reef during the last ice age?

I said that as far as I understood, reefs had on quite a few occasions in recent geological history been quite resilient over tens of thousands of years. Looking ahead, human activity (direct impacts and pollution, global warming, ocean acidification) might not wipe out reefs altogether or at least not the capacity of some corals and other organisms to build new reefs. But recovery and renewal - if it came - might be quite a long time in the future, perhaps several thousand more years. In the meantime the consequences could be grave.

"Ah yes", said Morton (who has written a book about Mars and keeps this blog), "I tend to think on much longer geological timescales".

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Caribbean coral reef deaths hit a record

A one-two punch of bleaching from record hot water followed by disease has killed ancient and delicate coral in the biggest loss of reefs scientists have ever seen in Caribbean waters...

Edwin Hernández Delgado, a University of Puerto Rico biology researcher... found a colony of 800-year-old star coral -- more than 13 feet high -- that had just died in the waters off Puerto Rico. "We did lose entire colonies," he said. "This is something we have never seen before."

"The prognosis is not good," said biochemistry professor M. James Crabbe of the University of Luton, England. This month he will investigate coral reef mortality off Jamaica. "If you want to see a coral reef, go now, because they just won't survive in their current state."
Caribbean coral reef deaths hit a record by Seth Borenstein (AP)