Many species of ocean coral becoming extinct
Increased acidity in ocean water blamed for diminishing coral
Federal scientists say that more than half of the 82 species of coral
being evaluated for inclusion under the Endangered Species Act "more
likely than not" would go extinct by 2100 if climate policies and
technologies are not addressed. The chief reason is "anthropogenic," or
manmade releases of carbon dioxide as a key driver of warming seas and
oceans absorbing more CO2, in turn making waters more acidic.
Pillar coral is a distinctive coral that grows in grey-brown or olive cylindrical columns that have a hairy appearance. This species is uncommon, but is found in the western Atlantic across the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Bahamas.
The report was intended to determine which species of coral merit protection. The Center for Biological Diversity in 2009 had petitioned for the review of 82 species it considers in jeopardy.
Of the 82 species, all of which are in U.S. waters, 46 are described as "more likely than not" to face extinction by 2100, while 10 are "likely," the report stated. Experts noted that the limited science of corals meant that "the overall uncertainty was high."
The fisheries service will next seek public comment as it considers the petition for listing.
The Center for Biological Diversity, which in 2006 petitioned and got protection for staghorn and elkhorn corals say that oceanic conditions have only worsened for corals.
"Coral reefs are home to 25 percent of marine life and play a vital function in ocean ecosystems," the center said in a statement. "Since the 1990s, coral growth has grown sluggish in some areas due to ocean acidification, and mass bleaching events are increasingly frequent."
Coral bleaching occurs when higher ocean temperatures make the coral expel symbiotic algae that lives on it and gives it most of its energy through photosynthesis. Without the algae, the corals are given a white bleached look, and if the sea temperatures stay high they don't recover.
Ocean acidification is another major threat to all coral. It occurs when the ocean's pH decreases due to uptake of excessive carbon dioxide, normally as a result of our burning fossil fuels. The coral then finds it much more difficult to grow its skeletons and structures.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Corals, ocean acidity, extinction, conservation
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