Friday, November 5, 2010

Climate Change Threatens Marine Conservation

Countless great stories of marine conservation may be made irrelevant by climate change.

In the clear shallow water off the Florida keys, a nursery of staghorn and other corals is thriving piece by meticulous piece. With wet suits and oxygen tanks as their daily uniform, intrepid scientists are literally gluing coral's version of a seedling to the underwater substrate and brushing off algae when necessary while watching the coral clippings grow. Lead by Ken Nedimyer, a marine biologist from the Mote Marine laboratory, the project has had great success and delivers hope that the endangered coral can return.

Unfortunately, climate change may wash away all his great efforts.

Climate change is the big picture issue that looms ominously overhead. As Matt Jenkins noted in his Coral Nursery story in the Autumn 2010 Nature Conservancy magazine, climate change is THE issue that everyone even remotely interested in marine conservation should be fired up about.

"Unless people around the world finally get serious about tackling climate change, efforts to restore coral will be hopeless in the end. 'You can propagate and restore as much as you want,'says Diego Liman, (a scientist on the coral re-planting project) 'but if you don't take care of the reasons these corals have been declining for the past 30 years, you're propagating things and then putting them in place where they're going to die anyway.'"

Climate change causes ocean temperatures to rise, increases ocean acidification, and raises sea level to name a few major problems that threaten the health of the oceans, including the health of the oceans' fisheries that provide food and livelihood for the world.

Sell it as energy independence or creating jobs -- all true -- but getting the US off the petroleum economy and onto the renewable and clean energy economy is bigger than big. It's huge. It's vital. It's Job One.

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