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THE CARIBBEAN
Higher temperatures threaten region´s reefs
9/23/2010
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Scientists warn of coral bleaching as water temperatures climb.

Global warming is putting the coral reefs at extreme risk for disease and other threats, scientists have warned.

This year is particularly dangerous for reefs, which act as the shore´s natural barrier from ocean surges, such as during hurricanes and other storms, as record high temperatures this year could devastate reefs by causing coral to bleach, especially in the Caribbean.

A piece of coral is actually thousands of tiny polyps, identical organisms that secrete calcium to form the known skeletal formation, absorb and process sugar and amino acids from algae, which give the animal its myriad colors as they live on top of the polyps. But when they lose this algae coating amid higher temperatures, the corals become bleached and are even more susceptible to diseases.

The US government-run National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration´s Coral Reef Watch said in a Sept. 16 statement that it is “currently predicting a high potential for bleaching throughout the Caribbean this year.”

“NOAA also recently reported that the combined global land and ocean surface temperature made this past July the second warmest on record and the warmest averaged January-July on record,” it said.

In a Sept. 8 alert, the agency warned that “the area affected by bleaching and dying corals will likely extend to the region east of Nicaragua, past the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic) to Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles, and south along the Caribbean coasts of Panama and South America.”

Coral reefs, some of the world´s greatest centers of biodiversity that only cover around 1 percent of the earth´s surface, have been under threat from overfishing, irresponsible tourism and pollution, but the rapid rise in temperatures are renewing risks of their bleaching and potential extinction.

According to International Coral Reef Action Network, an organization supported by the United Nations, there were only three bleaching events on record between 1876-1979, and 60 on record from 1980 until 1993.
–Latinamerica Press.


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