Coral reefs are often portrayed as natural wonders of great beauty which makes them an important tourism attraction. In Australia, revenue from international tourism to the Great Barrier Reef exceeds $6.8 billion per year. It is estimated that coral reef-related tourism generates tens of billions of dollars per year worldwide. They are the economic engine of a vast number of economies around the world.
Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, who is based at The University of Queensland, says coral reefs occupy a unique niche in the worlds environment, where water temperatures and other environmental factors are just right. "But raising as little as 1C the temperature that ocean surface waters reach in summer subjects coral reefs to stresses which lead quickly to mass bleaching. Raise the temperature a little more, and the corals that build reefs die in great numbers. No coral, no coral reef ecosystem," says Professor Hoegh-Guldberg.
The double whammy, however, is ocean acidification. Increased CO2 not only warms the climate but it also dissolves in sea water making it more acidic. This, in turn, decreases the ability of corals to produce calcium carbonate, which is what the spectacular framework of coral reefs is made of.
"In summary, the environment that has surrounded coral reefs for hundreds of thousands of years is changing so fast that compensatory biological responses are lagging behind, putting at risk the marine ecosystem with the highest biodiversity on Earth."
Professor Hoegh-Guldberg says the concentration of CO2 in the Earths atmospher
|Contact: Mark Paterson|
Coral Reef Targeted Research Program