Caribbean reefs too weak to survive sea-level rise

| 25/06/2018 | 24 Comments

(CNS): Marine researchers have found that coral reefs in the Caribbean region are no longer capable of growing quickly enough to survive even the most conservative estimates of sea-level rise, in the latest dire prediction about the future of reefs in our area. As disease, coral bleaching, sea temperature increases, over-fishing, pollution and acidification of the ocean combine to threaten the fragile ecosystems, reefs have become less resilient and so less able to cope with the increase in sea level, which is happening far quicker than scientists had previously predicted.

The latest bleak picture for tropical coral reefs was painted by marine scientists in nature.com this week that examines the growth rates for more than 200 tropical reefs. Only 9% of these reefs had the ability to keep up with even the most optimistic rates of sea-level rises forecast.

In a separate study, scientists explained in a press release about the work that the growth of coral reefs is strongly influenced by the amount and types of coral living on the reef surface. This growth is now being hampered by combinations of coral disease, deteriorating water quality and fishing pressure, along with severe impacts from “coral bleaching” caused by climate change.

“For many reefs across the Caribbean and Indian Ocean regions, where the study focused, rates of growth are slowing due to coral reef degradation,” said lead author Professor Chris Perry, from Exeter University. “Meanwhile, rates of sea-level rise are increasing – and our results suggest reefs will be unable to keep up. As a result, water depths above most reefs will increase rapidly through this century.”

Sea levels rose by several inches over the past century and measurements indicate the speed of this increase is now rising significantly. At the same time, reefs are being weakened by ocean warming and also by ocean acidification, triggered as seas absorb more and more carbon dioxide. These effects lead to bleaching events that kill off vast stretches of coral and limits their ability to grow.

“Our predictions, even under the best case scenarios, suggest that by 2100 the inundation of reefs will expose coastal communities to significant threats of shoreline change,” said co-author Prof Peter Mumby of Queensland University.

This point was backed by US marine scientist Ilsa Kuffner writing in a comment piece for nature.com. “The implications of the study are dire. Many island nations and territories are set to quickly lose crucial natural resources.”

Meanwhile, here in the Cayman Islands, which is on the front line when it comes to sea-level rise and the loss of marine habitat, Dwayne Seymour, the minister with responsibility for the environment, has made no comment about any plans to increase marine protections.

CNS understands that plans to review the conservation law to water down some of the provisions protecting land and sea habitats and species, as well as facilitating spear fishing, appears to still be on the agenda.

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Category: Marine Environment, Science & Nature

Comments (24)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Just pray about it.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    Your morons wouldn’t know science if it slapped you in the face with a shovel. Climate change is not *science* As it’s cannot be falsified! It’s a consensus of people wanting billion in research grants…. Can you *prove* that climate would be any different if humans wouldn’t be on the earth? NO! and if you don’t know this fact, your just another illiterate emotionally unstable political hack. In the Cambrian period co2 was at 7000ppm. And somehow the earth lowered it .

    Read a book don’t be such pigeons.

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    • Cathy Church says:

      Dear Anonymous., The data is HUGELY in favor of man made climate change!! So why should we think YOU are right? The source of most research grants has little to do with the outcome of the study. I do not know what your interest is in favoring the status quo, but I have personally seen the water levels rise in places like the Solomon Islands and Chuuk where the palm trees I saw in 1972 that were inland for the last several hundred years are now falling into the water in 2018. We are all seeing greater blizzards, greater droughts, greater winds, and more acidic oceans. As a marine biologist, I am aware of the acidity levels making it difficult for tiny crustaceans like krill to keep their shells intact, I am personally aware of studies by many scientists whom I know and admire, who are uncovering an infinite array of facts describing the human influence on the oceans. Yes, climates have changed in the past but those changes took hundreds of thousands of years. Now the same changes are happening in decades. Too fast for us and nature to adjust to in time and way to fast to be explained by any other cause like sun spots. You are obviously NOT a scientist, or you would understand the literature better. You would understand the MANY man made factors influencing the acidity levels of the sea (which, by the way is unrelated to temperature, but related to changes in CO2). If you KNEW that you were right, you would put your name on your ideas. There is no downside to reducing the causes of global climate change, but there are myriad advantages to reducing CO2 and other factors. Do you really not care that a huge downside to ignoring climate change is total loss of Grand Cayman, as well as other valuable properties like Florida, Manhattan and island nations like the Maldives who are already looking for a place to move their country. Which would you rather risk–our future, or the easy steps required to mitigate the causes of climate change. And YOU certainly know that there is NO PROOF that climate change is NOT man made, so follow your own logic and agree to reduce the causes, just in case.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Don’t let the climate Armageddon swallow your ocean front property. Please take the Climate Armageddon Relief Enterprises (CARE) special offer to purchase any water front property for 1/100th of the price! Don’t wait until your property is 25 feet under water. Take the offer today!

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  4. Anonymous says:

    But Fox News told me I don’t have to worry about any of this.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I see mostly plastic, when I use to go diving. Its not mostly coming from pollution from Cayman, but from third world countries that surround us. What can we do about that? Nothing. So lets accept we need a plan B. So this little island and I mean little island hasn’t got a prayer of solving climate change. So the reefs are dying in Grand Cayman. Divers don’t want to accept it, but yeah its dying. Some of the problems is sun tan lotion, urine and septic tanks that feed into the sea. We also knew from a long time ago, Cruise ships dropping anchors on top of the same reef when anchoring. So why hasn’t that been solved? Where is the petition with all the environmentalists signatures? Still drinking the lemonade? Lets go to the Central Mangrove, if 100 people visit Mastic Trail that would be plenty. If there isn’t a road there wouldnt be any human contact accept for landowners. But we kept saying its for our children. Well why didn’t we protect the swampland across the street from 7 mile beach? We should of protected the beach. Now we have to spend 100’s of dollars to go see it by eating or drinking? Smart, brilliant no common sense as my father would say. We need more areas to farm? Cheapest land is the swamp. We are losing Caymanian jobs, houses etc. Lets use some common sense, the last piece of 7 mile beach sold for 64 million dollars to the south of Harbour Heights. They most likely will build apts. upstairs and bars, rest, cafes etc downstairs. So how many Caymanians own any of that? LOL. So when the hell is the Eastern Districts going to be allowed to advance or progress? Thats plan b and c. Government can help by pushing infrastructure roads, wi-fi and government offices etc. The capital should be right in the middle of the island where we could add limestone to any height we need. (You all said the sea is rising).

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Zzzzzzzz..

    Whatever man.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    The headline should read “Caribbean nations too weak to plan for climate change”. Face it we’re destined to become a famous dive site complete with plastic aquarium ornaments and fake coral.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    We have too many divers diving our sites, number of divers need to be restricted so greedy diver operators don’t shove too many people in the water.

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    • Cathy Church says:

      Another anonymous: Why do none of you want to stand by your beliefs? I ask you–how do you think divers are changing the reefs? What is the difference in coral cover where divers are active and where there are no divers? Almost none!!! How many of you anonymous folks have been diving in most areas around the island? What is missing are fish. Schools of fish are required to fertilize the corals with their pee and poo. Without that, corals are not as healthy as they need to be. We also are over fishing our herbivores like parrot fish. There are far fewer than there used to be. How do we know–ask a fisherman if it is harder to catch fish, and if the fish are smaller than they used to be. What is happening is that without the numbers of groupers that we used to have, the numbers of damsel fish have exploded and they kill off the coral to make their algae farms. So yes, catching and eating grouper directly reduces coral cover. So with less coral growing, ocean rise may be faster than coral growth, but that is a worry for our children’s children, so why should climate deniers care??

  9. Anonymous says:

    Look at the loads of sargassum that keeps lapping up. When do you remember this happening before the last few years?

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Like elsewhere, changes in ocean chemistry from rapid urbanization, pollution, and human contamination are leading the acceleration in the coral bleaching process. We haven’t required the sea level to rise inconveniently, nor needed shocking variances in ocean temperatures, to demonstrate that it’s already happening. Acidification and de-oxygenation from herbicides, pesticides, paint products, cement particulate, mineral dust, oxybenzone, butylparaben, oxtyl methoxycinnamate, enzacemene, as well as unfiltered garbage leachate and soot carrying a long list of toxic contaminants – are all making their contributions. This regime is preoccupied with unrestricted development and passenger count stats, over the exceeded capacity limitations, carcinogenic dumps (on three islands), environmental protections, and languid enforcement.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    so are we??? photoplanton and oxygen levels ho hand in hand? we slowly destroying earth and ourselves along with it!!???? as usual…a little too late to realize it…

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  12. Anonymous says:

    bet this won’t make the pages of the stupid compass….

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  13. Anonymous says:

    don’t worry we have dwayne seymour…..zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Please don’t expect Mr. Seymour to solve the problem. The whole world lacks the will to do what it would take to stop man made climate change.
    The fact that the islands biggest sugar daddy and savior has gained his billions from producing styrofoam that covers the earth should let you know that some third world polly is helpless against what is coming. From mr. d on down I doubt there are 30 people on cayman that have the heart and the brains/wisdom to make the right choices. Time to do what man seems okay at. Adapt.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    It’s only in the last 50 years that our seas and oceans health have began to rapidly decline. Just imagine how bad things will be in another 50 years. So basically in a 1 century we have managed to poison the planet! How stupid, greedy, selfish and short sighted are we as a species?

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  16. Anonymous says:

    All coral will be dead in 25 years so take lots of photos of it to show your grand kids.

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  17. Anonymous says:

    It’s called evolution. Earth will always win.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Evolution isn’t us poisoning the oceans! Where did you go to school? Eek.

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      • Anonymous says:

        We are part of the planet’s evolution. Once we have made the planet uninhabitable for humans, and have died off, the planet will continue to evolve. Humans are just a tiny and insignificant stain on the history of this planet.

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