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Glasgow 2001 Friday, 7 September, 2001, 09:44 GMT 10:44 UK
New warning of coral disaster
Reefs Nasa Landsat 7
By the BBC's Ania Lichtarowicz

Most coral reefs around the world will be lost within the next 30 - 50 years, a marine biologist has predicted.

Speaking at the British Association Festival of Science in Glasgow, Dr Rupert Ormond warned that global warming might wipe out coral reefs for good.

Despite about 1,300 marine parks being set up over recent years to reduce the threat to coral from pollution and predators, climate change is now taking its toll, Dr Ormond, of the University of Glasgow, claimed.

"I find it very hard to avoid the conclusion that it is inevitable that most coral in almost all coral areas will be lost," he told journalists.

If current warming trends in the ocean continue, coral bleaching will kill most reefs around the world within 30 to 50 years, he said.

'Overwhelming' evidence

Evidence suggests that rising sea temperatures are responsible for a process called coral bleaching which poisons coral by damaging the symbiotic algae that live inside it.

Coral reefs
Found in tropical seas
Home to an extraordinarily large number of marine plants and animals
Coral bleaching is associated with increasing sea temperatures
First detected in the 1980s, bleaching was widespread by 1997
"The evidence that temperature is the main effect is overwhelming," said Dr Ormond. According to satellite evidence, coral bleaching events are becoming more common worldwide.

Earth observing satellites can even predict where the next bleaching episode will occur.

Dr Ormond believes that despite even our best efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and global warming, it may well be too late to save coral reefs.

Coral reefs are not only a great source of biodiversity, he added. They are also economically important, generating $100m for the tourist industry each year.

See also:

28 Jul 01 | Science/Nature
20 Mar 01 | Science/Nature
Links to more Glasgow 2001 stories are at the foot of the page.


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