THE BLOG
04/16/2014 09:36 pm ET Updated Jun 15, 2014

Coral Reefs: Going, Going... Gone

The Latest United Nations Climate report is deeply disturbing because coral reefs may not be here tomorrow.

Join Earth Dr Reese Halter along Southern California's beach as he talks about the unintended consequences of burning more and more fossil fuels: Dying coral reefs, globally.


Let me tell you why they are so vital. Coral reefs brim with biodiversity, which is in fact their ultimate strength. All of the biodiversity along coral reefs are interdependent enabling the existence of a vibrant life-sustaining energy force.

Although coral reefs occupy less than 0.1 percent of ocean area globally, they are home to at least one quarter and perhaps as much as one third of everything that lives in the ocean (or between 56,500 and 75,333 known forms of life) including the great whales.

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Coral reefs are easily equivalent to the Lamborghini of rainforests The Amazon because they are hotbeds of life. Photo credit: guardian.com


Coral reefs support more species per square mile than any other marine environment, providing habitat, food and spawning grounds. At least 500 million humans depend on coral reefs for daily food, coastal protection and ecotourism, a net economic value of at least $30B per annum.

Irrefutable warming of the oceans and rising acidity is killing coral reefs, faster today than the previous 300 million years. In fact, as much as 80 percent of Caribbean coral reefs are dead. And, in Australia almost three quarters of the largest reef on the globe, the Great Barrier Reef, has died.

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Bleached corals are lifeless. It takes a minimum of several thousand years for coral like those of the Great Barrier Reef to accumulate in size to form exquisite habitat, and crucial spawning and nursery areas. It's been about 30 years since bleaching was first discovered on Australia's reefs and today three quarters of the largest reef on the globe is dead. Why is the Australian government not doing everything within its means to protect the remaining live one quarter of the reef? Photo credit: telegraph.uk.co


This is an epic disaster because coral reefs provide us with the strongest cancer, pain and AIDS medicines that scientists have ever discovered. Coral is the most effective treatment in regrowing human bones, with patients requiring no immunosuppressing drugs. Incidentally, ocean-derived pharmaceuticals are so important that Merck, Lilly, Pfizer, Hoffmann-La Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb have all established marine biology divisions. The ecosystem services that healthy, vibrant coral reefs provide us has been estimated at $1-trillion annually. Coral reefs are our children's legacy.

Clearly, it's time we took the latest UN Climate warning seriously. Coral reefs are the most valuable marine ecosystems on Earth and climate disruption is killing them, quickly.

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Children in Britain and around the world are anxious about a warming world and apathetic adults that are not taking the necessary steps to protect their future. Photo credit: guardian.com


It is up to each of us to make a difference by reducing our dependence upon carbon-based fuels i.e. coal, oil, gas and plastics. Many of the necessary changes are simply altering habits like walking or riding a bicycle more and driving less.

Please calculate your carbon footprint and challenge yourself and your family to reduce it.

Change is opportunity in disguise!

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The legendary friend to the whales Bob Barker and founder of Sea Shepherd, Captain Paul Watson. Photo credit: worldculturepictorial.com

Please support Sea Shepherd Global because as Captain Paul Watson aptly warns us, "To save the whales is to save the seas, and to save the seas is to save humanity."

Earth Dr Reese Halter is a broadcaster, biologist, educator and author of upcoming book Shepherding the Sea: The Race to Save our Oceans.