Our Changing Seas III by Courtney Mattison
Concerns over the world’s coral reefs, which protect and provide a habitat for organisms, have risen just as the ocean temperatures have. Coral bleaching takes place when a coral is affected by environmental stressors. Coral, when stressed, expels symbiotic algae and turns white or bright yellow (Gates). Corals have the ability to recover, but only if the environmental stressors, like change in water temperature, overfishing, pollution, and natural disasters (like hurricanes that are also caused by climate change), are reduced.
The ocean is facing the largest coral die-off in history. In 2016, it is predicted that a rough El Niño will lead to further damage in the reefs. Coral reefs “nurture 25% of the world’s marine species” making them very valuable from a biodiversity and tourism standpoint. In an attempt to aid the recovery of coral reefs, researchers have been working tirelessly to breed resilient strains of corals that might have a chance of surviving in a variety of climates.
Coral conservationists work to create protected marine areas, but thermal stress developed by human-caused climate change is taking a toll on the fragile ecosystems. Corals grow slowly (some grow just a millimeter a year) and do not reproduce often (Mathiesen). Corals are raised in nurseries now and people are questioning whether we might have to create genetically modified species just for the sake of ecological preservation. Assisted evolution could help corals withstand warmer and more acidic ocean water. However, we must work to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions in hope of creating steady ocean temperatures.
Courtney Mattison, one of my favorite ocean conservationists is an “artivist” (artist-activist). She creates ceramic installations that emphasise the beauty of coral reefs as well as the threats they face. She donates a percentage of her profits from ceramic design pieces to Mission Blue, which is an organization that is working to protect at least 20% of the ocean and its fragile reefs by 2020 (less than 4% of the ocean is protected today). I encourage everyone to check out her website.
Oil Drum by Courtney Mattison