More Bad News on Coral Reefs – NOAA’s Google Earth Data

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released an important report of the state of coral reefs in US waters. The report was released at the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale this week. And, the news is bad: “Almost half the coral reef ecosystems in United States territory are in poor or fair condition, mostly because of rising ocean temperatures.” says the report. Timothy Keeney, NOAA’s deputy assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere, presented the results and said: “If we lose the reefs, you lose a very significant and important habitat.” Twenty-five percent of all marine species need coral reefs to live and grow, while 40 percent of the fish caught commercially use reefs to breed. via CNN. And, here is an AP video report on the news:


These are serious issues. As a scuba diver, fisherman, and sailor, I’ve been very concerned about the state of coral reefs for many years. I’ve mentioned previously that NOAA has a web site called Coral Reef Watch dedicated to the issues of coral reefs. The site contains a coral reef network link which provides updated NOAA information on reefs in US waters and important data such as sea surface temperature for the world’s oceans. They updated the network link earlier this year.
Another useful coral reef dataset is maintained at ReefBase.org. They have a huge database and maps showing the conditions of reefs world-wide. GEB reported two years ago how someone had converted the data for viewing coral reefs in Google Earth. But, the data is now out of date. I’m surprised Reefbase hasn’t converted to Google Earth for themselves – after all, many more people would be likely to see it if they released it for Google Earth and Maps. (The new Finder! service might be a good place to copy over the Reefbase data so it can be viewed in more popular mapping tools.) There is also an organization dedicated to collecting data on coral reefs by helping train anyone who goes near reefs to help monitor the health of the reefs: ReefCheck.org.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was released. He worked in 3D graphics for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank left in 2009 to circumnavigate the earth by sailboat as part of the Tahina Expedition.



Comments

  1. The plight of coral reefs and the ocean.
    I have read some of the many news reports on the ocean acidification and reef crisis that are presently extant. I beg to differ with the position that reducing our global carbon footprint will help save our ocean bathing beauties, the reefs. It’s not that I don’t fully support reducing our carbon footprint, I am rather more concerned about the role of the present deadly dose of anthropogenic CO2 already in the air on its way to our surface ocean waters. Those hundreds of billions of tonnes of anthropogenic CO2, the bulk of which we’ve prescribed and put en route in the past 75 years, is slowly dissolving into the surface ocean. By most accounts CO2 in the atmosphere takes on the order of 200 years to equilibrate with the surface ocean. Hence the pH drop we’ve been recording is just the proverbial tip of the dry-iceberg.
    As the surface ocean absorbs the rest of this deadly dose, regardless of whether we emit more which we surely are doing, the acidification process already destined to occur is more than sufficient to change ocean ecology in far wider and disastrous fashion than merely scalding the bathing beauties at the shore. In fact the devastating effects CO2 has on the ocean is not proceeding only via H2O+CO2=H2CO3 (carbonic acid), there is a secondary reaction wherein CO2 is enhancing the greeness of the planets dry lands. There is is a major benefit our high and rising CO2 delivers to droughty grasses who are losing less water via evapotranspiration, remaining green and growing bushier each spring, and as such are superior ground cover thus reducing topsoil loss in the wind. Tragically that dust in the wind is the major source of vital mineral micronutrients for the open ocean. Prophetically it seems, all we really are is dust in the wind.
    So as our reef beauties cry out and dissolve like Dorothy’s wicked witch in our acidifying oceans, the acidification will certainly continue for at least another century unabated even if we never emit another molecule of fossil CO2 into the air. At the same time as the oceans suffer this chemical shock treatment, like those we give our swimming pools, they will continue as well to lose their photosynthetic capacity to counter this onslaught. The loss of net primary productivity, NPP, is reportedly 17% in the North Atlantic, 26% in the North Pacific, and 50% in the sub-tropical tropical oceans.
    We can find the fundamental proof of the depth of this problem by considering it from the point of view of basic chemical thermodynamics. Indeed we have expended a hundred terrawatts or so burning fossil carbon to put that deadly dose of CO2 into our atmosphere and ocean. No trivial energy savings will serve to counter its certain first principals chemical effects. We can still trust in what the Second Law of Thermodynamics teaches us in that one must balance equations energetically. If we are to address a problem created by terrawatts of energy we must devote terrawatts of energy. In this case those curative terrawatts better be emission free or we are lost.
    So where is there a source of emission free terrawatts of curative power we can devote to saving the oceans and help restore the balance of Nature? It is of course ONLY available from photosynthesis and therein lies the course we must chart to restore our oceans as we must surely not simply imagine the damage we’ve prescribed can simply be ignored and start from the present mortally wounded state. No mere conservation ethic or effort will suffice, we are far to far over the tipping point for that to work. We must replenish and restore ocean photosynthesis for there in the vast living ocean expanse the terrawatts of power, solar power, can be found and used to compete with the H2O+CO2=H2CO3 reaction. There in lies hope if we act now to assist the ocean plants, phyto-plankton, to convert CO2 in the ocean to life instead of death. Without replenished mineral micronutrients, without our determined efforts to administer the antidote, life in the oceans, and on this small blue planet, will surely revert to the cyanobacteroa; state from whence it came.
    If you are a religious person you might liken what we need to do as seeking absolution for our sins of emission by our acts of contrition and ecorestoration, otherwise the path to perdition is that of dissolution of those sins into dying oceans.
    Russ George – founder/president
    Planktos Science
    San Francisco
    http://www.planktos-science.com

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