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How Do You Feel About Eating Soylent Green?
By Ernest Stewart
According to the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, the limestone that forms the foundation of coral reefs along the Florida Reef Tract is dissolving during the fall and winter months on many reefs in the Florida Keys. The research showed that the upper Florida Keys were the most impacted by the annual loss of reef.
The extensive thickets of staghorn corals are gone today, replaced by a structure-less bottom littered with the decaying skeletons of staghorn coral.
Each year, the oceans absorb CO2 from the atmosphere and become more acidic, a process called ocean acidification. Projections, based largely on laboratory studies, led scientists to predict that ocean pH would not fall low enough to cause reefs to start dissolving until 2050-2060. Phew, that means we still have almost 50 years to do something about CO2 levels. However, those predictions are based on a study done 5 and 6 years ago; and, like other predictions made in the last decade, things today are much worse!
For two years, the researchers collected water samples along the 200-kilometer (124-mile) stretch of the Florida Reef Tract north of Biscayne National Park to the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary. The data provide a snapshot on the health of the reefs, and establishs a baseline from which future changes can be judged.
The results showed that reef dissolution is a significant problem on reefs in the upper Keys, with the loss of limestone exceeding the amount the corals are able to produce on an annual basis. As a result, these reefs are expected to begin wasting away, leaving less habitat for commercial and recreationally important fish species. Florida Keys' reefs have an estimated asset value of $7.6 billion.
In the natural scheme of things, in the spring and summer months, environmental conditions in the ocean, such as water temperature, light and seagrass growth, are favorable for the growth of coral limestone. While, during the fall and winter, low light and temperature conditions along with the annual decomposition of seagrass, result in a slowing, or small-scale loss of reef growth. However, as atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by seawater, ocean pH declines. The result is that the natural summer growth cycle of coral is no longer large enough to offset the effects of dissolution from ocean acidification.
"We don't have as much time as we previously thought. The reefs are beginning to dissolve away. This is one more reason why we need to get serious about reducing carbon dioxide emission sooner rather than later," said Chris Langdon, UM Rosenstiel School Professor of Marine Biology and Ecology, and a senior author of the study.
The data for the study was collected in 2009-2010. The researchers suggest that a more recent analysis should be conducted to see how the reefs are faring today. "The worst bleaching years on record in the Florida Keys were 2014-2015, so there's a chance the reefs could be worse now," said Langdon.
If the Florida reefs are anything like the great barrier reef of eastern Australia, where they research it year after year, the reefs are dissolving at an ever-increasing rate. Without the reef system, fish populations will take a nosedive they'll never pull out of. Add to that the increasing warming of the oceans, and radiation poisoning, found in every Pacific Ocean tuna fish caught since 2011, the millions of tons of poison dropped into the ocean by British Petroleum, etc. Now couple that with the agricultural organophosphates, GMO's poisoning the land and destroying bee colonies, pretty soon we will only have dirt to eat, or perhaps each other, yummy that Soylent Green, huh?! When did real life become an old Charlton Heston movie or Monty Python sketch?
07-14-1977 ~ 05-03-2016
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(c) 2016 Ernest Stewart a.k.a. Uncle Ernie is an unabashed radical, author, stand-up comic, DJ, actor, political pundit and for 14 years was the managing editor and publisher of Issues & Alibis magazine. Visit me on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter.