Posts Tagged 'biodiversity'

Thoughtful Thursdays: Climate Change is Killing our Coral Reefs

A Majority of Coral Reefs Will Be Damaged By 2030 Due to Rising Greenhouse Gases

The negative impacts of climate change have been widely reported. Temparatures continue to steadily rise, weather patterns are increasingly erratic and greenhouse gas emissions are causing alarming rates of CO2 to linger in our atmospheres. The ecosystem in the most immediate danger of total degradation from this changes is the ocean.

Orange mushroom and other various corals

Specifically, climate change impacts are wreaking havoc on our coral reef ecosystems. As temperatures rise, mass bleaching and infectious disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent and impossible to contain. The CO2 that lingers in the air above ground is also being absorbed into the ocean, altering the sea water chemistry in a process called ocean acidification.

“Think about putting your blue jeans in the laundry and putting in too much bleach. Well, they come out white. That’s what happens to these corals. All these beautiful colors of this coral that you’re looking at … now what you would see is a field of white,” said Brent Whitaker, National Aquarium Director of Biological Programs .

A vibrant sun polyp coral

The bleaching of coral reefs is usually brought on by unusually warm waters and stress. Shallow-water reefs, like those along our Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean, have been particularly harmed by prolonged periods of warmth – an estimated 16 percent of those reefs have been killed worldwide.

Queen Angel fish in our Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit

After closely montioring the effects these changes are having on ocean life, scientists have determined the rate at which the damage is happening. At least 70 percent of coral reefs are projected to suffer from degradation by 2030 without a dramatic change to carbon emissions, according to a Nature Climate Change study.

There is so much that we can do to protect our blue planet. To learn more about the National Aquarium’s efforts to preserve our coral reef ecosystems and how you can get involved, click here.

Thoughtful Thursday: Giant Kelp, the World’s Fastest-Growing Species

The fastest-growing species in the world actually makes its home in the ocean: giant kelp!

The Kelp Forest exhibit at our Baltimore venue

Forests of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) are spread out along the Pacific coast from Alaska to the Southern Channel Islands; Baja, California; South America; South Africa; and Australia. Tiered like terrestrial rain forests, expansive mazes of giant kelp provide food and shelter to some of the world’s most diverse marine ecosystems.

Individual strands of kelp can grow up to 2 feet per day, ultimately reaching heights of 148 feet, according to NOAA. The tops of these strands fuse together to create floating canopy beds, making an ideal home for animals like seals, sea lions, sea otters, gulls, terns, snowy egrets, and great blue herons. Underwater, kelp forests provide a great array of habitats, from the holdfasts to the surface mats, supporting thousands of invertebrate species like shrimp, crab, and brittle stars.

Much like their above-ground cousins, these rain forests of the ocean are gravely threatened by climate change. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of Australia reports that in some cases off the coast of Tasmania, giant kelp forests, similar to those off the coast of California, have shrunk more than 95%. The threats to these ecological communities are so severe, they’ve now been categorized as endangered.

The biggest threats to these forests? Warming sea surface temperatures, invasive species, and biodiversity loss due to runoff and sedimentation. Although these magnificent underwater forests grow at extremely fast rates, they are swiftly being taken down by human impacts on the environment.

There are a few easy things you can do to help protect this amazing species!

  • Make yourself aware of what chemicals you use in your everyday life. Check for dangerous and/or harmful ingredients and, whenever possible, do not use pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that can be harmful to the environment.
  • Plant a native garden and practice sustainable gardening techniques. Click here to find out more.
  • Get involved! And inspire others to follow your lead.
    Click here to find out more about the Thoughtful Choices you can practice at home.

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