Can We Save Our Coral Reefs?

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The worlds coral reefs, vital to much of our ocean?s ecology, are
under double threat from rising water temperatures and carbon dioxide
absorption acidifying the oceans waters. Both threats are very real
and are on the front lines of what scientists have been calling a
threat to mankind’s survival.

Yet there are potential solutions to both of these problems, one being
the cultivation of hot water tolerant corals and the other the
propagation of algae (and possibly even plankton) that can tolerate
high acid levels in sea water (algae, as a part of the photosynthesis
process, ?eat? carbon dioxide).

For the first threat, rising water temperatures, there are corals here
in the Red Sea were I live that not only survive but in many cases
thrive in hot waters. I have measured water temperatures of up to 95f
where corals suffer little or no damage from ?bleaching?. The water
temperature here rarely drops ?below levels that kill reefs in the
rest of the world.

What is needed is to cultivate our hot water resistant corals, sort of
like ocean coral nurseries, and to use these corals to ?re-forrest?
reefs world wide. Of course, this needs to be started immediately on a
massive scale, but this is a political, not technological problem for
growing coral has already started and is not very complicated or
difficult.

The second problem, carbon dioxide absorption acidifying the oceans
and damaging the ability of corals and shellfish to use calcium
carbonate to make their shells is more complicated.

Algae and plankton ?eat? carbon dioxide, and some scientists suspect
rising levels of carbon dioxide in ocean waters may help explain some
of the massive, and deadly, algae blooms that have broken out around
the planet. The question is, if we propagate algae doesn’t this pose a
threat to oxygen levels in the oceans and raise the stress levels the
oceans are already facing?

The answer to this problem is that filter feeders, both fish and
shellfish, feed on algae and plankton. Mullet and milk fish, both very
tasty and healthy, live exclusively on algae and plankton. Oysters,
scallops, clams, mussels and other shellfish also depend on algae to
survive. We have varieties of pearl oysters (that once produced the
famous red sea pearls) that are easily propagated year round, thrive
in hot water, suck up large quantities of algae and can be harvested
for human consumption in as little as three months. Pearl oysters (as
are all oysters) are a particularly healthy food, high in protein, low
in fat and if processed correctly very tasty.

Again, growing oysters, and other shell fish, is not very complicated,
basically requiring floating cages or ropes to anchor on and need very
little maintenance. The main problem is storms damaging the
infrastructure, but there are undoubtedly solutions to this challenge.
The same can be said for growing fish filter feeders. Doing this in
the worlds oceans will certainly take some work, but what choice do we
have?

Rising ocean water temperatures are not exclusively bad news. Marine
life in general sees its metabolic rate increase as water temperatures
increase.

Research by an Eritrean scientist presently completing his Ph.D. in
China has demonstrated that fish metabolism peaks in water temperature
of 30c. In other words, hot water means fish and other sea life grow
faster and can help provide sustenance for the worlds populations
being threatened by the increasing droughts caused by global warming.

Of course higher levels of carbon dioxide also increase plant growth
rates (nutrition, water, sunlight and…carbon dioxide are all equally
essential for photosynthesis). Just pick up any marijuana publication
and read the ads to see claims of by just how much.

Plants thrive in levels of carbon dioxide up to 2000ppm, with claims
being made that such levels increase plant metabolism but up to 50%.
Of course, humans cant tolerate such levels, with even 10 minutes at
1000ppm leaving one with a headache and even nausea.

As I said earlier, solutions to raising water temperatures and
acidification levels in our oceans are political, not technological.
Here in Eritrea on the shores of the Red Sea we have already begun to
organize solutions to these problems as well as beginning to do the
basic research needed to prove our claims to the worlds scientists.

In one sense, Eritrea is fortunate for we have conditions making our
coastal waters the best in the world for ocean based aquaculture. To
start with we have very warm, even hot water along with ?high salinity
levels (the Red Sea, due to low fresh water input and high evaporation
rates has the highest salinity level in the world with research
showing high salinity levels increasing marine metabolism) providing
an excellent basis for marine production.

The Red Sea is the worlds calmest body of water, with no hurricanes or
typhoons and what storms that do occur are very mild in comparison.
The Eritrean coast includes some 350 islands that provide ideal,
?lagoon? conditions for aquaculture. The currents are year round and
sufficient to provide the circulation needed to bring nutrients to
feed marine life. Add to this the 5 rivers running off the highlands
during the rainy season feeding the coast with high levels of silt
that provide the nutrition our algae and ?plankton thrive on and
Eritrea has some 5,000 square kilometers of the best aquaculture
grounds in the world.

Even if the rest of the world continues to sit by and await climate
change induced disaster, we here in Eritrea have started to do what it
will take to protect our people from the coming challenges.

The questions is, will the political, and economic isolation being
imposed on us by the USA and its vassals in the west be allowed to
stifle our contributions to solving these problems for the rest of the
world?

Thomas C. Mountain is a life long activist, educator and cultural
historian, living and writing from Eritrea since 2006. He can be
reached at thomascmountain_at_yahoo_dot_com

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