Climate Change Wrongly Blamed For Reef Death In The Caribbean

  • Date: 03/07/14
  • Ben Webster, The Times

Action to save coral reefs in the Caribbean has been delayed by the misapprehension that climate change is the primary cause of their decline, a leading scientist said.

The main reasons why the area covered by live coral has more than halved since the 1970s are overfishing and coastal pollution, according to Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Mr Lundin helped oversee an analysis by 90 experts of 35,000 surveys of Caribbean reefs over the past 40 years. Their report, published yesterday, concluded that climate change had wrongly been blamed for a problem that had largely been caused by local factors which could have been controlled by better regulation.

The report says: “Climate change has long been thought to be the main culprit in coral degradation. While it does pose a serious threat by making oceans more acidic and causing bleaching, the report shows that the loss of parrotfish and sea urchins — the area’s two main grazers — has, in fact, been the key driver of coral decline in the region.”

The report, by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, the IUCN and the United Nations Environment Programme, says that the remaining reefs could disappear in the next 20 years unless action is taken to protect parrotfish, which eat the algae that smothers reefs.

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