Pollution Slows Reef Growth
written by Lester Kwaikowski (Exeter University)
Source: NERC - Planet Earth - Summer 2013 Edition'
Fine particles produced by burning fossil fuelsare slowing down reed growth say scientists.
New research in Nature Geoscience establishes the first clear link between the speed at which corals grow and pollution by humans. When these fine particles - known as aerosols - are released into the atmosphere by either volcanic eruptions or burning coal, they reflect incoming sunlight and shade the Earth. This proces is known as 'global dimming'. An internaional team found that it stops necessary sunlight reaching the coral and cools the surrounding waters, slowing coral growth.
Coral grows by producing calcium carbonate skeletons, contributing to a process called
'reef accretion', explains Lester Kwaikowski who led the research. 'Since the reef structure is ciontinually being broken down by storms and other factors, there's an important balance between secreting calcium carbonate and losing it'.
Lower sea surface temperatures and limited sunlight for photosynthesis could mean corals can't produce enough calcium carbonate to maintain this balance, so that reefs slowly crumble away.
Editorial Comment : Another incentive to further develop sustainable, on-site, non-CO2 producing energy sources (photovoltaic, geothermal and hydrogen related are some) - The technology exists today and, viewed over a ten-year time scale, their development will prove to be cheaper than persisiting with foossil fuel combustion for electrical and locomotive power. .