Asia Minute: Coral Reefs Suffering in Indonesia, Australia

Mar 20, 2016

Credit Paul / Flickr

The health of coral reefs is a critical concern not just for Hawai‘i, but for all parts of the Asia Pacific. And recent developments from Southeast Asia and off the coast of Australia have not been encouraging. HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.

A research team has just returned from an underwater project in the waters off the coast of South Sulawesi….a major Indonesian island that’s north of Java, between Borneo and New Guinea.  The focus was the impact of warmer ocean temperatures on coral bleaching…a topic also under constant study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—NOAA.

According to NOAA, when water is too warm, coral will expel the algae living in its tissues—which then make the coral turn white—the process known as coral bleaching.  Bleached coral is not dead, but it’s under stress.

The team from Indonesia’s Hasanuddin University found about half of the reefs they monitored suffered from bleaching due to higher ocean temperatures.  A separate study by researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science finds that ocean acidity also plays a major role in the health of coral reefs.

The work published in the journal Nature involved coral in the southern part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef…and found that higher acidity levels slow the growth of coral.  One glimmer of hope—the study found that when ocean acidity can be reduced, coral recovers.  But the researchers say the long-term solution for coral health is cutting carbon dioxide emissions by reducing the burning of fossil fuels.