Error message

Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in menu_set_active_trail() (line 2405 of /home/hulijedw/public_html/includes/

Indonesia's corals threatened by climate change

Dinka's picture

It is a country with some of the world's richest coral reefs, but scientists fear many of Indonesia's psychedelic reefs, already significantly damaged by blast fishing and pollution, now face an even graver threat: global warming.

Over the years, rising sea temperatures have led to severe coral bleaching in some of the most spectacular reefs off the palm-fringed islands of Sulawesi and Bali that are home to exotic fish like the brightly coloured clown fish and scorpion fish.

And environmentalists say if quick steps are not taken to stop the destruction, many reefs across the sprawling archipelago of about 17,000 islands could disappear in the next few decades.

The state of coral around the world will be part of the discussions at next month's United Nations climate talks on the Indonesian resort island Bali, where about 190 countries will gather to try to hammer out a replacement for the Kyoto Protocol, a global pact aimed at fighting global warming.

"Even the lower end of temperature change, even one to two degrees, will lead to significant coral die-off for a variety of reasons such as bleaching and submersion," Conservation International spokesman Glenn Prickett said.

"You already have the impact of the assault on coral from destructive fishing practices and pollution. It will become worse with global warming."

Indonesia, with a coastline of some 57,000 kilometres, has about 25 per cent of coral reefs in the region and 8 per cent of the world's coral reefs, according to the World Bank.

Delicate ecosystem

Millions of people make a living from Indonesia's coastal and marine sector, and in particular the small-scale fisheries supported by coral reef ecosystems.

"Indonesia is at the centre of the coral triangle. The possibility of coral bleaching is so big. If you have (an increase of) 5 degrees up, corals will be gone," Conservation International Indonesia director, Jatna Supriatna, said.

"And that will impact the economy."

The Coral Triangle - known as the Amazon of the sea - stretches from the central part of Indonesia to Solomon Islands, and up from the Indian Ocean across the Philippines to the Pacific Ocean.

Coral reefs around the world are in peril with people damaging the delicate marine ecosystems and endangering some 1 million species of animals and plants that call the coral home.

Scientists estimate over 27 per cent of the world's coral has been permanently lost. They estimate that another 30 per cent will disappear over the next three decades.

Experts say 16 per cent of the world's coral was wiped out in 1998 when global warming and the "El Nino" weather phenomenon combined to cause the highest sea temperatures ever recorded.

Reefs depend on algae called zooxanthellae to give them nutrients and brilliant colour. The coral can recover by taking up new algae from surrounding water but if temperatures stay high and the coral stays "stressed", it can become vulnerable to disease and die.

Indonesia's corals - some of them described as "species factories" - were hit by the El Nino phenomenon and the higher sea temperatures which caused severe bleaching and coral death.

About 75 per cent of the West Bali National Park, home to some 110 coral species, has been affected with many soft corals disintegrating altogether.

Several areas around a small island off the northern coast of Java, where colourful coral reefs filled with butterfly and angel fish used to leave divers in awe, never recovered from the massive bleaching caused by El Nino. © 2007 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Add new comment