Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Corals of St.Martin’s at stake

Global Warming and Over-Exploitation
Corals of St.Martin’s at stake
Dr. Anisuzzaman Khan
Honey comb corals around Saint Martin’s island are under stress due to coral bleaching. While the COP 17 — UN climate convention — was being held in Durban of South Africa, a Nature Watch Team (NWT) of Ekattor Television watched that a noticeable coral bleaching was defacing the corals of Saint Martin’s island of Bangladesh due to global warming. A four-member Scuba diving team moved under water around Saint Martin’s during the last week of December, 2011. They observed that the honey comb corals on the east coast of the island are severely affected by the bleaching. In addition, the team also identified corals are getting blanketed by sediments and thus failing to perform their natural physiological activities as a result of over plying of large tourist ships/ferries in the area.
Although the government has formulated NAPA and BCCSAP and implementing programmes to combat the climate change impacts through adaptation, mitigation and DRR but to address the stress minimisation on huge marine resources underwater is not given adequate attention.
When corals lose their colour, it is known as “coral bleaching”. Coral bleaching became an issue when it was first observed on coral reefs in the South Pacific in the 1990’s. Coral bleaching is a stress condition in reef corals that involves a breakdown of the symbiotic relationship between corals and unicellular algae (zooxanthellae). These microscopic plants live within the coral tissue and provide the coral with food for growth and their normal healthy colour. The symptoms of bleaching include a gradual loss of colour as zooxanthellae are expelled from the coral tissue, sometimes leaving corals bone white.
IPCC study revealed that under stress, corals may expel their zooxanthellae, which leads to a lighter or completely white appearance, hence the term “bleached”. Coral bleaching is a generalised stress response of corals and can be caused by a number of biotic and abiotic factors, including:
-increased (most commonly), or reduced water temperatures
-increased solar irradiance (photosynthetically active radiation and ultraviolet band light)
-hanges in water chemistry (in particular acidification)
-increased sedimentation (due to silt runoff)
-bacterial infections
-changes in salinity
-low tide and exposure
-cyanide fishing
While most of these triggers may result in localised bleaching events (tens to hundreds of kilometers), mass coral bleaching events occur at a regional or global scale and are triggered by periods of elevated thermal stress resulting from increased sea surface temperatures.
Infectious bacteria of the species Vibrio shiloi are the bleaching agents of Oculina patagonica in the sea, causing this effect by attacking the zooxanthellae. The stress factor most commonly associated with bleaching is elevated sea temperature, but additional stresses such as high light intensity, low salinity and pollutants are known to exacerbate coral bleaching. If the causal stress is too great or for too long, corals can die.
Reef corals are very sensitive to sea temperatures outside their normal range. Elevated temperatures of 10 C above the long term monthly summer average are enough to cause coral bleaching in many dominant coral species. Global warming causes coral bleaching and there is absolutely no doubt about it. The heat affects the tiny algae which live symbiotically inside the corals and supply them with food. The heat stress damages the algae and in consequence leads to coral death. The argument for the global warming/coral bleaching connection was bolstered by the massive El Niño event in 1997 and 1998 that led to unusually warm tropical waters throughout the world’s lower latitudes and coral bleaching in many locations.
The physiological consequences of bleaching to the coral can be severe and lead to mortality, with subsequent ecological consequences to the coral reef ecosystem due to the key role of corals in maintaining ecosystem structure and function.
The ecological impacts of mass coral bleaching have been demonstrated to be severe, with massive losses in coral cover and diversity, as well as in other coral reef-associated organisms.
Economic losses to reef-dependent tourism are the most significant observed thus far. However, the potential sufferer for serious socioeconomic impacts are reef-dependent fishing communities as degraded reefs continue to erode.
Effective responses to mass coral bleaching are hampered by scientific uncertainty, our inability to respond to global climate change in the short term, and insufficient financial and human resources. However, these challenges cannot justify inaction. Rather they underscore the primacy of developing adaptive strategies and capacity so that countries and communities are prepared for future mass bleaching events. Mass bleaching is one of such stresses that necessitates identifying and planning for the expected ecological and socioeconomic impacts from future events. Effectively implementing adaptive management will require support from both the research and policy communities to provide the technical information and financial and human resources needed for success.
The policy community faces two great challenges. First, to commit the resources needed for successful implementation of coral reef management in the developing nations that play host to most of the world’s coral reefs. Second, to address global climate change through reduction in CO2 emissions.
Mass bleaching creates a broad constituency and justifies efforts to address global warming, as it foreshadows the potentially larger impacts to come about through unabated global warming. The NWT has suggested that an immediate monitoring programme is required to learn the causes and status of bleaching. Special attention is also needed to know the dumping impact of the untreated sewage and other waste materials from hotels, ships and others sources of Saint Martin’s island. It is also important to assess the carrying capacity of the tourism of the island.
St.Martin’s island with more than 700 species of biological diversity is an ECA and country’s first Marine Protected Area (MPA). To save these precious marine renewable natural resources from the onslaught of global warming and other human-induced changes an urgent monitoring programme is required. The present environment-unfriendly structures and activities should be relocated to nearby Sahpuri island instead of Saint Martin’s island.

(Article originally published on The Daily Star)

The writer is a biologist.

Related News

Stakeholders on St. Martin’s demand stringent action against plastic pollution

Environment Desk : Stakeholders have stressed that raising awareness alone is not enough to tackle plastic pollution on the country’s only coral island, Saint Martins, and are advocating for restrictions on plastic use and penalties for non-compliance. At a panel discussion entitled “Plastic Free St Martins” on Wednesday, they called for strict limits on ... Read more

Amazon deforestation down by a third in 2023, says Brazilian government

Environment Desk : Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon fell by 33.6% in the first six months of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s term compared with the same period in 2022, the government says. Its suggests the rainforest shrank by 2,649 sq km this January-June, down from 3,988 sq km in those six months last ... Read more

Half of world’s largest lakes, reservoirs losing water, Study finds

News Desk : More than half of the world’s largest lakes and reservoirs have lost significant amounts of water over the last three decades, according to a new study, which pins the blame largely on climate change, intensifying concerns about water for agriculture, hydropower and human consumption. According to a team of international researchers, ... Read more

Waterways disappear as rivers die

World River Day today Rashad Ahamad Inland waterways, once the prime mode of transportation in Bangladesh, have declined fast as many rivers, canals, and other water bodies have disappeared in riverine Bangladesh over the past decades. Due to geographical location, inland waterways were the main mode of transportation in Bangladesh, a country part of the ... Read more

Chattogram city produces 249 tonnes of plastic waste every day

Will generate 428 tonnes by 2052 News Desk : Chattogram city produces 249 tonnes of plastic waste every single day — 56 percent of which remains uncollected and littered in the environment, according to a new study. “Of the plastic waste, the most are sachets, single-use utensils, and personal care items, ” the study ... Read more

Non-stop river pollution threatens water security

World Environment Day Non-stop river pollution threatens water security Laws, rules, HC directives go in vain Rashad Ahamad No pragmatic step is yet to be taken to protect the four rivers surrounding Dhaka even after declaring them ecologically critical 13 years ago. In September 2009, the Department of Environment declared the four rivers Ecologically Critical ... Read more

Air pollution takes 3 years off life in Bangladesh

Impact on life expectancy in Bangladesh worse than in India, Pakistan, Bhutan Mohammad Al-Masum Molla Air pollution cuts the average life expectancy of a person in Bangladesh by almost three years, said a global report. It is higher than in India, Pakistan, Bhutan, and Afghanistan. Nepal, with air pollution-linked life expectancy loss of 3.05 years, ... Read more

Rain at the summit of Greenland for the first time on record

Something extraordinary happened recently. On August 14, 2021, it rained at the highest point on the Greenland Ice Sheet for several hours — the first rainfall event in recorded history, and air temperatures remained above freezing for about nine hours. The record-breaking rain is the latest in a string of warning signs about how climate ... Read more

Emissions of CO2 driving rapid oceans ‘acid trip’

The world’s oceans are becoming acidic at an “unprecedented rate” and may be souring more rapidly than at any time in the past 300 million years. In their strongest statement yet on this issue, scientists say acidification could increase by 170% by 2100. They say that some 30% of ocean species are unlikely to survive ... Read more

Warming trees limit warming – a little

Warmer temperature prompts trees to release aerosols which in turn stimulate cloud formation. And that can help to cool the temperature, at least modestly. Trees may provide the Earth with a little shade from global warming – indirectly. European and Canadian researchers report that they have found what engineers like to call a negative feedback ... Read more

Evaluating services of forest

Biodiversity contributes considerably to economy and environment Dr. M. A. BASHAR In developing countries, the necessity of publicising services of forests is severely lacking. This sector must be given attention with special emphasis. The country like Bangladesh has to be very serious in all respects to understand and exercise the services offered by the forests. We ... Read more

What the outcome yields for Bangladesh?

Doha Climate Conference What the outcome yields for Bangladesh? Md. Mahfujur Rahman Thirty-seven industrialized countries had been accused of releasing Greenhouse gases in Kyoto Protocol under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Signatory members to the UNFCCC have been meeting annually in Conference of the Parties (COP) to assess progress in dealing with ... Read more

Down with the hills!

Probir Kumar Sarker Though Bangladesh is prominently a plain land, its Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Bandarban and Sylhet have hilly areas with forests and rich biodiversity. These areas are full of natural resources fulfilling needs of the people and other living species. But at present, the destruction of hills in every area has become ... Read more

A prerequisite for sustainable development

Natural Resource Governance A prerequisite for sustainable development Rukshana Sultana The constitution of Bangladesh — article 143– illustrates that all natural resources on land and underground minerals and other things of value underlying the ocean within the territorial waters, or the ocean over the continental shelf of Bangladesh, are the properties of Bangladesh. In general, ... Read more

Contemplating mitigation measures

Global Warming Contemplating mitigation measures Md. Atikur Rahman All things that make up the environment are interrelated. The way in which people, animals and plants are related to each other and to their surrounding is known as ecology. The ecosystem is a complex web that links animals, plants and every other life form in the ... Read more

Save Savar from further degradation

Probir Kumar Sarker Over the recent years, Savar is experiencing immense pressure of new industrial, commercial and residential establishments. But most of these have already been done or are underway indiscriminately haphazardly, and by violating the environmental laws and ignoring overall public convenience, not to speak of the care for future growth. It has been a ... Read more

Save Sonadia, save Sundarbans

Sourav Mahmud Sonadia Island is one of the biodiversity hotspot of Bangladesh. In 1995, the Government of Bangladesh included a provision for the declaration of Ecologically Critical Area (ECA) in the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act. Twelve sites are classified as ECAs and guidelines exist to control further damage to these areas. Sonadia is considered ecologically ... Read more

Ramsar Convention: Our obligation

Dr. M.A. Bashar It is learnt from newspapers very recently that in the Sundarbans area three large constructions will take place which are very dangerous and detrimental to normal functioning of the mangrove forest ecosystem. It means that the interactions between biotic and abiotic factors will be seriously hampered in the ecosystems conservation. The projects ... Read more

Legal response to loss and damage

Climate Change Legal response to loss and damage Hafijul Islam Khan The adverse impacts of climate change have continued to devastate the lives and livelihoods of millions of people and inflict large economic losses. According to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there has been a global increase in weather ... Read more

Environment: Future farmers hold key

GLOBAL food demand will double by 2050, according to a new projection, and the farming techniques used to meet that unprecedented demand will significantly determine how severe the impact is on the environment,  researchers say. The study researchers warn that meeting the demand for food will clear more land, increase nitrogen use and significantly add ... Read more