Friday, March 31, 2006

Global warming evidence No. 10,512

Coral reefs are dying at a record pace, as disease moves in on reefs weakened by rising ocean temperatures.

"It's an unprecedented die-off," said National Park Service fisheries biologist Jeff Miller, who last week checked 40 stations in the Virgin Islands. "The mortality that we're seeing now is of the extremely slow-growing reef-building corals. These are corals that are the foundation of the reef. ... We're talking colonies that were here when [Christopher] Columbus came by have died in the past three to four months."

I'm a scuba diver, so I've seen coral reefs up close. Besides being the basis for multibillion-dollar tourism and fishing industries, they are islands of incredible biodiversity. And large reefs help protect shorelines from storms and waves.

But most corals require relatively cool water to survive, and it takes millennia to build up the massive reefs. Once they're gone, they won't be coming back any time soon.

Take global warming seriously, because it's real. There are reasonable questions about what we can or should do about it, but simply ignoring it is no longer a responsible option.

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