Air Pollution Threatening Coral Reef Growth
According to a new study, air pollution due to vehicular emissions and ash clouds from volcanoes can reduce the amount of sunlight reaching corals, leading to the slow growth of corals.
Coral reefs are sometimes referred to as "rainforests of the ocean" due to the vast variety of organisms that they harbor. They are made up of certain algae and coral polyps in the shallow waters of the oceans.
"Coral reefs are the most diverse of all ocean ecosystems with up to 25% of ocean species depending on them for food and shelter. They are believed to be vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification, but ours is the first study to show a clear link between coral growth and the concentration of particulate pollution in the atmosphere," said Lester Kwiatkowski, a PhD student from Mathematics at the University of Exeter, and lead author of the study.
The study was conducted by researchers from the U.K., Australia and Panama, and was based on data obtained from records of observations from ships, climate model simulations, models based on statistical analysis, etc. Researchers found that both volcanic aerosols and those released from automobiles and industries affected coral growth.
"Particulate pollution or 'aerosols' reflect incoming sunlight and make clouds brighter. This can reduce the light available for coral photosynthesis, as well as the temperature of surrounding waters. Together these factors are shown to slow down coral growth," said Dr. Paul Halloran of the Met Office Hadley Centre in a news release.
Coral reefs support about 25 percent of all marine life in the ocean even though they make up just 1 percent of the entire ocean floor. According to the National Geographic, pollution, global warming and sedimentation can destroy about 30 percent of coral reefs in the world in the next 30 years.
The study is published in the journal Nature Geoscience.