A recent article on coral growth has confirmed my opinions that I’ve had for years that the assumptions about the environmental degradation and collapse of coral reefs have nothing to do with global warming, sea level rises or ice ages.
News Article: Coral springs back from tsunami – BBC News
Background from WCS.org: Conservation Opportunity
Instead, the coral reef collapse is purely from direct human actions.
How can this be? A: Simply, by observation and the principle of cause and effect.
Charles Darwin proposed many years ago a mechanism for the evolution of coral atolls and the large numbers of submerged seamounts. My observations are that Darwin’s theory has been almost completely accepted in it’s entirety and that there is copious geological and other evidence for many variances in sea level over time.
The theory goes that the corals grow until they’re right at wave height. Then the tops get chopped off in storms and piled up to make beaches. That’s the steady-state.
If the land rises, the exposed corals die but new ones grow in the sea. If the land falls, the corals grow towards the sunlight again.
But corals can only grow so fast.
If the land falls too fast, the corals are trapped in darkness and die. There are hundreds of submerged tropical seamounts, topped with dead coral at depths of around 1000m, that prove this. The same goes for steady-state. If coral is left to grow, it naturally makes harbours, beaches and islands under the influence of staorms and tides.
What this means is that corals are actually very robust creatures. They’ve existed this way for millions of years.
During these times the sea has gone up and down as well as the land. There have been several ice ages. There have been countless tsunamis as well. The coral recovers, well, by definition; it’s still there!!!
And this is what has been observed to happen in Indonesia.
The tsunami came in 2004, killed a lot of coral, but crucially, it killed a lot of fishermen as well and the whole tourist industry! And it’s really people that kill coral. These last few years have a been a welcome breather for the coral as an escape from people.
They overfish, chip away at it, use it to build houses, concrete and ports. Sell it as trinkets. Build airports on it. This is what’s happened in the Maldives. This BBC Country profile: The Maldives, makes it clear that following the 2004 tsunami, there has been a massive rebuilding! It’s a red-herring that the hot water is responsible for coral’s demise. Or starfish. The world has been hotter in the coral’s past – and they’ve always had predators like the starfish. Coral seeds itself in the water. If it’s too hot for a certain species of coral, another will take it’s place.
Left alone, the Maldives and Tuvalu will still be there. As the sea rises, and without human intervention, the coral should grow and be smashed to bits by storms, cast up to make new beaches. But people, with their feet and their animals, their cars and houses, their aeroairplanes and boats, their work and their play, whittle slowly away at the coral when it should be growing! When the big storm comes, the coral and thus the islands are more vulnerable.
In that respect, it’s a shame that the tsunami didn’t wash right over The Maldives. Thousands more people would have died and the tourist industry would have completely collapsed. As it was, a complete physical disaster for the islands was thwarted (i.e. it could have been much worse).
But the coral could have re-grown. The Maldives wouldn’t dissappear like they are now assumed to do so…
As an allegorical story, the tsunami wiping away the fishermen and tourists of Banda Aceh etc to save the coral reefs would make a fantastic script. But many years ago I read a real story much like this.
It’s set in the bogs of Ireland and was written by Lord Dunsany. It is called “The Curse of the Wise Woman“, and is well worth a read as a Gaia-like warning to look after the world by letting the world look after us. To work with nature, not against it. That’s surely a good goal.
In this respect, the destructive fishermen of Indonesia are in no way different to those that wiped out the North Sea and Grand Banks fisheries of the last century. High latitudes don’t grow coral though. What we have done however, is made huge increases in atmospheric CO2. We mine the crust on an industrial scale. We have the ice sheets. We have the warming. We have huge industries and complex civilisations. What will Gaia do?
Read the Curse of the Wise Woman.
Daisaku Ikeda has said; “Life is a chain. All things are related. When any link is harmed, the other links are affected. We should think of the environment as our mother. There is no crime worse than harming one’s mother.”