Oceans of Opportunity

Since 2008, this Blog has been a communications priority providing shorts, op-eds, and bramblings that communicate our evolution to ‘a new life in the sea’.

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Effects of the Anthropocene | the Oceans go Flush

'A New Life in the Sea' by Michael LombardiSeventy-five percent of coral reefs are threatened. That is the message of a recent World Resources Institute report, as reported by CNN.

While there is value in every such report, as each is targeted to meet varying audiences, this 75% statement should not take you by surprise. I am somewhat confused as to why reefs are making national headlines at this particular point in time – unless there is finally some intervention by the powers that be to light a fire under all of us to take action how we can.

Regardless, the take-home is that we are slowly and steadily destroying Earth’s most beautiful and precious resource. The trend is down, down, down, and yet we are doing so little to turn things around. Interestingly, the 75% of coral reefs that the report is referring to very likely does not even account for the vast majority of yet discovered reefs, beyond the depths conventionally investigated – deep into the mesophotic zone. While this region is ‘out of sight’, it need not be out of mind.

Recently I have observed coral bleaching in excess of 200 feet of depth. Clearly, reefs beyond the convention of routine investigation are being impacted as well, and thus the extent of damage to reefs and our oceans cannot possibly be fully understood. While reefs and our oceans are known to be ‘resilient’, like anything, only so much abuse can be tolerated.

Just one indicator of coral reef health is this visual event of ‘bleaching’, where zooxanthellae (symbiotic algae within the corals) and other pigments literally ‘flush’ out of the corals’ skeleton, depriving the coral host of essential nutrients for survival. Once the symbiosis is interrupted, there is often a cascading effect of death throughout the coral colony, making way for algae and other life to overtake the area.

Anthropogenic stressors are at the heart of all the factors that are leading to this coral reef health problem. ‘Anthropogenic’ is just a fancy word for ‘people’ being the problem. What we need to consider, closely, is that the ocean, and our Blue Planet in its entirety, is just waiting for that opportune time to bite back. When it decides to go ‘flush’ on us, it’s not going to be pretty.


YAP, H. (2007). Coral reef resilience Marine Pollution Bulletin, 54 (8), 1075-1076 DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2007.05.002

Widespread coral bleaching in Caribbean (1988). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 19 (2), 50-50 DOI: 10.1016/0025-326X(88)90774-6

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