Thursday, February 7, 2008

Critical Habitat Proposed to Protect Florida’s Disappearing Corals

The Center for Biological Diversity issued a press release on Wednesday announcing that the federal government had proposed designating almost 5,000 square miles of reef area off the coasts of Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act for the threatened staghorn and elkhorn corals. The press release notes that the corals arethe first and currently only species to be placed to on the list due to threats to their survival primarily caused by global warming. Under the terms of the court settlement the critical habitat designation for the corals must be finalized by November 30, 2008. The proposed area was required by a settlement agreement of a 2007 lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity.

More is available here. From the press release:
Once the most abundant and important reef-building corals in Florida and the Caribbean, staghorn and elkhorn corals have declined by upwards of 90 percent in many areas, primarily as a result of disease and “bleaching,” an often-fatal stress response to abnormally high water temperatures in which corals expel the symbiotic algae that give them color. The rising temperature of the ocean as a result of global warming is the single greatest threat to these two coral species as well as coral reefs more generally worldwide. Scientists have predicted that most of the world’s coral reefs will disappear by mid-century due to global warming and the related threat of ocean acidification under a business-as-usual emissions scenario.

No comments: