Coral ecosystems could disappear completely by the end of the century if measures are not taken to reduce carbon emissions, Allen Chen (陳昭倫), an associate researcher at Academia Sinica＊s Research Center for Biodiversity, said recently.
Chen made the comments based on a research project conducted by his team and volunteers since the beginning of this year entitled ※2008 International Coral Year.§
If humans do not cut their carbon emissions, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere could reach 500 parts per million (ppm) between 2050 and 2100, raising the world＊s temperature by 2足C or more and would cause coral to stop building reefs, Chen said. The disappearance of the coral ecosystem would produce a ripple effect and be detrimental to human survival, he said.
Twenty years ago, Taiwan＊s sea floors were still 80 percent covered with coral, but now rapid increases in human activity has severely tipped the balance of coral reef ecosystems.
Except for the eastern seas, where some 70 percent of the sea floor is still coral-rich, sea regions near areas of frequent human activity, such as Green Island and Penghu, are now only 45 percent covered in coral, Chen said, adding that the observation rate of some types of fish is now close to zero.
Chen said the fish are not only the stars of coral reef systems, but they also stabilize the food chain within them. When they reduce in number, it is an indicator that the reef is not functioning well, Chen said.
※If a strong typhoon comes at this time, the entire ecosystem could be damaged and dissolve,§ he said.
Citing a paper published in the journal Nature last year, 25 percent of the current carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (380ppm) dissolves in water, producing carbonic acid, Chen said.
The acidity in the ocean could result in the retardation of calcium carbonate formation, because it would lower the concentration of carbonate in the water, which in turn would slow the calcium carbonate from being accumulated and built into coral reefs, he said.
In addition, ocean habitats were increasingly damaged and seas were filled with plastic bags, bottles, broken nets and straws that would not decompose for centuries, Chen said.
The trash was causing the oceans to suffer from ※indigestion§ and killing coral systems, he said.
To save the ocean, people need to change their habits, the center＊s researcher and deputy chief Chen Ming-hsiu (鄭明修) said.
For example, people should stop using disposable chopsticks, cut back on drinking bottled water, drive less, recycle and refuse to eat seafood that cannot be bred in fish farms, such as lobster, Chen said.
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