Forum > Climate change and Global Warming > Corals added to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Posted by Susan Sharma on September 13, 2007

 

Corals added to IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

For the first time in history, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species includes ocean corals in its annual report of wildlife going extinct.

A comprehensive study of marine life sponsored by Conservation International (CI) and implemented jointly with the IUCN (World Conservation Union) used data from the Galapagos-based Charles Darwin Research Station and other regional institutions to conclude that three species of corals unique to the Galapagos Islands could soon disappear forever.

The Galapagos marine research was conducted by the Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA), a joint initiative of IUCN and CI launched in 2005 with the support of dozens of experts and research institutions. The GMSA is studying a large portion of Earths marine species to determine the threat of extinction.  What is significant is that climate change and over-fishing two of the biggest threats to marine life are the likely causes in these cases.

Researchers blame climate change for more frequent and increasingly severe El Nio events that have caused dramatic rises in water temperatures and reduced nutrient availability around the Galapagos Islands in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean, off South America. The warmer water harms corals and algae, both of which constitute the structural foundation of unique and diverse marine ecosystems.

Corals build reefs that are habitat for fish and other marine life, and also are a major attraction for divers in the Galapagos, where tourism makes a significant contribution to the local and national economy.

The recovery of algae species following strong El Nio events is harmed by over-fishing of the natural predators of sea urchins, which feed on the algae. Mushrooming urchin populations scour rocks clean of algae, depleting a major food source for other species such as the Galapagos marine iguana.

Marine ecosystems are vulnerable to threats at all scales globally through climate change, regionally from El Nio events, and locally when over-fishing removes key ecosystem building blocks, said Jane Smart, head of the IUCN Species Program. We need more effective solutions to manage marine resources in a more sustainable way in light of these increasing threats.

Source : http://www.conservation.org

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