Corals on the brink, warns expert.

04/08/2010 05:31

KUALA LUMPUR: Some 90% of Malaysia’s corals are dead due to global warming, and the reefs may never recover unless the people switch to a greener lifestyle.

Universiti Sains Malaysia marine biologist Prof Dr Zulfigar Yassin said the lack of coral reefs, which provide a home to many marine species, would lead to fewer fishes in the ocean and hurt the fishing industry.

Noting that coral life depends on how long it has been exposed to bleaching and its frequency, he said that even with measures to reduce carbon emission, closure of dive sites and reduced intake of seafood, it would take years for corals to recover.

Earlier this week, it was reported that corals in marine parks at Pulau Payar, Pulau Tioman and Pulau Redang had suffered bleaching, leading to the closure of some dive sites until the end of October.

Dr Zulfigar said bleaching had been occurring since April, spreading from the coast of India to Australia.

“It is definitely due to climate change; it cannot be due to a localised cause as in the case of the BP oil spill,” he said in an interview.

Coral bleaching is most likely to occur when the sea temperature rises above 31 °C for more than two days, making corals appear white, said Dr Zulfigar.

“Corals are essentially white. The colour comes from the algae living in them. Any stress on the corals, such as temperature (changes), will cause them to expel the algae.”

Dr Zulfigar said closing down the marine parks would certainly help the corals to recover by reducing additional stress caused by sewage from chalets, oil and grease from motorboats and abuse by tourists.

“People get upset over the closure (of the marine parks) because they are not aware, educated and sensitised to these issues.”

Some people have suggested transplanting live corals to Malaysia, but Dr Zulfigar said it was not a foolproof solution.

“Firstly, how many will survive? And you are creating a business. A price is placed on the corals.

“After the tsunami, people said it was due to a lack of mangroves. Some started selling mangrove saplings, and others planted them in places which originally did not have mangroves.”

Prof Zulfigar suggested that Malaysians start changing their lifestyle to prevent climate change. To raise awareness, Prof Zulfigar who heads a panel of judges in the Eco Earth Awards, said an essay writing competition for youths between 17 and 26 will be held. Participants are to write in English or Malay on “Global Warming And Its Effects On Malaysia” inless than 800 words, and submit it to before Aug 20.

A two-day camp awaits the shortlisted 15 participants, who will then have to come up with a five-minute documentary. The top five would join a team



-The Star-

Search site