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A dikdik, one of the smallest and most graceful antelopes.

Welcome to Eco Wild!

In this issue:

1. Coral reefs
2. Did you know that...?

1. Coral reefs

By some measures, coral reefs have even more diverse life than rain forests and are sometimes referred to as rain forests of the sea. The corals contain a wealth of information that scientists are only just beginning to understand; some corals can help in bone grafts while others help develop pesticides and new drugs.

Coral reefs not only affect the health of the oceans, but of the coastal areas as well, providing a natural breakwater to protect the coastal land from typhoons and erosion. Their beauty, and the beauty of all the living organisms found in the reefs, is both a reason to protect them and to save them. Coral reef ecotourism is successful in many developing countries, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, and can be used successfully in East Africa as well. Tanzania's Chumbe Island is an excellent example of sustainable ecotourism through coral reefs.

Coral structures are actually colonies of tiny, soft bodied animals, growing on average an inch/year, in warm, shallow ocean waters. They are thriving fish nurseries and the spawning grounds of many commercially important species. Corals get their colour from algae. Lobster, grouper and sea cucumbers are important species that should be found on healthy coral reefs. Without such algae eating creatures, the algae will dominate and imbalance the reef ecosystem.

Coral reefs are very sensitive to environmental change and may be key indicators of Earth's ecological health. In 1998, El Nino produced the warmest ocean temperatures on record which killed the algae and bleached the coral white. Bleached coral may remain alive for some time, although in a weakened condition, becoming vulnerable to disease and parasites. 15% of the world's reefs died in 1998, but a third of those are now regaining their health and ecosystem balance. However, it remains to be seen how the reefs will cope with global warming and the subsequent rising temperature of the ocean.

The latest studies show that not only is the increased temperature from global warming a threat to coral reefs, but poorly treated wastewater also bleaches coral. In addition, the excess carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming is a threat too. If humans continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, the world's coral reef ecosystems may be reduced by as much as 40% by 2050. The reason? Carbon dioxide reacts with carbonate, creating bicarbonate. Calcium carbonate is naturally secreted by corals to build the reefs. If carbon dioxide reacts with carbonate, then there is less carbonate available for the corals to combine with calcium to form calcium carbonate and form their reefs. Less calcium carbonate means weaker coral reefs. Studies have shown that when carbon dioxide levels increase, corals become weak and may disappear; conversely when the carbon dioxide levels drop, corals grow.

So when you're next considering driving your car to the store, ride your bike instead to reduce the fossil fuel emissions and protect our coral reefs!

Coral facts:

  • Corals are animals that have plant life (algae) growing in them. The algae is what gives the coral the energy needed to secrete a substance called calcium carbonate to build skeletons that form reefs.
  • Coral reefs are the largest structures made by living organisms, resulting in many living and dead skeletons fusing together.
  • Coral reefs line some 6,000 miles of coasts along 109 countries.
  • Coral reefs only grow 30 degrees north and south of the equator.
  • Coral reefs are home to thousands of species of life, from algae to sea cucumbers, fish and crustaceans. Some Pacific reefs hold more than 1,300 species of fish alone!

(Source: Reef Check, www.reefcheck.org)

2. Did you know that...?

...Eritrea boasts the oldest fossil reef? A fossil reef on Africa's Red Sea Coast dating 125,000 years ago was found with human tools nearby, suggesting humans enjoyed fresh oysters, clams and crabs even back then!

....that Zambia and Botswana are hosting 30 scientists with the world's cutting edge technology for Safari 2000? No, this is not the latest road rally! It is a three year study of southern Africa's ecology, air quality and land use in hopes that their studies will helps governments and environmental groups make more informed decisions on issues affecting the environment in Africa and other parts of the world, including the US.

...Solagen in Nairobi is working with an NGO called Solarnet to install high quality solar equipment in Kenya's rural boarding schools? Solarnet will provide 50% or KSH 200,000/- (whichever is greater) to match a donation from the school, lighting 4-8 classrooms with lights! If you need more information, please let me know!

...five two-litre plastic bottles make one square foot of carpet or one extra large T-shirt or the filling for one ski jacket? Thirty-five two-litre plastic bottles make one sleeping bag!

I hope you enjoyed this week's issue as much as I enjoyed writing it; now I encourage you to take some action and go wild about East Africa, wildlife and ecotourism!

Thank you for your support!
Anne

Article ideas, quiz ideas, general feedback and other suggestions are always welcome! Please send them to: anne@eco-resorts.com.

If you would like to join the Eco Wild email eco forum discussion group, please send an email to: ecowild-subscribe@egroups.com. If you would prefer not to receive any more copies of the Eco Wild newsletters, please email anne@eco-resorts.com with "unsubscribe" in the subject line (sniff! !).

For permission to reprint this or any article from Eco Wild (formerly HMS corporate newsletter), please contact Anne Loehr at: anne@eco-resorts.com.

Copyright 2000 - All Rights Reserved Anne Loehr

Eco-Wild
Anne Loehr
Eco-resorts
P.O. Box 120
Watamu, Kenya

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