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
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
- 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
(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
...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
Thank you for your support!
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