Study finds pollution on land damages coral reefs

Local land-based pollution makes coral reefs more vulnerable to ocean acidification and could trigger coastal coral reef ecosystem collapses sooner than projected, according to new research.

Coral reefs are threatened globally by ocean acidification caused by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide influx heightens the ocean’s acidity, creating an environment that stunts coral growth. A new study, accepted for publication in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, finds local land-based pollution can make coral reefs even more vulnerable to ocean acidification by magnifying its effects.

The new study finds pollution from a wastewater treatment facility in west Maui, Hawaii, has drastically weakened local coral reefs for more than 10 years. By increasing local seawater acidity and nutrient levels, the polluted water has instigated harmful bioerosion and inhibited coral reef growth.

The researchers found seawater closer to the groundwater-leaking seeps had a lower pH, less carbonate available, and nitrate levels 50 times higher than seawater farther from the seep site. Accordingly, the corals closer to the seeps grew slower and exhibited more bioerosion compared to corals situated farther from the seep sites. These corals were noticeably pitted and riddled with holes, a sign that algae-hungry creatures had excavated into the coral skeleton.

Read more on AGU’s GeoSpace blog

Diane Ako

Peace of mind By Diane Ako I like to reflect on life. Sometimes it’s philosophically. Sometimes it’s humorously. For all its beauty, life is far too difficult a journey to take alone. You need the support and connection with others to help carry you along the way. Writing brings me that connection– within and without. It clarifies my thoughts and feelings. It helps me reach out to others for advice, wisdom, or feedback. Your thoughts become your actions. Your actions become you. A wise yogi- Patanjali- said, “Speak what is true. Speak what is pleasant.” Let’s speak of things pleasant to one another and seek some peace of mind along the way. ABOUT Diane Ako joined Hawaii: In Real Life in October 2016. She likes being part of a community of local bloggers – people who like writing and sharing, like she does. Ako is an anchor/ reporter at Island News (KITV4 – ABC) in Honolulu. She previously anchored and reported at KHON2 (FOX) and KHNL (NBC), and at stations in California, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, In between news jobs, in 2017, she launched and ran her own p.r. company, Diane Ako PR. From 2010-2014, she headed the public relations department at Halekulani Corporation, which oversees luxury resort Halekulani and boutique hotel Waikiki Parc. She’s been blogging since 2009 – before Hawaii: IRL, she wrote for The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state’s largest daily newspaper, where her stories garnered a dozen journalism awards and an Emmy nomination. Ako has a BA in Communications from Menlo College and an MA in Political Science from University of Hawaii at Manoa. One day, she might figure out how to put that master’s degree to use.

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