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CLIMATE CHANGE AND CORAL REEFS Dr. Robert Buddemeier Kansas Geological Survey University of Kansas PowerPoint Presentation
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CLIMATE CHANGE AND CORAL REEFS Dr. Robert Buddemeier Kansas Geological Survey University of Kansas Testimony presented to the June 27, 2002 hearing on: Implementation of the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 and the impact of climate change on coral reefs

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slide1

CLIMATE CHANGE AND CORAL REEFS

Dr. Robert Buddemeier

Kansas Geological Survey

University of Kansas

Testimony presented to the June 27, 2002 hearing on:

Implementation of the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 and the impact of climate change on coral reefs

Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans,

Committee on Resources

U.S. House of Representatives

slide2

Questions posed:

  • “…how (has) the interplay between climate, the marine environment, and coral ecosystems … changed, and (what are) the resultant and predicted effects?”
  • Human society has systematically altered the chemical composition and dynamics of the atmosphere and surface ocean on a global scale, and has made even more dramatic changes in the earth surface and the costal zone at local and regional levels.
  • The result has been an extensive loss of productivity, diversity, and ecosystem services.
  • Qualitative predictions are relatively easy: “more of the same to come.” Quantitative predictions and management are much more difficult, because we lack precedents for our present situation.
  • “…(are environmental changes and coral declines due to)… natural climatic cycles and variations, or (do) these declines stem from human-driven factors?”
  • On decade-to-millennium time scales, natural variations are nearly inconsequential compared to human alterations of global biogeochemical cycles and local environments since the 1800s.
  • “…of what importance compared to other factors are climate effects in coral reef declines.”
  • Climate-change related stresses:
  • Are presently the dominant factor in the decline of those reefs not subject to direct local contamination or exploitation stress,
  • Are increasing in their relative contributions to combined stresses, and
  • Will continue to increase in intensity and importance independent of local management or protection actions.
slide3

In 150 years, humans have driven atmospheric composition well outside of the stable multi-million year range of oscillation

Vostok ice core records

slide4

1998

In the space of 150 years, atmospheric temperatures have increased not only beyond the range of past natural variations, but also beyond the range of uncertainty in those variations

2

Northern Hemisphere Average Surface Temperature

1

°C

0

-1

1400

1000

1200

1600

1800

2000

Year

Mann et al. (1999) GRL 26:759-762

slide5

Addition of IPCC projections to the observed changes produces an even more dramatic shift for coming decades

  • We have entered a “no-analog” period of earth history
  • Trends will continue for decades and are not easily reversed
  • Accelerated climate change is, or soon will be, the overall dominant source of stress for coral reefs and other widely-distributed ecosystems

Northern hemisphere

temperature history and projection, 1000-2100 AD

slide6

“…what recommendations would you provide for stopping and reversing these declines?”

  • 1. Recognize that climate-related declines cannot be stopped for decades, and may never be reversed. Adaptation of organisms and ecosystems to changing climate can be helped by removal or avoidance of other stresses.
  • We need an effective way of measuring the extent and nature of the biological effects of climate change over time, and we need to understand healthy systems and the nature of their response to different combinations of stresses.
  • Protection and preservation of living organisms and functional ecosystems is a debt owed to future generations – and is beneficial to those now alive.
  • Interagency, international, and interdisciplinary efforts are needed – problems transcend any individual group of people or specific ecosystem.
  • “…other information…pertinent to the discussion.”
  • The United States has, within its existing marine refuge and sanctuary holdings, the natural resources needed to understand the nature of the global and local problems and the most effective management and adaptation strategies. A broadly integrative program should be developed to combine conservation, monitoring, and fundamental and applied research.
slide7

NWHI

Modeled ‘baseline’ (ca. 1850) carbonate saturation -- the more green it is, the more easily corals calcify

USFWS and NOAA reef locations in the E-Central Pacific – a near-pristine transect along the gradient of climate change

slide8

NWHI

Calculated present carbonate saturation -- the more green it is, the more easily corals calcify

USFWS and NOAA reef locations in the E-Central Pacific – a near-pristine transect along the gradient of climate change

slide9

NWHI

Modeled 2065 carbonate saturation -- no more green.

USFWS and NOAA reef locations in the E-Central Pacific – a near-pristine transect along the gradient of climate change

slide10

The proposed product –

  • An integrated network of research, conservation, and monitoring sites providing complementary transects – high human impact to relatively climate- dominated in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, and pristine climate dominance to moderate human impact in the Pacific.
  • Developed from the existing NOAA and Department of Interior holdings and programs, with integration of participation from other government entities, science agencies, NGOs, etc.
  • Global community participation, with benefits for marine and coastal ecosystem understanding and management in general as well as for coral reefs.
  • Continued and enhanced conservation of our natural heritage.
  • An affordable, practical approach to a growing large-scale problem, with potential for prompt initiation and implementation.