February 28, 2007
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FROM VOLUME 4, NUMBER 11, NOVEMBER 1991
GLOBAL WARMING AND CORAL BLEACHING
While higher water temperatures
do seem to be involved in episodes of coral bleaching being observed around the
world, there is no evidence that greenhouse warming can be blamed. This was the
conclusion of an interdisciplinary group of scientists at a workshop sponsored
in June 1991 by the National Science Foundation. (Science, pp. 258-259,
July 19, 1991.) The greenhouse connection has been promoted by some scientists
such as Thomas Goreau of the Discovery Bay Laboratory in Jamaica; however, none
of them were invited to attend the workshop. Participants concluded that the
biggest threat to reefs is the cumulative effect of local influences such as
(human) population growth and land use. Future global warming could contribute
to stress on the reefs, but it would take 10 to 15 years to confirm any link.
Copies of the workshop report are available for $5 from C.F. D'Elia, Sea Grant
College, 1224 Patterson Hall, Univ. Maryland, College Park MD 20742.
See also "Is Coral Bleaching Caused by Global Warming?" in New
Scientist, p. 17, Aug. 17, 1991. The role of elevated ocean temperatures is
the topic of a recent paper in Science, "Elimination of Two
Reef-Building Hydrocorals Following the 1982-83 El Niño Warming Event"
by Glynn and de Weerdt, pp. 69-71, July 5.
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