The Red Sea contains some of the world’s hottest and saltiest seawater.
BY THOMAS C MOUNTAIN
Hot water tolerant Red Sea corals could be the key to saving the worlds reefs. It will take an international effort to create the massive coral nurseries here in the Red Sea needed to begin to bring back to life the enormous areas of bleached dead coral reefs in places like The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, or from the coasts of Florida to the Indian Ocean, but it can be done.
Red Sea corals living in shallow waters here in the historic Zula Bay in Eritrea annually tolerate water temperatures of up to 37℃ (98°F) with only moderate bleaching, with the bleached portions able to recover once water temperatures go down. If all species present tolerate these high temperatures, there will be species that can tolerate even higher levels of temperature stress.
So the world needs to immediately start to identify and culture these species of corals so that in 4 to 5 years the beginnings of an effort to replant the worlds reefs with heat tolerant corals will begin to make a difference.
Corals can grow very rapidly in the right conditions. Coral regrowth on underwater lava fields on volcanic islands in Indonesia have seen a meter or more growth in 10 years. If heat tolerant corals are planted in the midst of the massive damage a decade should see serious growth and 30 or 40 years could see coral forests blooming again.
Many scientists are worried about the acidification of the oceans from the absorption of CO2. This acidification interferes with the absorption of calcium carbonate by shell fish and corals and weakens their shells or coraline structures and could see the virtual extinction of shell fish and reefs.
What may ameliorate this is a rapid rise in sea levels due to the large input of fresh water from melting Greenland and Antarctic ice caps, something like 7 meters or 23 feet sea level rise just from Greenland.
This large, sudden influx of fresh water, if combined with seeding and harvesting the shallower waters where coral reefs grow with certain kinds of algae (algae “eat” CO2) should reduce this acidification.
Developing acid tolerant corals is the next step and with the Red Sea being the saltiest, hottest water on the planet, acid resistant corals are highly likely to be present in our reefs.
Again, actually doing this, growing heat and acid tolerant corals here in the Red Sea in Eritrea will take a massive international effort if the world is going to start to meet the challenges of replanting hot water devastated coral reefs across the planet.
This isn’t the first time I have written about this, challenging the scientific community concerned with the calamity inflicting the planets coral reefs to come up with a plan to use our heat tolerant corals.
I can only hope that someone, somewhere out there will hear my plea and can get the worlds environmental and marine scientists serious attention about starting a coral reef replanting scheme using hot water tolerant Red Sea corals to save the worlds reefs.
Thomas C. Mountain is an independent journalist living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. His speeches, interviews and articles can be seen on Facebook thomascmountain and thomascmountain @ gmail dot com