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Posted Sun Mar 6 2011: from Time:
Testing the Waters
...Corals build colonies that secrete calcium carbonate to form ocean reefs. When they're healthy, coral reefs provide shelter and food for animals all along the food chain, including the top: us. Across the planet, half a billion people rely, directly and indirectly, on corals for their living. That's why what happens to the 9,000-year-old Great Barrier Reef, as well as to other reefs worldwide, is critical. The recent Queensland floods were most notably tragic for the lives lost and property destroyed. But they have also hurt the Great Barrier Reef by funneling into the ocean vast plumes of freshwater and agricultural runoff that could severely damage the coral. Besides the extreme rain that sparked the floods, rising ocean temperatures, changes to the ocean's chemistry and the global trade in natural resources -- all symptoms of our fossil-fuel economy -- are waging a multifront war on the marine environment. "You can't walk into a forest and start hacking at branches and killing off animals and denuding the forest cover without killing the trees," says Justin Marshall, a marine biologist at the University of Queensland. "The outlook for the whole reef is poor."
[Read more stories about: anthropogenic change, carbon emissions, carbon sinks, climate impacts, coral bleaching, death spiral, habitat loss, ocean acidification, ocean warming, holyshit]

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