★『Jewels Of The Ocean-Coral Reefs』☆

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The limpid ocean once we had have become turbid. The jewels which originally shone dazzlingly in the ocean are no longer eye-catching. They are still existing, but, only giving out a feeble glimmering, like a candle which will put out with just a gentle blow of breath from the mouth. Our job is to try to make the jewels to shine the ocean everlastingly.
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The new york times-Before They Vanish


In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, more than 900 miles south of Hawaii and far from any metropolis, the corals of the Line Islands form some of the few almost-pristine reefs left in the world. In 2005, a team of scientists conducted an extensive survey of corals around four of the Line Islands: Kingman Reef, Palmyra atoll, Tabuaeran and Kiritimati, also known as Christmas Island. They hope that knowledge about healthy reefs will aid the conservation of reefs elsewhere that are battered by pollution, overfishing, tourists and other ills.

Photo: Zafer Kizilkaya

 

Corals exist as colonies of identical animals, known as polyps. Some corals secrete calcium carbonate to form a protective skeleton, and as generations of corals live and die, their skeletons accumulate into a reef like this staghorn coral in the lagoon of Palmyra atoll.

Photo: Zafer Kizilkaya

 

Even far away from people, corals are suffering ill effects from a changing planet. Carbon dioxide emitted by distant cars and power plants is dissolving into the oceans to form carbonic acid, which in turn dissolves the calcium carbonate in the coral skeletons. Warming ocean temperatures can lead to "bleaching events," where the corals temporarily evict Zooxanthellae, microscopic symbiotic algae that live with them. Even among the healthy corals, the normal ebb and flow of life can result in dead patches like this staghorn coral in the Kingman Reef.

Photo: Zafer Kizilkaya



A healthy reef often appears, at first glance, to be empty, with only a few of the colorful fish usually associated with coral swimming around. That is because the fish are hiding, trying to avoid becoming a meal for predators like this red snapper. The ecosystem "is similar to what we see in Yellowstone -- the landscape of fear," said Enric Sala, one of the scientists. "In Yellowstone, there are all these wolves, and the deer are much attentive. The same thing happens with prey fish in a pristine reef."

Photo: Zafer Kizilkaya


But the scientists also found the effects of even a few thousand people living on the two islands farther south can been seen on the reefs, probably the result of fishing. Around Tabuaeran, top, and Kiritimati, the scientists saw few of the predator species that they had seen at the unpopulated Kingman Reef and barely populated Palmyra atoll, and the reefs were not as healthy.

Photo: Scripps Institution of Oceanography

 

Forest Rohwer of San Diego State University collecting water to identify viruses and bacteria living in and around the reefs.

Photo: Zafer Kizilkaya

 

Not all of the research focused on today's corals. Scientists extracted a one-meter-long core from a living colony, which can be used to reconstruct past climate patterns based on changes in the chemical composition of different layers.

Photo: Zafer Kizilkaya

 

Gustav Paulay of the University of Florida examining coral specimens he collected.

Photo: Zafer Kizilkaya

 


With the changing environment of the oceans, many scientists predict that many -- and perhaps almost all of the coral reefs -- will die off by the end of the century.

Photo: Zafer Kizilkaya

 

(adapted from:http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/02/25/science/earth/0226-REEF_11.html)

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