Malaysia : Widespread Coral Bleaching In Sepanggar Bay Serves As Reminder

Posted on September 11, 2010. Filed under: Climate Change |

(Bernama) — The recent discovery of widespread coral bleaching off Sepanggar Bay should serve as a reminder that the marine ecosystem demands attention, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Director of Borneo Marine Research Institute Prof Dr Saleem Mustafa said.

He also said that carbon emissions had serious implications to the oceans.

“Oceans take up almost half of the carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Absorption of more of carbon dioxide results in acidification of seawater.

“This interferes with the calcifying activity of corals, thereby weakening their calcium carbonate skeletons. Coupled with this stress is the rise in sea water temperature that effectively disrupts the symbiotic relationship between corals and the nutrient gathering zooxanthellae… this manifests in whitening of corals called ‘bleaching’,” he told Bernama, here.

On July 29, this year, Saleem disclosed that UMS scientists, among them M. Ali, Aw Soo Ling and Dr Abentin Estim noticed bleaching in some areas of Sepanggar Bay.

“We cannot ignore that there are some 4,000 species of fish that live in or around coral reefs in the world.

“The reef fisheries provide sustenance to 200 million people worldwide. Sabah is home to 70 to 75 per cent of coral reefs found in Malaysia and the live reef fish trade earns millions of dollars annually that accounts for a major share of the total earnings of artisanal fishermen,” he said.

Saleem said the Sabah part of the Sulu and Sulawesi seas were biodiversity hotspots.

He said marine biodiversity supported the functioning of the ocean ecosystem which in turn provided more goods and services to human beings.

The diversity also strengthened the ecosystem’s resilience needed in the face of growing human footprint in the oceans, he said.

“Climate change is a global environmental phenomenon and combating it requires global efforts.

“However, its effects are more severe when the resilience of marine habitats and inhabitants is low,” he added.

Saleem said building such resilience needed action plans that could be implemented locally and done collectively.

“The time has come for us to do valuation of our marine resources as an essential component of integrated coastal zone management, and to develop ecologically compatible and socially acceptable programmes of action,” he said.

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