by Carly Cassella, July 20, 2019 in WUWT
Coral reefs are one of the most threatened ecosystems on our planet, and in the past two decades alone, half of the coral in Florida has died off completely. Global warming is known to be a deadly factor, but rising ocean temperatures are only part of the story.
Thirty years of research in the Looe Key Sanctuary Preservation Area (LKSPA) on the southern tip of the Florida Keys has now revealed the cost of a devastating threat to coral that rivals even climate change: direct human pollution.
For years, agricultural run-off and improperly treated sewage have flowed into Florida’s ocean waters from the northern Everglades, elevating the sanctuary’s nitrogen levels and lowering the reef’s temperature threshold for bleaching, researchers say.
As a result of this deadly combination, coral cover in the region has declined from nearly 33 percent in 1984 to less than 6 percent in 2008.
In their analysis, the authors found that three mass bleaching events that occurred during these years only happened after heavy rainfall and increased land-based runoffs. In other words, if we can reduce the amount of local pollution that makes its way into our oceans, we might be able to reduce the worst of the damage.
Klein & Orlando, Bulletin of Marine Science, 1994