Controlling run-off is key

Coral vistaA recent letter published in Nature Climate Change discusses the effects of nutrient enrichment on coral reef survival. 

The letter’s authors (Wiedemann, J, D’Angelo, C., Smith E.G., Hunt, A.N., Legiret, F.E., Postle, A.D. & Achterberg, E.P.) confirm that enrichment of reef waters is often associated with a significant loss of coral cover and diversity. Their study reveals, however, that increased levels of dissolved inorganic nitrogen in combination with limited phosphate concentrations result in an increased susceptibility of corals to temperature- and light-induced bleaching.  Based on these findings they suggest that controlling the balance of nutrients in coastal waters might be as important as reducing the amount of anthropgoenic run-off.

In an article by the Press Association, Dr Wiedemann is quoted as saying: “The findings suggest that a balanced reduction of the nutrient input in coastal waters could help to mitigate the effects of increasing seawater temperatures on coral reefs. However, such measures will be effective only for a short period of time, so it is important to stop the warming of the oceans, which will otherwise destroy most of the reefs in their present form in the near future.”

So addressing nutrient enrichment can help slow down damage to coral reefs but will only offer a short term solution.

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