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Particulate pollution found to affect coral growth directly


A recent study has found that pollution from fine particles in the air which is mainly the result of burning coal or volcanic eruptions can shadow corals from sunlight and cool the surrounding water resulting in abridged expansion rates. Pollution has been the root cause for extinction of these natural resources and has always been known to contaminate water bodies hence, coral destruction. But this study has put new lights on the root of causes.

Particulate pollution in the air has been adversely known to affect coral growth even though these corals grow deep under the sea yet they are found to be responding to this factor according to a paper published in the journal Nature Goescience. It is a team of climate scientists and coral ecologists from the UK, Australia and Panama. Though corals are merely colonies of simple animal cells, yet they rely on lighting factors that can help their symbiotic photosynthetic algae in manufacturing energy and nutrients from which the coral directly benefits for its growth and expansion.

Lead author Lester Kwiatkowski, a PhD student from Mathematics at the University of Exeter, said: “Coral reefs are the most diverse of all ocean ecosystems with up to 25% of ocean species depending on them for food and shelter. They are believed to be vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification, but ours is the first study to show a clear link between coral growth and the concentration of particulate pollution in the atmosphere.”

Dr Paul Halloran of the Met Office Hadley Centre explained: “Particulate pollution or ‘aerosols’ reflect incoming sunlight and make clouds brighter. This can reduce the light available for coral photosynthesis, as well as the temperature of surrounding waters. Together these factors are shown to slow down coral growth.”

The authors used a grouping of records which they generated from within the coral skeletons, annotations from ships, climate model simulations and statistical modeling. Their study shows that coral growth rates in the Caribbean were affected by volcanic aerosol emissions in the early 20th century and by aerosol emissions caused by humans in the later 20th century. This is the first ever analysis produced that shows direct involvement of particulate pollution in deterioration of natural reefs around the world. For some reason or the other there is no stopping of this kind of pollution from happening near the water bodies for natural eruptions are unpredictable yet human factors too sees not much in stopping air pollution.

The researchers have shows a hope that this work will lead to a better understanding of how coral growth may change in the future, taking into account not just future carbon dioxide levels, but also

localized sources of aerosols such as industry or farming. We wonder how many more reasons are needed to make it obligatory for humans to take some serious action that could prevent air pollution from killing humans, plants and now corals too.

Professor Peter Mumby of the University of Queensland put the study in the perspective of global environmental change: “Our study suggests that coral ecosystems are likely to be sensitive to not only the future global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration but also the regional aerosol emissions associated with industrialization and decarbonisation.”