“Coral reefs are the backbone of Maldives, without coral reefs there’s no Maldives.”
Alarming when the world’s largest reef system – The Great Barrier Reef of Australia – is near death after overheating and beaching. Increased carbon dioxide concentrations and rising temperatures of the seas is putting the paradise isles of Maldives at risk. It goes beyond sea level rise which regularly make news.
The peril for the atoll of Maldives comes from the fact that every aspect of its being is intertwined with the life of the coral reefs that form this island system. Yet the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that 60 percent of the Maldivian corals affected.
Coral Reefs the Maldivian Backbone
The pristine white sand beaches of Maldives are formed of eroded corals. The tourists flock to Maldives to be awed these beaches and view the phenomenal biodiversity of the reefs. Bait fish for the Tuna that is staple to Maldivian diet and the only home grown food depends on supply from the reefs. Thus affecting food security. It is also a threat to the way of life – the Maldivian culture. The reefs protect Maldives from tsunamis and storm surges and other extreme weather over the seas.
While rains helped cool sea temperatures temporarily around Maldives and prevented irreversible harm from occurring to the reef system that sustains the atoll. But these acts of God cannot be always be depended on. The imperiled paradise faces the double whammy of increased ocean acidification – with the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide permanently crossing 400 parts per million as well as the effects of warm seas.
After just 1 degree rise in the temperature of the seas and the increased dissolved carbon dioxide the living reefs of Australia a world heritage bleached irreversibly and was declared dead. Heat stroke eliminated this system and poses a continued threat to the backbone of Maldives as well.
Can They Escaping This Imminent Heat Stoke?
The hope is to prevent the destruction of what little of reef systems are still left. While the rains in Maldives prevented irreversible bleaching, the reefs are still sensitive in the recovery phase. Dredging and reclamation of land as adaptation strategy may accelerate the degradation of the system.
In addition to hoping to curb global warming and the acidification by reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we need to really look at stopping the other threats to the reefs. No bottom trawling, no unethical harvesting and maybe more acts of god will make the sure the corals are protected from the effects of man.