It has become the never-ending battle of the Coral Sea.
The threats change, but there is always a doomsday forecast – Crown-of-Thorns, oil drilling, fishing, cane farming, coastal shipping, global warming, ocean acidity, coral bleaching, port dredging, chemical and fertiliser runoff, coal transport, river sediments, loss of world heritage status etc. Every recycled scare, magnified by the media and parroted by politicians, generates more income for the alarm industry, usually at the expense of taxpayers, consumers or local industries.
Corals first appeared 500 million years ago and have proven to be one of Earth’s great survivors. They outlasted the Carboniferous Forests, the Permian and Cretaceous extinctions, the dinosaurs, the mammoths, the Neanderthals and the Pleistocene cycles of ice age and warming. They thrive in warm tropical water, cluster around hot volcanic fumaroles and survive massive petroleum spills, natural oil seeps, tidal waves and volcanic dust. They have even recolonised the Montebello Island waters devastated by atomic bomb testing in the 1950’s.
The ENSO oscillation of blobs of warm Pacific water which caused recent coral bleaching can be identified in historical records for at least 400 years. Corals have survived El Nino warmings for thousands of years and they will probably outlast Homo Alarmism as Earth proceeds into the next glacial epoch.
Corals do not rely on computer models of global temperature to advise them – they read the sea level thermometer which falls and rises as the great ice sheets come and go.
In the warming phase like the one just ending, ice melts, sea levels rise and the reef that houses the corals may get drowned. Corals have two choices – build their reef higher or just float south/inshore and build a new reef (like the Great Barrier Reef) in shallower, cooler water. When islands sink beneath rising oceans, corals may build their own coral atolls as fast as the water rises.
Then when the cold era returns, ice sheets grow, sea levels fall, and the warm era coral reefs get stranded on the new beaches and coastal plains. Usually the process is slow enough to allow the coral polyps to float into deeper warmer water closer to the equator and build another reef.
This eminently sensible policy of “move when you have to” has proved a successful survival policy for the corals for 500 million years.
Humans should copy the corals – “forget the computer climate models but watch real data like actual sea levels and . . . move when you have to.”
How Coral Atolls form:
Corals Thrive in warm acid waters:
Corals that Survived the peaks of Holocene warming will survive a bit of El Nino bleaching:
Coral Reefs drowned in the rapid sea level rise as the great ice sheets melted:
Corals thrive in warm tropical waters and can adapt to periodic warming:
Corals and Atom bombs:
Corals, hot tropical waters and Volcanoes: