Global Warming Threatens Hawaii's Coral Reefs

Ku'ulei Rodgers
Ku'ulei Rodgers

COCONUT ISLAND (KHNL) - The combined stress of global warming and ocean acidification has many coral reef biologists very concerned.

Ocean acidification is a buzz word for marine biologist these days. The term refers to an increase in atmospheric gases, caused mainly by fossil fuels burning.

Marine biologists say global warming, and increased levels of carbon dioxide are killing Hawaii's coral reefs. When reefs suffer, the ecosystems that depend on them are dangerously compromised.

"Especially in the state of Hawaii, we depend on the reefs for tourism as well as our economy. Also, recreational and commercial fisheries," said Coral Reef Ecologist Ku'ulei Rodgers. "The coral reefs are the basis for all of the foundations and key species and if we lose the reefs we also will lose the fish and other organisms that are involved."

Rodgers is studying the effects of global warming and increased carbon dioxide in both the main and Northwestren Hawaiian Islands. She says global warming has lead to coral bleaching throughout the island chain.

"We had a bleaching event in 1996 here in the main Hawaiian Islands, and often we thought that the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands wouldn't have as much of an effect, but in 2002 there was a bleaching event."

Rodgers says simple changes can decrease the threat to our reefs.

"It's really important for us not only to malama I ke kai the oceans, but also do our part on land by conserving the resources and using less energy, like driving less when we can. We all can do our part-- which is important."

The national oceanic and atmospheric administration has given the University of Hawaii a grant for nearly 2 million dollars, to improve their ability to research and protect coastal waters.