REPORT SOUNDS AN
ALARM ON DECLINE
OF U.S. CORAL REEFS
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. » A first of its kind assessment of coral reefs in U.S. waters is again sounding the alarm over the continued decline of these sensitive underwater ecosystems, which scientists deem essential to the health of the world’s oceans amid the environmental effects posed by human activity and climate change.
The report, released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Maryland, took stock of the health of coral reefs under U.S. jurisdiction, from Guam and Hawaii in the Pacific to Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Atlantic. “Our work in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans shows a dire outlook for coral reef ecosystem health, from warming ocean waters, fishing, disease, and pollution from the land,” said Heath Kelsey, director of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
The reefs off Florida are the most degraded, with perhaps as little as 2% remaining, officials said. They are natural barriers to storm surges, particularly in regions susceptible to hurricanes.
“The economic impacts of coral reefs in the United States are around $3.4 billion annually,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, an assistant secretary at NOAA. — The Associated Press