corals can be saved

Corals Can Be Saved If We Restore Plankton Cooling

Experts at coral reef conference in Honolulu offer little but the same old career safe ideas

Princely paid pundits prefer pitching party lines about perils to presenting practical prescriptions

Solutions proffered are couched in global warming parlance for the coral reefs those propositions will take decades to make progress and then only at a cost of trillions.

Corals will be saved by restoring plankton cooling to stop ocean warming, this will produce positive results for coral reefs in a few years time and will cost mere millions.

Scientists at the 13th International Coral Reef Symposium in Honolulu this week are palavering about the latest research on our planet’s imperiled reef. With a little more googling instead of oogling they might quickly discover how the most beautiful bathing beauties at the beach the corals can be saved.

“While scientific knowledge about coral reefs and their structure, functioning and responses to stressors has increased exponentially over the past few decades, the state of reefs globally has declined during this period, at a comparable rate in many places”, the meeting’s website says.

A recent survey found that as much as 35% of coral died in some regions of the Great Barrier Reef during the current bleaching event, though NOAA researchers said Monday that it is too early for a full global assessment of how much coral has died. Coral bleaching in the world’s largest reef system could turn it into a “dead ecosystem” in 20 years experts reported.

Oahu’s Hanauma Bay corals can be saved

Oahu’ Hanauma Bay on May 6, 2016 near Honolulu. This image is a far cry from the photo at the top of this post showing a healthy reef, much of the inner reef at Hanauma Bay is now dead.

corals can be saved, even these seemingly dead ones

A man rests his hand on a dead reef as he snorkels in Oahu’s Hanauma Bay on May 6, 2016 near Honolulu.

The largest coral atoll in the world, Kiritimati in the western South Pacific, has lost 80 percent of its coral in the past 10 months due to this coral bleaching event. Reefs are not merely beautiful they also provide habitat for many ocean fish and they also act as a sheltering breakwater for land when it comes to storm surges and rising sea levels.

NOAA’s satellite observatories and ocean ecosystems models provide us with the ability to track the collapse of ocean plankton and their powerful ‘plankton cooling effect’ that is resulting in the ocean warming that is causing widespread coral bleaching.

The ongoing bleaching event-the longest in recorded history that started in 2014 and has killed more than a third of coral in some locations. That would be devastating for marine ecosystems that directly depend on healthy coral reefs. NOAA officials say Palau and other islands in the South Pacific face the biggest threats.

Ocean warming which is the result of the collapse of ocean plankton and its natural plankton cooling effects has caused global sea surface temperatures to rise by about 1°C over the past century, pushing corals closer to their bleaching threshold.

“What we have to do is to really translate the urgency”, said Ruth Gates, president of the International Society for Reef Studies and director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. This is eroding the natural resilience of reefs, which is why the sight of vast, coral graveyards and the smell of millions of rotting animals have become eerily common.

Following the research money trail in place of immediate and real action

Coral researchers, almost all academics or bureaucrats, as usual have focused their attention, with some small success, on very high cost long term (and thus career safe) projects such as creating coral nurseries and working to engineer forms of “super coral” that might be able to withstand worsening ocean warming conditions.  The idea is to make the corals more resilient by training them to adapt to tougher conditions before transplanting them into the ocean.

Coral reefs have nearly always been studied up close, by scientists in the water looking at small portions of reefs. Even, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is also carrying out a study on reefs. People. Most of the reefs doing well were in fished or populated areas, where local communities are actively engaged in reef management.

Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist said this was the first time anyone had gone to Australia’s key tourism markets and asked them what they might do if we were not able to better protect the reef. After over 6,000 reef surveys in 46 countries, Australian researchers are extremely excited as they report the news is not all bad as they have found 15, yes you read it right just 15, areas amongst damaged world reefs that are still loaded with fish. Talk about expert spin fishing!

Problem and Prescription

Our ocean plant life has been in cataclysmic decline for at least 50 years. In that time and presently ocean pasture plants, phytoplankton, has been disappearing at a rate of 1% per year. That is an enormous loss, in context of a familiar terrestrial system, in each five-year period the oceans have lost equivalent biomass to an entire Amazon Rainforest, so count them that is 10 Amazon Rainforest’s worth of plant life eradicated in and on this blue planet.

You have likely heard the Amazon Rainforest referred to as the lungs of Planet Earth, well the concern about the Amazon is due to the fact that we have killed off just 20% of that forest…. a tiny fraction of the loss experienced by the true lungs of this blue planet, the ocean pastures.

Plankton Cooling Clouds

As vital as our ocean pasture plant life, phytoplankton, is to our oxygen supply it’s even more powerful role is in the fact that ocean plant life are directly responsible for making and sustaining the majority of cooling clouds for our blue and green world. If you look at photos of the earth from space you might think we have nothing but blue skies. That is because the images of the Earth that are typically shown are chosen to not show a planet shrouded in clouds. Below is a true image of the normal cloudiness of our blue planet.

Global cloud cover 2011-2015

Plankton Cooling global cloud cover 2011-2015 shows that while we might have been shown mostly images of our planet without clouds, we enjoy the shade made by plankton that keeps our planet in the Goldilocks Zone for life.

Global warming derives mostly from loss of plankton cooling.

Given the collapse of ocean plant life at the scale of the elimination of 10 Amazon Rainforests in just the past 50 years, and the pace is accelerating, it is the loss of this natural plankton cooling that is producing ocean warming. As a result of this ocean warming that other warming you’ve heard all about, global warming, follows not leads ocean warming.

Mankind must begin looking upon our oceans not as some endless wild space but rather as a part of our planet that we must actively care for. Neither coontinued exploitation of its resources nor taking a hands off approach will do. The nearly trillion tonnes of CO2 that has entered this Blue Planets atmosphere and biosphere during all of the yesterdays of the fossil fuel age has only just begun to impact upon the oceans where the vast majority of it is destined to dissolve. The lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere is hundreds of years so today not even half of the historic and dangerous dose has been taken up by the biosphere.

The first and most powerful pathway that CO2 takes on this planet is that it produced global greening. That greening of the lands is producing more ground cover, aka grass, and More Grass Growing Means Less Dust Blowing!

Proven practical prescription

By taking an active role to replace the vital mineral dust our technological age and indulgences have denied the ocean pastures and their phytoplankton cloud makers we can immediately restore planet wide plankton cooling to the levels that once sustained this blue planet in its Goldilocks Zone. This work is well-tested and proven to be safe and sustainable and best of all incredibly low-cost.

As a side benefit of regenerating ocean pastures and their coral saving plankton cooling effect those pastures will simultaneously revive fish production to historic levels of health and abundance. At a scale costing mere millions of dollars each year revived ocean fish pastures will deliver billions of additional fish into the nets of fishermen and onto the plates of people in need of low-cost nourishing food around the world.


Here’s an example from my 2012 large-scale ocean pasture restoration in the Gulf of Alaska. While my team and I performed state of the art ocean science studies bracketing the demonstration in both time and space the fish turned out to be the best ocean scientists of all. In Alaska the following year some 50 million Pink Salmon were expected to be caught, and that would be a very good catch by Alaskan standards. Instead when the salmon swam home to Alaskan watersheds from their/my restored ocean pasture more than 226 Million were caught, the largest catch in all of history. Without doubt the work to restore the Gulf of Alaska grew upwards of a billion additional fish.

sitka news salmon story

My 2012 ocean pasture replenishment and restoration work in the NE Pacific returned the ocean to life as seen in the largest catch of salmon in all of history in Alaska the next year.

Restoring ocean pastures in the vicinity of island nations will provide immediate relief to their precious corals.