When you keep coral reef aquariums as a interest you learn quickly how subtle changes in water quality effect the resilience of corals in a closed system. The worlds coral reefs are in a bit of strife. According to peer reviewed science it is a struggle corals are currently losing. Aquarium hobbyists by the very nature of their interest develop a deep understanding of the issues and problems facing coral reefs.
Ocean warming and coral bleaching act in combination with acidification of seawater from changes in CO2 absorption and the impact of eutrophication. Carbonate chemistry is altered and dissolution of calcium occurs. In addition, coral reefs are struggling with the cumulative effects of other man-made environmental stressors. These issues all relate to how changes in pH effect the amount of hydrogen ions in seawater (its acidity).
Frequencies of storm events, terrestrial runoff, eutrophication and epidemics like the Crowth of Thorns star fish outbreaks are making it very difficult for reef systems to recover from other impacts at a rate fast enough to keep pace with the effect of those cumulative impacts on coral.
In a tropical aquarium (using artificial seawater) containing corals a fine balance is maintained between the need for symbiotic phytoplankton in corals to access nitrate and phosphate and having too much of these compounds present in the water. Through photosynthesis phytoplankton provide nutrients to corals but too much phytoplankton is much worse than not enough.
Overfeeding fish combined with lack of phosphate and nitrate control, an inadequate light cycle and light spectrum, and limited temperature control exacerbates the ‘phytoplankton issue’. Then even with chemical control (adding phosphate/nitrate remover) to enhance your protein skimmers function, your efforts will be frustrated.
On top of this corals strip calcium out of the artificial seawater, affecting total alkalinity and acidifying the seawater, contributing to eutrophication. Without adequate filtration both biological and mechanical, and control of temperature and feeding regimes and buffering of the artificial seawater you have no hope of keeping corals in captivity successfully.
So yes, an intuitive understanding of the environmental issues facing coral reefs worldwide is developed. Learning by doing makes it much more real for many people. More real than hearing about it in the news, through other media, hysteria from ill informed people with emotionally base opinions on impacts, or even from being familiar with the peer reviewed science.
It is all about making it real for the public and aquarium keeping is the great educator, creating a level playing field.
- New Clues Emerge On How Corals Bleach (livescience.com)
- Evaluating Social and Ecological Vulnerability of Coral Reef Fisheries to Climate Change (plosone.org)
- Reef Aquarium Corals for Beginners (coralmeds.wordpress.com)
- Coral Reef Watch (plunderfortheplanet.wordpress.com)
- Study looks at climate change and reefs (bigpondnews.com)
- Explore the World’s Coral Reefs with Google Street View (livescience.com)
- Coral will dissolve if CO2 emissions don’t change (oceansnrg.com)
- How To: Regrow a coral reef (boingboing.net)
- A Blue View: Rainforests of the Sea (nationalaquarium.wordpress.com)
- The Truth About Sunscreens and Coral Reefs (myoceannews.wordpress.com)