Recent studies show that coral cover along Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has shrunk by half since the mid ’80s as warmer seas, storms and starfish colonies kill off organisms. We’ll discuss the health and preservation of these fragile ecosystems.

Exploring Corals of the Deep by KQED Quest

A Flash enabled device is required to view this video

Michael Webster, executive director of the Coral Reef Alliance, a conservation non-profit
Jen Smith, assistant professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego
Terrence Gosliner, senior curator and dean of science and research collections at the California Academy of Sciences

  • Ehkzu

    I’ve dived off Australia, Indonesia, New Guinea and the Philippines and seen everything–good and bad–your guests are discussing. The locals will defend and protect coral reefs if it pays for them, so we can help by going on vacations in these areas, both diving and snorkeling.
    We can also help by not buying marine tropical fish for our aquariums that aren’t tank-bred. Wild marine tropicals are caught by cyanide fishing, which kills portions of coral reef and 90% of the fish nearby.
    And we can help by pressuring our legislatures to ban importation of dried seahorses, which ethnic Chinese use as traditional “medicine,” and shark fins, which ethnic Chinese use in soups to show how wealthy they are. Sharks eat parrot fish, which can consume up to a ton of coral reef per year. No sharks, no reefs.

  • Ehkzu

    re: diver damage
    Yes, divers can damge reefs, but it’s infinitesimal compared to other human sources. Mexican businessmen destroyed an entire coral reef to build a cruise ship dock in Cozumel, when placing the dock a few hundred feet away would have preserved the reef. Indonesian businessmen destroyed all the coral reefs off Candidasa in Bali in order to use their limestone in cement to build hotels. One ship grounding causes immense reef damage. Fishing boats anchoring on reefs also cause great damage. And reef bombing destoys the reef structure, so that even when coral grows back it’s not what you get on a solid foundation of older coral.

  • village

    Your guests were not truthful in their statements. You can’t just talk away serious matter. Why didn’t they mention the negative reaction of Australia(supposed to be a first world!) to the U.N. report about the damage they are inflicting on the great barrier reef? They didn’t talk at all about the pollutants from the mega shipping and cruise lines incessantly crisscrossing our oceans and seas, the giant sewer lines pouring on our costs, the torrents of chemicals from on shore factories(rather one of our guests even was bold enough to say these ejecta favor some corals! details please), the huge population bomb, atomic bomb tests, the big number of divers hammering at the reefs, etc.
    One of you guests is proud of the reef in the Academy of Sciences, for me that is a total waste of space. The Academy was truly an academy where you can learn. Now it is made into a theme park, alas. Even the most beautiful large section of the mineralogy department had disappeared. And his trips to the Philippines were selected. I was there dived and everywhere at random there is substantial damage to the corals. We need courageous scientists who would come to the front to tell people about the state of the world corals.

    • Towanda13

      To Village,
      Did you listen to the entire program. I’m only about 8 minutes into it and they HAVE already talked about pollutants (which includes ships, sewer lines & factories). All 3 of these people have spent their lives and careers studying coral reefs. Why do you think that just diving makes you an expert? Have you taken measurements of the corals, the quality of the water, sequenced coral DNA or any of the kinds of things that scientists do to study these organisms. It IS true that some corals do better in polluted waters than others. The goal is to try to find out what genes allow those corals to survive when others cannot.

      You also comment about Dr. Gosliner’s trip to the Philippines being “selected”. What did that statement mean? Dr. Gosliner’s research group has been going to the Philippines for 20 years and have studied many many areas of those coral reefs. One of the goals of all scientists doing field work in biodiversity and ecology is to help education the local population so that they will be interested in helping to protect their environments. Dr. Gosliner’s story about local people protecting their reef and the fact that it responded in a positive way is what I would call a courageous effort, both on the part of the local people and on the part of the scientists who do the research.

      Most disturbing of your comments was the first one…”Your guests were not truthful in their statements”. You give no facts, no rebuttals, no cited data to prove your points. All three of these people have devoted their lives to understanding these special habitats, why? Because they love these places, every bit as much as I’m sure you do. What do they do about it…..they devote their lives and their careers to this kind of work…..they don’t just go diving.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor