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A Guide to Information on Greenhouse Gases and Ozone Depletion
Published July 1988 through June 1999


GCC Online: Coral Reefs: Canaries of the Sea

An occasional column
on Internet resources
Fred Stoss
Science and Engineering Library
State University
of New York at Buffalo
Edited by F. O'Hara, Jr.

Item #d99may57

Coral reefs represent some of the world’s most diverse and beautiful ecosystems. They are also among the most fragile. Threats to these unique ecosystems from pollution and dynamiting (blasting coral reefs and mining the remains for commercial distribution for aquariums and other decorative purposes) are now joined by global warming and climatic changes, perhaps driving coral species to the brink of extinction. The following Internet resources will help users understand and define the issues related to the decline of coral reefs and the role of climate change in that decline.

Coral Reefs
An issue summary on coral reefs and climate change compiled by the World Wildlife Fund. This site provides an overview of the issues and describes WWF efforts to raise public awareness on the issues linking global climate change to the demise of coral reefs throughout the world.

The Coral Reef NGO Directory
An alphabetical listing of the organizations advocating on behalf of the world’s coral reefs.

NOAA’s Coral Reef Stories
In 1997, NOAA focused research attention on the plight of coral reefs. The International Year of the Coral Reef was designed to draw the public’s attention to these fragile ecosystems and provided a forum for the accumulation of stories about coral reefs. Additional NOAA coral-reef sites include:

Coral Reefs and the Threat of Global Climate Change

Oceanic Research and Applications Division — Coral Reef Hot Spots

Potential Coral Reef Bleaching Hotspots (includes maps)

State of the Reefs: Regional and Global Perspectives
International Coral Reef Initiative, Executive Secretariat, Background Paper

The Global Coral Reef Alliance
Site of a nonprofit organization for the protection and sustainable management of coral reefs. Provides numerous links to sites describing environmental impacts to coral reefs.

Issues Spot Light: Coral Reefs
The U.S Department of State released a report on March 5, 1999, calling for significant attention to be directed at monitoring coral reefs and for further research on the projected and realized impacts of global climate change on these ecosystems. The report, Coral Bleaching, Coral Mortality, and Global Climate Change, was presented by Rafe Pomerance, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Environment and Development, to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force meeting March 5-6 in Maui, Hawaii. For more information on the creation of the Coral Reef Task Force, link to For members of the Task Force and their coral reef sites, see

Marshall Islands and Climate Change
Describes the concerns of one Pacific Islands nation, including impacts of climate change to coral reefs

News Stories about Reefs and Climate

Climate Change and Coral Reefs
A Greenpeace report

Coral Reefs: Edens at Risk
A National Geographic Society Forum

Coral and Climate
NPR Earth and Sky transcript, 25 August 1995

Coral in Peril
National Geographic article January 1999

Global Warming Suspected Cause of Coral Bleaching
News in Science, Friday, 27 November 1998 (ABC News Online)

National Public Radio’s Living on Earth
Daniel Grossman reported researchers are finding new diseases attacking coral reefs off the Florida Keys, likely because of global warming. The story can be found in the Living on Earth archives at (via RealAudio). The transcript of the show can be found at

Task Force Announces Coral Reef Protections (CNN, 3-22-99)

Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences journal, Ambio
The March 1999 issue cover story reviews coral reefs.

Coral Bleaching Events Expected to Multiply
A statement by the International Society for Reef Studies warns that “should seawater temperatures rise, either as a result of greenhouse gas emissions or natural variability in the ocean/atmosphere system, then we might expect the incidence and severity of coral bleaching to increase yet further in the future with the possibility of substantial changes to the coral reef community structure.”

The following text is from a March 12, 1999, EPA Press Release on the implications of coral-reef declines and climate change. EPA has joined the Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) in a partnership to help protect coral reefs and the marine ecosystem through two volunteer programs to collect coral reef data. The first program, called Reef Ecosystem Conditions (RECON), is an innovative program that will engage recreational divers in collecting valuable information on the condition of coral-reef systems. CMC and EPA will develop a pilot project with the assistance of the Professional Association of Diving Instructors for testing within the wider Caribbean region with cooperation from other numerous nonprofit organizations, research institutions and universities, local resource managers, and agencies as well as businesses and industry, such as dive shops and resorts. The second program, the National Marine Debris Monitoring Program, is a five-year statistically based marine-debris study that uses volunteer groups to monitor and remove marine debris from selected U.S. coastal areas to determine (1) the major sources of the debris and (2) whether or not it is increasing. For additional information, the general public can call Ken Potts, EPA, at 202-260-7983 or Susan Yum, CMC, at 202-857-3279. A CMC press release with additional details is available on the CMC website at EPA also maintains a coral reef website at

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