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12 September, 2010

Marine Ecosystem Under Threat

KOTA KINABALU: The recent discovery of widespread coral bleaching off Sepanggar Bay should serve as a reminder that the marine ecosystem demands attention, said Universiti Malaysia Sabah Director of Borneo Marine Research Institute Prof Dr Saleem Mustafa.

He said increasing carbon emissions in the world’s environment had serious implications on the oceans.

“Oceans take up almost half of the carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Absorption of more carbon dioxide results in seawater becoming more acidic.

“This interferes with the calcifying activity of corals and weaken their skeletons. Coupled with stress from rising sea water temperature, this results in whitening of corals, called bleaching,” he said.

Prof Saleem said scientists from the university had noticed bleaching in some areas of Sepanggar Bay on July 29.

“We cannot ignore that there are some 4,000 species of fish that live in or around coral reefs in the world.

“The reef fisheries provide sustenance to 200 million people worldwide. Sabah is home to between 70% and 75% of coral reefs in Malaysia.

“The live reef fish trade earns millions of dollars annually,” he said.

Prof Saleem said Sabah’s part of the Sulu and Sulawesi seas were biodiversity hotspots, which supported the ocean ecosystems and in turn, provided more goods and services to people. The diversity also strengthened the ecosystem’s resilience in the face of growing human activity in the oceans, he said.

“Climate change is a global environmental phenomenon and combating it requires global efforts.

“However, its effects are more severe when the resilience of marine habitats and inhabitants is low,” he said.

Prof Saleem said building such resilience needed action plans that could be implemented locally and done collectively.

 — Bernama —



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