Authors: Katherine Jernigan, Steven Bateman, Daphne Hamilton
Theme: Ocean Acidification and Coral Reefs as related to Food Security and Eco-Tourism
Ocean acidification impacts people and economies through its effects on marine ecosystems. Our topic focuses on the impacts of acidification on coral reefs, and how this in turn affects humans through food security and economic situations. It shows how ecotourism, food security, and the degradation of coral reefs are all intertwined. Our theme does not include all the players that contribute to climate change and ocean acidification, though we will touch slightly on the general causes of ocean acidification.
We chose this particular context because it demonstrates how complex environmental issues are. The problem is not isolated to one issue, say ocean acidification. Rather, it spreads to multiple areas such as the local economy, ecotourism, and the availability of food. This raises important considerations about how broad any one environmental problem can be and why it cannot be fixed with one simple solution. Inside this context, we explore social issues such as food and money, but also natural issues such as the rising acidity level in oceans and the decrease in biodiversity of coral reefs. This context doesn’t really include communities that are more inland or any groups that may engage in trade with the areas near coral reefs. We also don’t look into other factors that contribute to the damage of reefs such as oil spills, net fishing, boat anchoring, or other things we did not consider.
It highlights one of the many consequences of climate change. It shows how nature is connected and that a rise in CO2 in the atmosphere affects not only the temperature, but the pH level in our oceans as well (as well as many other problems). Problems in nature, such as ocean acidification, can affect many facets of an area’s economy. It also brings up issues surrounding the way some places bear the consequences of another area’s pollution (in the way that sometimes countries in the southern hemisphere deal with problems caused by the northern hemisphere’s pollution).
Due to increased fossil fuel burning, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they ever have been in the last few hundred thousand years. Oceans absorb some of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere. This lowers the pH level, making the ocean more acidic in a process called ocean acidification. Ocean acidification can damage ecosystems, killing fish and plant life that cannot survive under these conditions. It can also prevent the reproduction of key organisms in a coral reef.
Local economies depend on nearby reefs. The decrease in pH of ocean waters can impact nearby communities by reducing the biodiversity that sustains them. Many populations living near coral reefs use the fish that live in them as an important source of food and income. Habitat degradation that leads to dwindling fish populations can severely impair local fishing industries and threaten food security as well.
Towns will also use the coral reefs to attract tourists. Parks are often built near coral reefs and these parks attract both divers and tourists. Sometimes divers pay user fees as part of independent funding for maintaining the parks, but these funds do not contribute to the local economy. However, when divers and tourists stay in the surrounding towns, they stimulate the local economy by buying food and lodging. Divers and tourists can also contribute to reef damage directly through increased swimming traffic on and around the reef. Additionally, divers and tourists are less attracted to reefs that have been damaged or are degrading, so degrading reefs decrease tourism which reduces stimulation of local economies.
Daphne Hamilton, Lewis & Clark College Environmental Studies Program, 19 September 2012. Web site.