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‘Super corals’ give glimmer of hope for world’s dying reefs

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Hawaiian “super corals” that have recovered despite living in warm and acidic water offer a glimmer of hope that dying reefs across the world could be saved, a new study says.

The research suggests that the gloomiest climate change picture of a world without the kaleidoscope underwater habitats could still be avoided, according to lead author Christopher Jury.

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“It’s unfortunately but inevitably true that things are going to get worse for reefs over the next 20-30 years, but that doesn’t mean it’s unstoppable,” said Jury, a postdoctoral researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology.

“We can still turn this thing around and end up getting back to better than what we have today within a reasonable timeframe,” he told AFP.

Coral reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean bed but support around 30 percent of all known marine life.

But they are suffering, with stressors including the warmer and more acidic oceans caused by climate change, as well as other human-made pressures including pollution and overfishing.

The UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change warned last year that just 1.5 Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) of global warming could see 70-90 percent of Earth’s coral reefs vanish.

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But Jury’s research shows that it is possible for coral to survive and even thrive in waters that are warmer and more acidic than where coral usually lives.

– Rapid recovery –

He studied coral reefs in Hawaii’s Kane’ohe Bay that were devastated between the 1930s and 1970s by urbanization, dredging, coastal development and the discharge of sewage.

By the early 1970s, shallow coral cover across the bay had decreased by more than 70 percent on average, and by more than 95 percent in the southern bay, nearest the sewage output.

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But in the late 1970s, the sewage was diverted and the coral began to recover rapidly.

AFP/File / PATRICK BAZ Jury studied reefs in Hawaii’s Kane’ohe Bay devastated by urbanization, dredging, coastal development and the discharge of sewage

That happened despite the fact that Kane’ohe Bay has warmer and more acidic waters than are typically found in the area.

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In fact, the conditions in the bay are what other parts of Hawaii could see in the decades ahead if climate change continues apace. And those conditions are not usually favorable for coral.

But in Kane’ohe Bay, simply removing the sewage output allowed the coral to recover to between 50-90 percent cover, “among the highest reported for any reefs in the Hawaiian Islands,” says the study published Wednesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences journal.

The key, said Jury, was that the coral populations in Kane’ohe Bay “naturally harbor a lot of ‘super corals’, which can thrive in moderately warmer, more acidic conditions.”

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So once the sewage pollution was removed, those “super corals” swiftly “came in and drove the reefs to a rapid recovery.”

– ‘Glimpse into the future’ –

These corals appeared to be naturally able to survive in a climate that is usually hostile.

The recovery was a combination of both growth in remaining coral but also “recruitment”, where larval coral floating along like seeds in the wind find a suitable environment and “settle”.

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Jury said it appeared that the larval coral came from both the bay but also other areas in Hawaii and that so-called “super corals” likely exist in many other places.

But elsewhere, under conditions that are cooler and less acidic, these corals don’t thrive.

AFP/File / EMILY IRVING-SWIFT The UN warned last year that just 1.5 Celsius of global warming could see 70-90 percent of Earth’s coral reefs vanish

“Our thinking is that this bay is giving us a glimpse into the future where the corals that are at a disadvantage today have the advantage tomorrow,” Jury said.

It is too early to say whether these “super corals” could recolonize devastated reefs elsewhere, and Jury stressed that the findings were not cause for complacency.

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“Even the very tough corals from Kane’ohe Bay die under the temperatures they’ll see in a few decades if we don’t substantially reduce climate change,” he warned.

And the survival of “super corals” also depends on reducing other stressors, like pollution.

“If we take the necessary steps now then we will begin to see this reestablishment by corals during our lifetime, and our children and grandchildren will be able to witness the recovery of coral reefs during theirs because we make the decision that reefs are worth saving,” he said.


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Buffalo has a long history of protecting cops from criminal charges: report

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On Saturday, The Daily Beast documented the recent history of use of force in the Buffalo Police Department, which is reeling from controversy as two officers face assault charges for shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground.

"As shocking as this all may be to outsiders, the shoving of demonstrator Martin Gugino and the defiant response of officers to an effort to discipline two of their own is indicative of the state of police affairs in Buffalo," wrote Jim Heaney. "Has been for a long time, not that you have to go back too far to find other episodes of brutality that have been captured on video."

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Internet disgusted after Buffalo first responders cheer cops charged with assaulting 75-year-old protester

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Commenters on Twitter expressed both contempt and disgust for Buffalo firefighters and police officers who turned out in front of Buffalo City Court to support two suspended police officers with applause and cheering.

Moments after officers Aaron Torglaski and Robert McCabe were charged with second-degree assault and then released without having to post bail, they were greeted as heroes outside the courthouse.

After a video was posted showing the celebration, commenters on Twitter vented at cops and firefighters for defending the two officers who assaulted the 75-year-old man who had to be rushed to a hospital after they shoved him to the ground where he sustained a head injury.

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Donald Trump’s lurch toward fascism is backfiring spectacularly

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Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.

During the 2016 campaign, as Donald Trump railed against "Mexican rapists" and other "criminal aliens," pollsters found that the share of Americans who said that immigrants worked hard and made a positive contribution to our society increased significantly, and noticed a similar decline in the share who said they take citizens' jobs and burden our social safety net. After Trump was elected and began pursuing his Muslim ban, the share of respondents who held a positive view of Islam also increased pretty dramatically. I'm not aware of any polling of the general public about transgender troops serving in the military before Trump decided to discharge them, but Gallup found that 71 percent of respondents opposed his position after he did.

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