Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coral Reef Troubles Indicate Broader Ecological (and Economic) Problems

No ecosystems on Earth are declining as rapidly as coral reefs, reports Mongabay, and their decline doesn't bode well for humanity:

By revealing what could be in store for other natural systems, reefs resemble the proverbial canary in a coal mine.

Why might we humans be concerned here?  Well, consider the benefits humanity enjoys compliments of  coral reefs:

Reefs sustain many commercial fisheries and reduce the impact of large storms on coastal populations, saving communities more than $9 billion every year. New drugs developed from natural sources, both above and below the waves, are used to treat everything from heart disease to leukemia. In fact, the renowned AIDS treatment drug AZT is based on chemicals discovered in a Caribbean reef sponge. Researchers also recently discovered a compound in a species of coral near Taiwan that could help patients with severe nerve damage.

To give reefs and other ecosystems a chance, it's crucial that world leaders embark upon a combined effort to protect earth's remaining natural areas, beyond even international attempts to control global warming emissions.

Wow!  I had no idea that AZT came from a compound discovered in a reef organism.  Nature continues to amaze -- and to provide us with new justifications for taking much better care of our planetary home...

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