Environmental Oceanography: Topics and Analysis
For Students

Issues Questions

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1:  Using the information provided above, calculate the area of earth’s surface. (Recall that we are assuming that the earth is a perfect sphere. The formula for calculating the area of a sphere is this: area 4 (r)2, where 3.1416, r radius).

2:  If coral area is approximately 600,000 km2, what percentage of the earth’s surface is covered with coral reefs?

3:  Use the doubling time formula (70 r, see Appendix) to calculate when coral reef coverage will be 300,000 km2, assuming a 1% rate of decrease. For any entity, such as the rate of coral reef loss, to decrease by a factor of 1,000 (actually 1,024), it takes 10 doubling periods.

4:  Using the doubling time you just calculated, determine when coral reef coverage would be reduced to 1 1,000 of its current coverage, or an impossible 600 acres.

5:  Extinction is forever. Would you be willing to let some species of corals disappear forever? All species? Discuss.

6:  Who is responsible, if anyone, for ensuring the survival of coral reefs? Explain your answer.

7:  Identify actions that could be taken to help coral reefs recover and protect them. Which are most practical? What are the impediments to implementing these actions?

8:  Discuss whether you think promoting ecotourism, naturebased tourism that appeals to environmentally oriented individuals, would contribute to solving the coral reef problem, or instead might worsen the problem.

9:  What is different about this Science magazine report compared with other studies documenting coral reef decline?

10:  What did U.S. Geological Survey marine ecologist Caroline Rogers say about changes in coral reefs in the U.S. Virgin Islands over the last 25 years?

11:  Why do you think Rogers considers it to be very unusual for a marine invertebrate like coral to be considered for the endangered species list?

12:  List reasons presented in this report why coral reefs are declining.

13:  Explain how overfi shing harms coral reefs.

14:  What did researcher Isabelle Cote discover about the decreases in coral cover?

15:  Do you think the description that ecosystems are “less colorful and vibrant” conveys the seriousness of the threat to coral reefs? Explain your answer.

16:  With what does researcher Cote compare the rate of destruction of coral reefs?

17:  Explain whether you think the plight of tropical forests or other ecosystems is more in the public eye than that of coral reefs.

18:  Explain whether you think that this study will be a “wake-up call” to authorities to take these man-made problems seriously.

19:  Explain why you think authorities in power have not taken these problems seriously in the past.

20:  Identify some of the problems the U.S. Virgin Islands might experience if coral reefs disappeared from their waters.

21:  How might strict application of the Precautionary Principle (see pp. 5–6) help protect coral reefs?

22:  What event turned over 90% of Jamaica’s coral reefs into “ underwater ghost towns?”

23:  What is the purpose of the “Year of the Reef?”

24:  What is meant by “paper reef-protection zones?”

25:  How is the United States described by the Australian marine biologist Clive Wilkinson? Explain what he meant.

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