By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – An unpublished study conducted has found that around eighty percent of Brazil’s coral reefs – which are found predominantly off the coastline of the country’s northeast region, stretching 2,000km (1,240 miles) between Rio Grande do Norte and Bahia states, have been lost over the last half century due to urban pollution and illegal removal. The group believes the remaining reefs are now threatened by climate change.
The startling results have emerged after a monitoring group from the Universidade Federal de Pernanbuco (Pernanbuco Federal University, UFPE) and the Ministério do Meio Ambiente (Ministry of Environment, MMA) began to monitor the state of the coral reefs in 2002.
The reefs are found along the coastline, as well as near bigger cities, such as Recife (whose name literally translates as “reef”), Maceió and Salvador – but untreated sewage from these large urban centers has caused irrevocable damage, and the corals have also been illegally removed.
UFPE’s Beatrice Padovani, who coordinated the study, told Globo’s G1 news site that “domestic, industrial and agriculture pollution,” as well as “increased sediment caused by the deforestation in the Atlantic forest and local mangroves” have caused the biggest damage, as well as removal for “construction, ornamentation and fishing.”
Using data from previous studies, the group have ascertained that the reefs have reduced by eighty percent. The study says overfishing is also threatening a number of fish species that depend on the coral.
Up to the 1980s the reefs were removed – by pick or explosive – for use in calcium oxide (quicklime) production, and the situation only then improved after specific legislation was brought in.
Extremely fragile and sensitive to changes in water conditions, coral reefs occupy less than 0.1 percent of the ocean’s surface and yet support a quarter of all marine species.
Read more (in Portuguese).
* The Rio Times Daily Update is offered to help keep you up-to-date with important news as it happens.