Factory farms may be killing coral reefs, not a warming planet

Interesting article from the nerds at phys.org:

A study published in the international journal Marine Biology, reveals what’s really killing coral reefs. With 30 years of unique data from Looe Key Reef in the lower Florida Keys, researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute and collaborators have discovered that the problem of coral bleaching is not just due to a warming planet, but also a planet that is simultaneously being enriched with reactive nitrogen from multiple sources.

Improperly treated sewage, fertilizers and top soil are elevating nitrogen levels, which are causing phosphorus starvation in the corals, reducing their temperature threshold for “bleaching.” These coral reefs were dying off long before they were impacted by rising water temperatures. This study represents the longest record of reactive nutrients and algae concentrations for coral reefs anywhere in the world.

In other words, the same factory/industrial farming that creates massive dead zones in oceans worldwide (including the Gulf of Mexico) is also at least partially responsible for killing the coral reefs, not a rise in sea temperature.

Will Earth support a human population of 10 billion or more? Yes, but maybe without any animals, including coral.

10 thoughts on “Factory farms may be killing coral reefs, not a warming planet

  1. We need fusion power now more than ever! Oh, boy.

    Philip, I know you don’t have all the answers, but you have a lot of good ones, and you know a lot of people who have answers at least as good as yours. You’re in a very small subset of a smaller subset of a tiny slice of the normal distribution. Can you please ask everyone you know to solve laser fusion before the Chinese do?

  2. It’s about meat, because meat eaters cause more cows to be born & more cows cause more grass to be eaten & grass is an evil conspiracy. Ban meat consumption & kill all the meat eaters who aren’t rich. We’ll solve this week’s crisis is the American way.

  3. >>Will Earth support a human population of 10 billion or more?
    I think this is the key question. There are a number of stresses our enormous human population are placing on the planet, and while I am a great believer in technology, I think even the current population is larger than is sustainable, long-term, if we want the natural world to be anything like it is today.

    The Great Barrier Reef is headed for oblivion, mostly due to warming and ocean acidification. Farms surely make it worse, but shouldn’t distract from the fact that CO2 is a major problem for the Great Barrier Reef. This huge piece of life, so large it’s visible from the moon, is a canary in the coal mine.

    At our current population, I think we’re headed towards a really bleak world, and there is no “Plan B.”

    “One’s enough,” should be our new motto, worldwide, IMHO.

  4. If too much N causes P starvation, could this be offset by applying some phosphate fertilizers near the reefs?

  5. These fluctuations are negligible compared with what has occurred in the past 3 Billion yrs and evolution has replaced organisms that can’t cope with particular condition many times over. Evolutionary and planetary change will continue despite the puny efforts of mankind. The best hope for the planet’s ecology is an asteroid impact that will result in the re-setting of the evolutionary clock by wiping out the most dependent present-day organisms. Don’t worry! Bring it on!

  6. > a human population of 10 billion or more… without any animals

    A web search for “Magnus Söderlund eat people” will reveal that someone at least is willing to face the tough choices necessary. I can’t see any flaw in his logic, can you?

    • All these years after the Enlightenment, we have a few hurricanes and people start talking about eating each other. What a show.

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