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Human waste main reason for death of corals

Date Posted: 2002-06-23

The University of Georgia study has concluded that the main reason for the death of coral reefs in the Caribbean is untreated sewage from countries surrounding the sea. Researchers say the same is likely to be the main reason for the dying of coral reefs surrounding Okinawa and other areas.

Results of the study that has been ongoing since 1990 have been published recently. The study shows that the affected coral turned white and in the worst case 98 percent of the corals in a reef were dead. “We concluded without doubt that the main reason for the coral dying was bacteria in sewage water. We also found that the same bacteria are killing corals off Okinawa and Kagoshima,” stated Professor James Porter who headed the study.

In the study, researchers extracted bacteria from dead and dying corals that was then cultivated in the laboratory, and then transferred to healthy corals that all began dying as a result. They were also able to determine that the source of the bacteria was human waste. “The study proves without doubt that the reason for coral reefs dying was bacteria from sewage that was not treated properly,” professor Porter says.

Professor of Coral Biology at the University of the Ryukyus Michio Hidaka is impressed with the study. “We thought that the main reason for the dying of coral reefs was the rising temperature of the ocean water, and that’s why there was nothing we could do about it. We also know that piblio bacteria that is endemic in corals was a cause of death of corals to some degree. However, we were not able to explain the whitening of the coral and only assumed that the reason was the rising temperature. This study shows that the cause of the whitening is a microbe organism,” Hidaka says. He also calls for an extensive study of Okinawan reefs in light of the new knowledge. “If further study proves that human waste is definitely the reason for the dying of coral reefs here, then we can do something about it,” Hidaka concluded.

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