The SE Asian region that spans from Vietnam to Myanmar contains 34% of the worlds coral reefs, possibly a third of the worlds mangroves and vast areas of seagrass. But this region also contains a rapidly burgeoning human population that is creating an ever worsening marine pollution problem. Last week saw the publication of a review about the region and its current marine pollution status by researchers at National University Singapore. This broad review is a stark reminder of the problems facing the marine environment of the region before it even considers the impacts of climate change.
Here is the abstract from the journal Biodiversity Conservation:
Pollutants, originating from both land and sea, are responsible for significant lethal and sub-lethal effects on marine life. Pollution impacts all trophic levels, from primary producers to apex predators, and thus interferes with the structure of marine communities and consequently ecosystem functioning. Here we review the effects of sediments, eutrophication, toxics and marine litter. All are presently major concerns in Southeast Asia (SE Asia) and there is little indication that the situation is improving. Approximately 70% of SE Asias human population lives in coastal areas and intensive farming and aquaculture, rapid urbanization and industrialisation, greater shipping traffic and fishing effort, as well as widespread deforestation and nearshore development, are contributing towards the pollution problem. As SE Asia encompasses approximately 34% of the worlds reefs and between a quarter and a third of the worlds mangroves, as well as the global biodiversity triangle formed by the Malay Peninsular, the Philippines, and New Guinea, the need to reduce the impacts of marine pollution in this region is all the more critical.
The discussion on the problem of marine litter takes me back to an incident in Sulawesi Indonesia where school kids doing a beach clean thought that the litter was normal and started clearing up all the organic debris instead of the rubbish. Where do you start? It also reminded me about hermit crabs in the Wakatobi happily using coke bottles as a home: