The coral suffers a lot from humans. We trample it, steal it, it doesn’t get enough nutrients and it gets too hot. As a result, more and more coral is dying and the seas are becoming a less attractive place for fish and other marine life. A new low has now been reached: pollutants from factories have been found in the Mediterranean Sea.
Now the Mediterranean Sea is not the cleanest sea either: it is even known as the dirtiest sea, full of filth, such as plastic, clothing, but now also carbon particles. Carbon has been found in the skeleton of coral growing at Illa Grossa Bay, near Valencia. Of course, harmful substances are also released into the sea when a motorboat passes, but this is specifically dirt that comes out of the chimney of a factory when fossil fuels are burned.
University College London came to this conclusion: fly ash ends up at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. For the first time, something like this has been found in the skeleton of coral and that is serious, because coral has an archival function. The growth of the coral is monitored because it is very easy to follow. Normally, we look at what influence the temperature of the water has on the coral, or how many microplastics end up in these organisms. And now it appears that pollution from the air even ends up in the sea. That says a lot about how persistent it is.
Fossil fuels: on land, in the air and in the sea
And seriously too: this specific coral species is precisely the type that can form large coral reefs. Not that it does that quickly: it grows by only 0.3 centimeters per year. It is the only coral in the Mediterranean that can form large coral reefs and if it can no longer do that well due to pollution, then this area will become an increasingly less good living environment for animals, and we as humans will also have less clean water to live in. to look at, for example, snorkeling. Now that is just a side issue, but for some people such a closer-to-their-bed statement is simply necessary.
It is good to know that it is not about coral that is located a few meters from the coast. It is located no less than 60 kilometers off the coast. So a lot of work went into getting it, but also researching it. In the lab the coral was dissolved in acid and then you see the contaminants. However, they also have a small, positive aspect, namely that fly ash in coral can help determine when the Anthropocene era started on Earth. That’s when humans became the dominant influence on nature. This could well explain carbon in nature, although it is significant that we have to discover from our own mess when we became ‘in charge’. On the other hand, the fact that our ‘legacy’ has reached the coral so far from the coast is not too fresh either. Even less fresh than the dirty Mediterranean Sea itself.