College of Charleston Professor Works to Save Coral Reefs

Nov 13, 2017

People picture coral reefs as bursting with color and teeming with a variety of undersea life, which many are. But their number is shrinking, says College of Charleston biologist Phil Dustan, because they are hyper-sensitive to temperature changes, and climate change is warming the ocean to intolerable levels for many reefs. In his 40-plus years of studying reefs, Dustan said, the Florida Keys, for example, have probably lost 90 to 95 percent of their living coral reefs.

Dustan was featured in the recent Netflix documentary film "Chasing Coral," which documents the plight of the world’s dying and irreplaceable reefs, which feed about 10 percent of the world’s people, he said. The film’s director, Jeff Orlowski, says even many scuba divers aren’t aware of the severity of the problem, because when they go diving on vacation, they are brought to the reefs that are still unaffected and beautiful, and they don’t see the devastation that has been wrought on about half the world’s reefs. Dustan says the remaining reefs can be preserved, but only if people have the will to do it.

For more information on changing sea conditions, don’t miss Sea Change, on ETVHD Sunday, Nov. 19, at 4 p.m.; South Carolina Channel on Monday, Nov. 20, at 8 p.m.; and ETV World Thursday, Nov. 23, at 11 a.m. This SCETV special presents diverse perspectives on the impact of sea level rise on the Eastern Seaboard, as experienced in coastal South Carolina and Georgia.