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Science News for Kids:
Second-hand Smoke Bad for Coral Reefs
While it's clear that second-hand smoke from cigarettes is unhealthy for kids, new research published in the 15 August 2003 issue of the journal Science shows how second hand smoke from wildfires can hurt or kill nearby coral reefs.
The study suggests that smoke and ash rising from burning tropical forests in Indonesia in 1997 drifted over a coral reef, settled, and triggered a red tidea population explosion of tiny aquatic plants called phytoplankton. This red tide caused oxygen levels in the water to drop. The lack of oxygen killed much of the coral in the Mentawai Islands reef ecosystem in the Indian Ocean.
To make the connection between wildfires and reef death, Nerilie Abram and her Australian and Indonesian coauthors studied the makeup of corals and the ocean water around them. The scientists say that tropical wildfires were not as common in the past as they are now. The frequency of these wildfires is increasing as populations rise and more forests are disrupted by human activities. This could mean that more coral reefs could get sick or die from second hand smoke from future tropical forest fires.
14 August 2003