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科学家称大堡礁三分之二珊瑚已死亡

更新时间:2017-3-16 19:11:37 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Large Sections of Australia’s Great Reef Are Now Dead, Scientists Find
科学家称大堡礁三分之二珊瑚已死亡

SYDNEY, Australia — The Great Barrier Reef in Australia has long been one of the world’s most magnificent natural wonders, so enormous it can be seen from space, so beautiful it can move visitors to tears.

澳大利亚悉尼——澳大利亚的大堡礁一直被认为是世界上最为壮丽的自然奇观之一。它如此庞大,可以从太空中眺见;又如此美丽,令游客感动落泪。

But the reef, and the profusion of sea creatures living near it, are in profound trouble.

但是这片礁石以及生活在它周围的大量海洋生物陷入了巨大的麻烦。

Huge sections of the Great Barrier Reef, stretching across hundreds of miles of its most pristine northern sector, were recently found to be dead, killed last year by overheated seawater. More southerly sections around the middle of the reef that barely escaped then are bleaching now, a potential precursor to another die-off that could rob some of the reef’s most visited areas of color and life.

因为去年海水过热,在大堡礁最为原始的北部地区蔓延数百英里的区域里,有相当多的部分最近被发现已经死亡。当时侥幸存活下来的中部更靠南区域现在出现了白化现象,这是又一次大面积死亡的征兆,可能会让大堡礁最受游客青睐的充满色彩与生命的区域消失。

Severe bleaching last year on the northern Great Barrier Reef affected even the largest and oldest corals.
澳大利亚的大堡礁每年都吸引了众多来自世界各地的游客。但是,随着气候变暖加剧,过热的海水导致珊瑚礁大量死亡,继而影响了其他海洋生物的生存。

“We didn’t expect to see this level of destruction to the Great Barrier Reef for another 30 years,” said Terry P. Hughes, director of a government-funded center for coral reef studies at James Cook University in Australia and the lead author of a paper on the reef that is being published Thursday as the cover article of the journal Nature. “In the north, I saw hundreds of reefs — literally two-thirds of the reefs were dying and are now dead.”

“我们原以为再过30年大堡礁也不会出现这种程度的毁坏,”澳大利亚詹姆斯库克大学(James Cook University)一个由政府资助的珊瑚礁研究中心的主任、《自然》杂志周四将要发表的一篇有关珊瑚礁的封面文章的主要作者特里·P·休斯(Terry P. Hughes)说。“之前我看到北部基本占到大堡礁三分之二的成百上千的珊瑚礁快要死亡,现在它们真的死了。”

The damage to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s largest living structures, is part of a global calamity that has been unfolding intermittently for nearly two decades and seems to be intensifying. In the paper, dozens of scientists described the recent disaster as the third worldwide mass bleaching of coral reefs since 1998, but by far the most widespread and damaging.

对世界上最大的生命结构大堡礁的破坏,是过去近20年里陆续展现而且似乎在逐渐加重的全球灾难的一部分。在这篇论文中,几十位科学家将最近发生的这场灾难描述为自1998年以来第三次全球性的珊瑚礁大规模白化,但它是迄今为止范围最广、危害最大的一次。

The state of coral reefs is a telling sign of the health of the seas. Their distress and death are yet another marker of the ravages of global climate change.

珊瑚礁的状况是显示海洋健康程度的一个很有说服力的指征,但它们的危机与死亡也是全球气候变化带来的破坏的另一个标记。

If most of the world’s coral reefs die, as scientists fear is increasingly likely, some of the richest and most colorful life in the ocean could be lost, along with huge sums from reef tourism. In poorer countries, lives are at stake: Hundreds of millions of people get their protein primarily from reef fish, and the loss of that food supply could become a humanitarian crisis.

如果世界上的大部分珊瑚礁都死亡——如同科学家们所日益担心的——海洋中一些最丰富、最多姿多彩的生命将不复存在,一同损失的还有珊瑚礁旅游带来的巨额收入。在更贫穷的国家,人命也受到威胁:有数亿人主要依靠珊瑚礁鱼类获得蛋白质,这种食物供应消失可能会变成一场人道主义危机。

With this latest global bleaching in its third year, reef scientists say they have no doubt as to the responsible party.

随着最近这场全球性白化进入第三年,珊瑚礁科学家表示,他们十分肯定这应该由谁来负责。

They warned decades ago that the coral reefs would be at risk if human society kept burning fossil fuels at a runaway pace, releasing greenhouse gases that warm the ocean. Emissions continued to rise, and now the background ocean temperature is high enough that any temporary spike poses a critical risk to reefs.

几十年前他就曾发出警告,表示如果人类社会继续以失控的速度持续燃烧矿物燃料,释放会让海洋温度上升的温室气体,珊瑚礁将面临危险。排放持续增加,现在背景海洋温度已经高到任何暂时性的骤升都会给珊瑚礁构成重大威胁的程度。

“Climate change is not a future threat,” Professor Hughes said. “On the Great Barrier Reef, it’s been happening for 18 years.”

“气候变化不是未来的威胁,”修斯说。“在大堡礁,它已经存在18年了。”

Corals require warm water to thrive, but they are exquisitely sensitive to extra heat. Just two or three degrees Fahrenheit of excess warming can sometimes kill the tiny creatures.

珊瑚需要在温暖的海水里才能生存,但它们也对过高的温度极其敏感。哪怕只是高出两三华氏度有时也会导致这种微生物死亡。

Globally, the ocean has warmed by about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century, by a conservative calculation, and a bit more in the tropics, home to many reefs. An additional kick was supplied by an El Niño weather pattern that peaked in 2016 and temporarily warmed much of the surface of the planet, causing the hottest year in a historical record dating to 1880.

按保守估计,全球海洋温度自19世纪末以来已经上涨了大约1.5华氏度,在热带地区还会略微高一些,那里存在着许多珊瑚礁。另一个打击来自在2016年达到顶峰的厄尔尼诺天气模式,它让星球表面温度短暂升高,造就了1880年有历史记录以来最热的一年。

It was obvious last year that the corals on many reefs were likely to die, but now formal scientific assessments are coming in. The paper in Nature documents vast coral bleaching in 2016 along a 500-mile section of the reef north of Cairns, a city on Australia’s eastern coast.

许多珊瑚礁有可能死亡的迹象在去年就已经很明显,但正式的官方科学评估现在出现了。在《自然》杂志上发表的那篇论文记录了2016年澳大利亚东海岸城市凯恩斯北部延续500英里的珊瑚礁群大量白化的情况。

Bleaching indicates that corals are under heat stress, but they do not always die and cooler water can help them recover. Subsequent surveys of the Great Barrier Reef, conducted late last year after the deadline for inclusion in the Nature paper, documented that extensive patches of reef had in fact died, and would not be likely to recover soon, if at all.

白化表明珊瑚在承受高温的压力,但它们并不一定会死亡,温度更低的海水能帮助它们恢复。在《自然》杂志那篇论文的统计截止时间过后,于去年年末对大堡礁进行的几次后续调研显示,数量庞大的一块块珊瑚礁实际上已经死亡,就算能再度恢复,也不会很快实现。

Professor Hughes led those surveys. He said that he and his students cried when he showed them maps of the damage, which he had calculated in part by flying low in small planes and helicopters.

修斯教授领导了这些调研。他表示,看到显示损害情况的地图时,他和他的学生们都哭了。绘制地图的数据是他统计出来的,部分依据乘坐小型飞机和直升机低空飞行观察到的结果。

Professor Hughes said he hoped the die-off this time would not be as serious as last year’s, but “back-to-back bleaching is unheard-of in Australia.” The central and southern part of the reef had already been badly damaged by human activities like dredging and pollution.
修斯表示他希望这次的死亡不会像去年那么严重,但“接二连三的白化在澳大利亚是前所未闻的”。大堡礁中部和南部已经被清淤和污染等人类活动损害得非常厉害。

The Australian government has tried to combat these local threats with its Reef 2050 plan, restricting port development, dredging and agricultural runoff, among other risks. But Professor Hughes’s research found that, given the high temperatures, these national efforts to improve water quality were not enough.

澳大利亚政府一直在竭力应对当地的这些威胁,它制定了《大堡礁2050年计划》(Reef 2050),限制港口发展、清淤和农田径流等威胁。但修斯的研究发现,考虑到现在海水温度比较高,单单依靠这些改善水质的全国性举措不足以解决问题。

“The reefs in muddy water were just as fried as those in pristine water,” Professor Hughes said. “That’s not good news in terms of what you can do locally to prevent bleaching — the answer to that is not very much at all. You have to address climate change directly.”

“原始海水里的珊瑚和浑水里的珊瑚一样有问题,”修斯说。“就你可以在地方层面做些什么来阻止白化而言,这不是什么好消息——能解决这个问题的答案并不多。你必须直面气候变化。”

With the election of Donald J. Trump as the American president, a recent global deal to tackle the problem, known as the Paris Agreement, seems to be in peril. Australia’s conservative government also continues to support fossil fuel development, including what many scientists and conservationists see as the reef’s most immediate threat — a proposed coal mine, expected to be among the world’s largest, to be built inland from the reef by the Adani Group, a conglomerate based in India.

随着唐纳德·J·特朗普(Donald J. Trump)当选美国总统,最近达成的一项应对这个问题的全球协议《巴黎协议》(Paris Agreement)似乎面临危险。澳大利亚的保守派政府还在继续支持矿物燃料发展,包括一项在许多科学家和环保人士看来对珊瑚礁构成最急迫威胁的计划——提议建造的一座有可能为全世界最大的煤矿,由总部位于印度的大企业集团阿达尼集团(Adani Group)从大堡礁向内陆建造。

“The fact is, Australia is the largest coal exporter in the world, and the last thing we should be doing to our greatest national asset is making the situation worse,” said Imogen Zethoven, campaign director for the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

“事实是,澳大利亚是世界上最大的煤炭出口国,对于这个国家最宝贵的资产,我们最不应该做的事情就让情况恶化,”澳大利亚海洋保护协会的宣传主管伊莫金·扎托文(Imogen Zethoven)说。

Australia relies on the Great Barrier Reef for about 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars annually in tourism revenue, and it is not yet clear how that economy will be affected by the reef’s deterioration. Even in hard-hit areas, large patches of the Great Barrier Reef survived, and guides will most likely take tourists there, avoiding the dead zones.

大堡礁为澳大利亚提供了约7万个就业机会和每年数十亿美元的收入,目前尚不清楚珊瑚礁退化会给这种经济带来何种影响。即便是在退化很严重的地区,也仍然有大片大片的珊瑚礁生存下来,导游很可能会带游客前往那里,避开死亡区。

The global reef crisis does not necessarily mean extinction for coral species. The corals may save themselves, as many other creatures are attempting to do, by moving toward the poles as the Earth warms, establishing new reefs in cooler water.

全球珊瑚礁危机并不一定意味着珊瑚物种的灭绝。珊瑚可以自救,就像很多其他生物试图做的那样,地球温度上升的时候,它们可以向极点移动,在温度较低的水域形成新的珊瑚礁。

But the changes humans are causing are so rapid, by geological standards, that it is not entirely clear that coral species will be able to keep up. And even if the corals do survive, that does not mean individual reefs will continue to thrive where they do now.

但是,以地质标准而论,人类导致的变化节奏太快,珊瑚物种能否跟上这个速度还不清楚。即使珊瑚确实可以存活下去,也不意味着个别珊瑚礁将在它们现在繁荣生长的地方长存。

Within a decade, certain kinds of branching and plate coral could be extinct, reef scientists say, along with a variety of small fish that rely on them for protection from predators.

珊瑚科学家说,在十年内,某些种类的分叉珊瑚和飞碟珊瑚就可能灭绝,依靠它们避开捕食者的各种小鱼也会随之灭绝。

“I don’t think the Great Barrier Reef will ever again be as great as it used to be — at least not in our lifetimes,” said C. Mark Eakin, a reef expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in Silver Spring, Md.

“我不觉得大堡礁会重新变得像以前一样壮美——至少在我们有生之年不会,”国家海洋与大气管理局的礁石专家C·马克·埃金(C. Mark Eakin)在马里兰州银泉说。

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