Resources under pressure

Posted: 20 March 2008

Over half of the world's coastlines suffer from severe development pressures, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI). Although the report found that virtually all coastal zones in populated areas of developed countries were over-developed, a similar patterns was evident in most developing countries with coastlines. Coastal areas around urban centers were all suffering from unplanned development, over-crowding and the over-exploitation of coastal resources.

  • Coastal Wetlands. The world has lost half its coastal wetlands, including mangrove swamps and salt marshes, with the worst destruction taking place since 1950. Mangroves, in particular have been decimated in the name of development - some 25 million hectares are estimated to have been destroyed or degraded since 1900. In the Philippines, for instance, the mangrove areas have been annihilated - dropping from one million hectares in 1960 to around 100,000 hectares in 1998.

  • Coral Reefs. The rainforests of the sea are also being destroyed. Of the world's 600,000 square kilometers of reefs found in tropical and semi-tropical seas, scientists estimate that 70 per cent of them - some 400,000 square kms - could be lost within two decades if nothing is done to preserve them. In March 2002, the World Resources Institute issued a report warning that 88 per cent of the coral reefs in Southeast Asian waters are in imminent danger from pollution and over-fishing. A report from the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network found that close to 30 per cent of the world's coral resources have already been lost, with the remaining two-thirds under increasing pressure from rising ocean surface temperatures (giving rise to coral bleaching), pollution and sedimentation, and over-fishing, including the use of poisons, dynamite and fine mesh nets.

  • Coastal Erosion. Human activities have eroded close to 70 per cent of the world's beaches at greater than natural rates. In the Niger River Delta, for instance, erosion claims 400 hectares of land a year and 40 per cent of the inhabited delta could be lost in three decades if these trends continue.
  • Sea-grass beds have been destroyed near every inhabited coastal area; others ploughed into the seabed by bottom trawl fisheries.
A new report from UNEP underscores the potential impact of warming seas on coral resources, concluding that higher surface water temperatures over the coming decades threaten to "bleach and kill up to 80 per cent of the globe's coral reefs."

See Seagrass destruction revealed

Source:In Dead Water: Merging of Climate Change with Pollution, Over-Harvest, and Infestations in the World's Fishing Grounds, UNEP, Nairobi, February 2008.