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Mediterranean Coral Reef


Even Doom & Gloom has a romantic, esthetic angle, as the Rolling Stones reminded us (once again), in the song by that title. Coral reef in the Mediterranean will be pretty. Until July 2014, I thought that would take another 50 years. To my amazement, I found otherwise.

I was swimming in an area I know well. I don’t swim on the surface, that’s too bourgeois and destructive of what one is trying to achieve when visiting the sea. I was baffled by the sea floor. I could not recognize it. It was weird: it was full of arches (!), mushrooms, grottos. Some structures a meter high, or across. I could not figure out what that meant. Did the rising sea erode the rocks?

But the rocks in the area are made a solid orange granite. And how could the sea erode rocks ten meters below the surface?

Because, yes, the sea is rising. This beach above was 60 meters across, 50 years ago. Now, in some parts, it’s only 5 meters. Waves are crashing into tree roots. As I said, this is a rocky shore, it has no telluric activity, it is not subsiding. So, when rocks get submerged, it’s because the sea rose.

In their gilded palaces, our great leaders, basking into their oligarchic medium, receive the news from scientists who know their careers depend upon telling their masters what they want to hear. And scientists are way down on the totem pole, as the collapse of American research under University of Chicago Law professor Obama shows (the University of Chicago, fief of Milton Freidman, always taught that things human are best left to private enterprise. meaning the destruction of non-immediately financially profitable research; plutocratic law has been evolved accordingly).

American research is collapsing (affecting research worldwide, as it used to be a third of it, or so), meanwhile American banking is thriving, applauded by consciously liberal Paul Krugman. But of this, another day.

Scientist speak of a reassuring sea rise of only 4 millimeters a year. Average. But in Bangla Desh, precise measurements of high tides just showed the rise is now 17 millimeters, a year.

(OK, the scientists have to say, it’s probably the fault of levees, precisely erected to compensate for sea rise, etc. They have to say that, or their masters would be too unhappy. One does not want the masters too unhappy: they can cut entire fields of study, to satisfy the great god of “Fiscal Responsibility”, aka Austerity.)

On the beach pictured above, the sea level has gone up at least 30 centimeters. Maybe two feet. The old beach is still there, with all its wonderful fine white sand, three feet below.

It’s eerie.

So here I was, contemplating small, but spectacular arches, holes and mushrooms of stones below, as if I were flying over a submarine version of Arches National Park. I grabbed the yellow rock, full of holes. It was sharp. As a climber I recognized immediately limestone. Coral limestone, on which I climbed many times, while religiously communing with my apish roots.

Except this coral was not fossil, lifted out of a Jurassic sea, thousands of meters in the sky by immense tectonic forces. It was alive, covered with mini flowers. It reminded me of diving off Kailua, Hawai’i. It was coral, coral reef!

In some places, one could see patches up to a meter or more of coral clinging to the solid granite below. Off that French coast, apparently unbeknownst to all, in a few years, thousands of tons of coral appeared.

One unique specimen, hidden below an overhang, was 50 centimeter across, and looked a bit like a gorgon (sea fan), except it was not a sea fan, but something solid that I have seen in the tropical seas (I am looking for its name).

There you have it.

Some changes from global warming affecting the Mediterranean are official (barracudas, invading tropical algae). Up to this month, if someone had presented me with the possibility of coral reef on the French Riviera, I would have laughed cynically, and pointed out that, when it appears, 50 years from now, it may convince climate deniers.

Well, as far as the Mediterranean sea is concerned, the 50 years are over in a flash. Coral reef is now growing, in Southern France.

Where exactly? Well, on the same peninsula where Sea Turtles started to reproduce again recently.

Dire warnings about the biosphere do not just serve probable truth, but also may well mitigate catastrophe. Canadian, Russian, and even American leaders, reading this, may well scoff: after all they own giant real estate up north, and seeing it melt may serve them, or their successors, well.

Indeed there are positive aspects to the incoming Jurassic climate: agriculture in Siberia, Greenland and Antarctica. The biosphere is by far the largest system upon which human beings have an impact.

The Human Effect led to mass extinctions in the last million years. Homo made the Earth into a pleasant garden for himself. Homo destroyed his closest competitors first, a million years ago or so, most other Hominidae and primates, such as giant apes and giant baboons. Those who, like Rousseau the philosopher, accused civilization, were rather stupid. The Douanier Rousseau had it more right.

Now the biosphere is in full mass extinction mode. Thus it is adapting with tremendous speed.

I am not a trained marine biologist, a specialist of coral. But I dove around, and kept manipulating and contemplating. It seemed that several species of different coral had appeared. Some yellow, some pink, some white, all with different textures. I even found one starting to grow like hard white little trees, just as proverbial Polynesian coral. (The precious indigenous Mediterranean coral is pink or red, and has been exploited to near extinction; it used to color the sand pink in the area.)

The force exerted by humanity on the biosphere keeps on augmenting. But the biosphere has enormous inertia. This means that the changes we see now are little relative to those which are already coming. those which are already baked in. For example, West Antarctica will melt. It’s just a matter of time.

So some changes will be positive, and they will come with more force than people expect.

Not to lose sight of the essential. From a hill above the sea, hundreds of pleasure boats can be observed, some of them, gigantic yachts for multibillionaires.

A sort of armada appears: maybe 50 boats, some large yachts, others fast “cigars”, all together, with fifty long white wakes. Two huge yachts dominate the armada. One can see their helicopter decks. Several helicopters are accompanying the fleet. Suddenly the two gigantic pleasure ships turn around, as if the lesser boats did not exist.

The plutocrat in command had changed his mind, catching his minions by surprise. Probably part of his power trip. Confusion ensued among the lesser kind. All scrambled to follow the master. Wakes crisscrossed, collisions barely avoided. The magnificent power parade reforms in minutes, and headed back to Cannes and Nice, there to impress fellow satanic entities, heads of states, and other servants.

Such are the creatures molding world public opinion, by their control of generalized media. All politicians and other members of the world’s oligarchy are anxious to please them, so that they can get financial crumbs.

All are to conclude the CO2 crisis is in full control. Just a matter of extracting more fossil fuels, and everything will be OK. So frack and burn, baby, frack and burn. No more gloom and doom. Or we will shoot the messenger, and burn the message.

What is sure out of control are the magnificent forests of the Southern Alps. The combination of higher CO2, and massive precipitation makes for very green, fat trees.

What a funky little universe.

Patrice Ayme

Note: a) This is not deep sea coral reef (discovered in the Mediterranean by Pola in 1891, Le Danois in 1948; see also). Clearly the shallow sea coral species I discovered need the temperature is high. It was not found in places where the water is clearly colder. Even if that was only 100 meters away (because of cold sweet water springs). The part where the coral deposition was most massive is a uniquely warm stretch, only 500 meters long. And it definitively was not there last time I patrolled it, three years ago.

b) Red Coral (Corrallium Rubrium) experienced mass mortality in 1999, apparently caused by high temperatures in North West Mediterranean. That happened above 30 meter depth. So the apparition of the corals I saw is inversely related to Red Coral.

c) The definition of coral is not strict. What’s sure is that there were giant coral reefs in the Mediterranean 60 million years ago (when it was part of the Tethys Sea). And that if it builds a reef, that’s it.


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