Climate change: How it affects coral reefs

-By Christoffer Nilsson


A coral is an invertebrate animal with its skeleton on the outside, similar to shellfish. The corals extract calcium and carbonate from the seawater to build their skeleton. They live in symbiosis with a photosynthetic algae called “zooxanthellae”, which means that they benefit from each other. The algae produce sugars for the coral, and corals produce nutrients for the algae.

In tropical areas, coral reefs are very sensitive and are easily affected by climate change, specifically by rising seawater temperature and acidification of the oceans. Just 1-2 degrees change in sea water temperature affects the corals, causing them to expel the algae “zooxanthellae” making the coral turn completely white (bleaching). The corals can survive this if seawater temperature goes back to normal quickly. Coral reefs are very important to the marine environment as almost a third of all marine species live there. About 60% of the all the world’s reefs are estimated to be at risk due to climate change.

Since coral reefs host home for a third of all marine species it also plays an important role for humans living in these areas as they provide food for them. Nearly 500 million people depend in some way by coral reefs through fishing tourism or protection. I can only imagine what would happen if the reefs started to diminish even more. The situation is much worse than I previously knew. Even if the article states that around 500 million people are affected in some way I think the entire ecosystem will be gravely affected by the diminishing coral reefs which means that everyone on the planet is affected.
The article does not mention anything about how tourism and scuba diving affects the corals reefs but it is not hard to conclude that climate change is the biggest threat to the coral reefs.

Scuba divers may damage corals locally, but dive-related damages are usually quite small so the impact on the marine ecosystem as a whole is relatively low. Scuba divers are often restricted to specific areas and when comparisons have been made to areas where little or no scuba diving is being carried out the damages are the same. Tourism however is a bigger concern and scuba diving is in a way a part of this. Tourism increases global warming since a lot of “transportation” of people is being carried out, people are travelling the world in much greater scale every year which contributes to increased emissions of greenhouses gases.




Cradle-to-Grave Concept


– by Anne Bouyssou

International rules and standards to prevent and control marine pollution have long focused on the environmental impacts of ships in their operational phase. With the adoption of the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, 2009, maritime regulators’ attention shifted from the sole operational phase to other parts of ships’ life cycle, i.e. design, building, breaking and recycling.

Anne Bouyssou_WCT Week 4_Pic 1 .jpgThe maritime community then realized that the environmental impacts of a ship are largely determined during its early stages. The Hong Kong Convention includes specific provisions to avoid or minimize the quantities of hazardous materials that are found in the ship’s structure in order to address, reduce and eradicate the environmental risks throughout the ship’s lifecycle. It means that the ship’s recycling must be considered even before the ship is being built.


Pictures: South Korean shipyards (Anne Bouyssou, 2011)

Eelgrass – the new key player

– by Karin Almlöf

WCT 2016-Week 2_Karin.jpgA new discussion has entered the sustainability sphere: Can we grow eelgrass (Zostera marina) to compensate for activities affecting the marine environment?

Eelgrass has a unique ecological role. It is an important habitat for many plants and animals, as well as provides ecosystem services for humans. For example, it creates a reproduction ground for edible fish. It can also reduce erosion and increase the water quality by absorbing nutrients and carbon.

The eelgrass population has decreased by 60 to 95 percent across the Swedish west coast since the 1980s. A combination of eutrophication and overfishing are seen as the main cause.

An interdisciplinary research program called Zorro (Zostera restoration) based at the University of Gothenburg look at eelgrass beds as compensatory measures. The goal is “To improve the environmental conditions of shallow coastal ecosystems through the development of new methods for the management and restoration of eelgrass habitats in Sweden.

One of the objectives in the project is to assess the legal, ecological, and economic aspects of compensatory restoration of seagrass.

There are five deliverables, one of them is to provide estimates of the economic value derived from eelgrass ecosystem services in Sweden. Another one is to recommend on how the Swedish legal system can be developed to further support a sustainable management of shallow coastal ecosystems.


The port of Gothenburg was ordered by the Växjö District Court in December of 2015 to compensate for the ecological consequences due to their expansion with new terminals and quays in the harbor. The port will plant a minimum of 1,7 hectares of eelgrass using scientific methods. They plan to start in the spring of 2016 and finish in 2023. The progress will be reported to the court and to the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management.

It will be very interesting to follow the debate of how ecosystem services provided by marine habitats are valued, and how the Swedish legal system can and will support this.


/ Karin Almlöf


Photo by: Per-Olav Moksnes

Zostera restoration,,

Malin Hemminsson, Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, pdf:



The Kalmar Harbour Expansion Project: Is it Sustainable?

The Vision:

Screenshot 2015-06-11 15.45.03—The harbour in Kalmar – to make an expansion due to loss of space (University Expansion) and an increase in cargo volume.

—Planned actions:

—Dredging of harbour and fairway

—Filling parts of the harbour to create more storage space

—New jetty, for cargo handling and cruise ships

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.“ (Brundtland Report, 1987)

Environmental Impacts:

—Dredging – Contaminent, Flora and fauna

—Increased on-land transport

—Impacts due to shipping activity

—-ballast water implications- invasive species

—-emission to air

—-sewage in the baltic sea

—-operational oil spill

Economic impacts:

—Infrastructure, can it cope with the increase of tourists

—-Cruise terminal?


—-Sewage treatment?

—-Recycling center for the garbages?

—More jobs: Harbour, turism inudstry, logistic of suplying the cruise ship

—More tax income

Societal impacts:

—More tourists mean more crowds?

—Increased need for safety in the society

—Possible happy tourists could come back, reputation



There are good possibilities for this vision of an expansion to be realized in a sustainable way. Two (economic and social) out of three aspects would probably be fulfilled by the effects of the expansion itself. Most effort must be put into working with the environmental aspect of the expansion, as this will not come “for free”.

GMT Panel Discussion Covered in Local News

On our final class day, 4 June, we welcomed representatives from Kalmar Port Authority, Destination Kalmar, Star Clippers Cruises, and the Kalmar Heritage Society to hear our presentation on the Kalmar Harbour Expansion Project and the impacts that it will have on the economy, ecology and society of Kalmar. The presentation and panel discussion that followed was covered by Barometern newspaper.


Wind Propulsion in Commercial Shipping: Challenges for Reaching its Potential!

The DynaRig on board Maltese Falcon (Copyright COCHLIAS SAM, photograph by Ed Wright). (Photo obtained from Lloyd's Register)

The DynaRig on board Maltese Falcon
(Copyright COCHLIAS SAM, photograph by Ed Wright).
(Photo obtained from Lloyd’s Register)

At the 4th Natural Propulsion seminar in the Netherlands this past April – which featured a talk by our a dear friend of GMT Gavin Allwright, Secretary of the IWSA! –  Lloyd’s Register representative Dimitris Argyros spoke of the recent report that LR has made in highlighting the challenges that wind-powered commercial shipping faces today. Chief among these challenges are: (1) Adapting the wind-powered technologies that are so popular in the racing yacht sector to the merchant shipping sector; (2) dramatic decreases in fuel prices that make oil-powered shipping economically attractive; (3) lack of knowledge/education/interest in making such a dramatic and unknown change, among others.

In order to create a realistic investment for wind-powered shipping in the future of commercial transport, Lloyd’s Register recommends that solutions be concentrated on industry structure, perception and education on economic values, technology transfer, and operational/technical needs.

– C.A.L.

You can read more about the debate over wind-powered shipping here:

Our Mid-Term Postcard to Ted!

Dear Ted, 2015-04-16 10.20.52
Here are some of our thoughts about the Greening Maritime Transport course thus far…
– “Originally, I was skeptical about it, but now I think this is the most important course of all four courses and should be mandatory within the shipping industry.”
– “Bridging maritime scientists with maritime business people is very interesting.”
– “I thought it would overlap with another course I attended at KMA, and while some of the literature is the same, the course itself is very different.”
– “This course is the only Vasco da Gama course that has used video platforms and different types of training.”
– “It’s really interesting to hear the perspectives of guest lecturers from other countries.”

Olle, Fabian, Tiphaine, Hanna, Tareq