The reefs are disappearing at a rate of one percent per year, a decline that began decades earlier than expected, the researchers discovered. Historically, coral cover, a measure of reef health, hovered around 50 percent. Today, only about 2 percent of reefs in the Indo-Pacific have coral cover close to the historical baseline
“We have already lost half of the world’s reef-building corals,” said John Bruno, lead study author and associate professor of marine ecology and conservation in the department of marine sciences in UNC-Chapel Hill’s College of Arts and Sciences.
The results were published Aug. 8, 2007, in the online journal PLoS One. The study provides the first regional-scale and long-term analysis of coral loss in the region, where relatively little was known about patterns of reef loss.
The Indo-Pacific contains 75 percent of the world’s coral reefs and has the highest coral diversity in the world. High coral cover reefs in the Indo-Pacific ocean were common until a few decades ago, the researchers found.
Bruno and Elizabeth Selig, a graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences’ curriculum in ecology, compiled and analyzed a database of 6,000 quantitative surveys performed between 1968 and 2004 of more than 2,600 Indo-Pacific coral reefs. The surveys tallied coral cover, a measure of the ocean floor area covered by living corals. Scientists rely on coral cover as a key indicator of reef habitat quality and quantity, similar to measuring an area covered by tree canopy as a gauge of tropical forest loss.
Coral cover declined from 40 percent in the early 1980s to approximately 20 percent by 2003, the researchers found. But for Bruno and Selig, one of the most surprising results was that coral cover was similar between reefs maintained by conservationists and unprotected reefs. This consistent pattern of decline across the entire Indo-Pacific indicates that coral loss is a global phenomenon, likely due in part to large-scale stressors such as climate change. But for Bruno and Selig, one of the most surprising results was that coral loss was just as extensive on some of regions most intensely managed reefs.
The results of the study have significant implications for policy makers and resource managers searching for ways to reverse coral loss. “We can do a far better job of developing technologies and implementing smart policies that will offset climate change,” Bruno said. “We can also work on mitigating the effects of other stressors to corals including nutrient pollution and destructive fishing practices.”
Although reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean globally, they play an integral role in coastal communities, Bruno said. They provide economic benefits through fisheries and tourism and serve invaluable services like buffering from storms. When corals die, these benefits quickly disappear. Coral disease, predators, rising ocean temperatures due to climate change, nutrient pollution, destructive fishing practices and sediment run-off from coastal development can all destroy reef communities.
“Indo-Pacific reefs have played an important economic and cultural role in the region for hundreds of years and their continued decline could mean the loss of millions of dollars in fisheries and tourism ,It’s like when everything in the forest is gone except for little twigs,a few lone trees” Selig said.
Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
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