Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Bringing corals back from the brink

03.09.2013
Shocks caused by climate and seasonal change could be used to aid recovery of some of the world’s badly-degraded coral reefs, an international team of scientists has proposed.

A new report by Australian and Swedish marine scientists in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment suggests that it may be possible to restore living coral cover to a badly-degraded reef system – though not easy.



With 70 per cent or more of the world’s coral reefs now assessed as degraded, adopting a business-as-usual approach to how we use and manage reefs is no longer an option, says lead author of the report Nick Graham.

“We are unlikely to be able to keep many of the world’s reefs in a pristine state, but with good management we may be able to maintain them in a coral-dominated condition and in some cases we may be able to bring back reefs from a degraded state,” he explains.

The researchers have taken heart from examples on land in desertified landscapes; exceptional falls of rain, in combination with controls on grazing pressure, can result in widespread regrowth of natural vegetation.

They argue that coral reef managers may be able to take advantage of shocks like tropical storms, periods of cloudy weather or even strong seasonal effects on abundance to restore coral cover on degraded reefs.

“Normally we think of these shocks as damaging to coral reefs – but research suggests they are just as damaging to the organisms that can replace coral. In other words, they may act as a circuit-breaker that allows corals to regain control of a reef.”

The key to the new thinking is resilience: healthy corals reefs are naturally resilient to shocks – but damaged ones may become overgrown with sea weeds, and the corals vanish.

“Weed-dominated systems are pretty resilient too and, once established, it is very hard to restore the corals,” Dr Graham explains.Macroalgae dominated

“However a weed-dominated reef can be damaged by big storms too. Cloudy weather and seasonal changes in water temperature can also cause the weeds to die back.

“This dieback of weeds opens a window through which corals can re-establish.”

The key to bringing back corals is exactly the same as preventing coral cover being lost in the first place, Dr Graham says – reducing human impacts through regulation of fisheries and water quality. If reefs are prepared in this way, they may bounce back when a window for recovery opens.

Prof David Bellwood emphasized that “When it comes to saving our coral reefs, prevention is always better than cure and early action is important to slow or reverse degradation.”

The researchers emphasize that both protection and recovery of the world’s coral reefs call for a fundamental change in how people interact with and use reef ecosystems.

“Until now, the focus has mainly been on conserving small parts of a reef in marine protected areas,” said Prof Bellwood, “- we’re talking about broader approaches to change the relationship between humans and coral reefs to reduce human impacts across the whole ecosystem.”

The paper concludes, “Although the composition of coral reefs will likely continue to vary over time, it may be possible to maintain coral-dominated reefs and their associated ecosystem goods and services… Scientists and managers could take advantage of opportunities for change by harnessing shocks and natural variability as potential stimuli for beneficial shifts in ecosystem states.”

The paper “Managing resilience to reverse phase shifts in coral reefs” by Nicholas AJ Graham, David R Bellwood, Joshua E Cinner, Terry P Hughes, Albert V Norström and Magnus Nyström appears in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

More information:
Dr Nick Graham, CoECRS and JCU, +1 831 917 0117 (Currently in USA)
Prof David Bellwood, CoECRS and JCU, + 61 7 4781 4447
Jenny Lappin, CoECRS, +61 (0)7 4781 4222
Jim O’Brien, James Cook University Media Office, +61 (0)7 4781 4822 or 0418 892449

Nick Graham | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.coralcoe.org.au/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

Im Focus: Fast, convenient & standardized: New lab innovation for automated tissue engineering & drug

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.

MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Comet or asteroid? Hubble discovers that a unique object is a binary

21.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Cnidarians remotely control bacteria

21.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Monitoring the heart's mitochondria to predict cardiac arrest?

21.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>