Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Call to Heal the World's Coral Reefs

There is still time to save the world’s ailing coral reefs, if prompt and decisive action can be taken to improve their overall health, leading marine researchers say.

Writing in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, eminent marine scientists from Australia and the USA have called for an international effort to improve the resilience of coral reefs, so they can withstand the impacts of climate change and other human activities.

“The world’s coral reefs are important economic, social and environmental assets, and they are in deep trouble. How much trouble, and why, are critical research questions that have obvious implications for formulating policy and improving the governance and management of these tropical maritime resources,” explains Jeremy Jackson from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The key to saving the reefs lies in understanding why some reefs degenerate into a mass of weeds and never recover – an event known as a ‘phase shift’ – while on other reefs the corals manage to bounce back successfully, showing a quality known as resilience.

This underlines the importance of managing reefs in ways that promote their resilience, the researchers say.

They presented evidence that coral decline due to human activity has been going on for centuries, but has been particularly alarming in the past 50 years. In all some 125,000 square kilometres of the world’s corals have disappeared so far.

The most recent global report card (2008) estimated that 19% of all reefs were effectively lost, another 15% were critical and likely to be lost in 10–20 years, and a further 20% are under threat from local human pressures (already experiencing 20–50% loss of corals). The remaining 46% of reefs were at low risk from direct human impacts, but were nevertheless vulnerable to climate change and ocean acidification.

“We have a very good scientific understanding of what causes reefs to decline – what we now need is a clearer picture of how to help them back onto the reverse trajectory,” says lead author Professor Terry Hughes from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

Taking an optimistic view, the researchers argue there is compelling evidence from sites in Hawaii, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean, Bahamas and Philippines that the degradation and disappearance of corals can be arrested and reversed with the right management:

In Hawaii, where ending sewage discharges allowed corals in Kanehoe Bay to recover
In Australia, where weed-eating fish played a decisive role in keeping seaweed down while the corals fought back
In the Caribbean where recovering sea urchin populations are helping to keep down weed and allow corals to recover
In the Bahamas and Philippines, where controls on over fishing for parrot fish and other weed-eaters, also helped to restore coral cover.

“The coral reef crisis is a crisis of governance,” says co-author Peter Mumby from the University of Queensland.

The team has formulated the scientific lessons from resilient reefs into a set of management advice which governments can adopt to give coral reefs a fighting chance:

Empower and educate local people to look after their own reefs
Change land uses that cause damaging runoff and sediment
Control not only fishing, but also fish markets to protect herbivorous fish
Integrate resilience science with reef management and support for local communities in restoring their reefs
Improve laws that protect coral reefs globally
“Confront climate change as the single most important issue for coral reef management and conservation by sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

On climate change they caution: “Without urgent action, unchecked global warming and ocean acidification promise to be the ultimate policy failures for coral reefs. Although it is possible to promote the recovery of reefs following bouts of bleaching via local actions such as improving water-quality and protecting herbivores, these interventions alone cannot climate-proof reefs.”

“The clear message from our research, and that of other marine scientists, is that the world’s coral reefs can still be saved… if we try harder,” Prof. Hughes says.

Their article “Rising to the challenge of sustaining coral reef resilience” by Terry P. Hughes, Nicholas A.J. Graham, Jeremy B.C. Jackson, Peter J. Mumby and Robert S. Steneck appears in the latest issue of Trends in Ecology and Evolution (TREE).

The future of Australia’s and the world’s coral reefs is the focus of a major scientific symposium in Canberra on October 7 and 8, at the Australian Academy of Science’s Shine Dome.

A public forum will be held at the National Museum of Australia tonight, October 7 from 6.30pm to 7.30 pm. Media are welcome at both events.


More information:
Terry Hughes, CoECRS and JCU, +61 (0)400 720 164
Jeremy Jackson, Scripps Institution, +1 858 518 7613 or
Nick Graham, CoECRS and JCU, 0466432188
Bob Steneck, University of Maine,
Peter Mumby, The University of Queensland,
Jenny Lappin, CoECRS, +61 (0)7 4781 4222 or +61 (0)417 741 638
Jim O’Brien, James Cook University Media Office, +61 (0)7 4781 4822 or 0418 892449
Jan King, UQ Communications Manager, +61 (0)7 3365 1120
Mandy Thoo, CoECRS media contact, 0402 544 391

Terry Hughes | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

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: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

Im Focus: Tiny implants for cells are functional in vivo

For the first time, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Basel has succeeded in integrating artificial organelles into the cells of live zebrafish embryos. This innovative approach using artificial organelles as cellular implants offers new potential in treating a range of diseases, as the authors report in an article published in Nature Communications.

In the cells of higher organisms, organelles such as the nucleus or mitochondria perform a range of complex functions necessary for life. In the networks of...

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

TRAPPIST-1 planets provide clues to the nature of habitable worlds

21.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

The search for dark matter widens

21.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Natural enemies reduce pesticide use

21.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>