Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Scripps expedition provides new baseline for coral reef conservation

26.02.2008
From sharks to microbes, scientists capture key data at the central Pacific's Line Islands archipelago

An ambitious expedition led by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego to a chain of little-known islands in the central Pacific Ocean has yielded an unprecedented wealth of information about coral reefs and threats from human activities.

The exploration of four atolls in the Line Islands, part of a chain approximately a thousand miles south of Hawaii, has produced the first study of coral reefs comprehensively spanning organisms from microbes to sharks. This in-depth description was replicated across a gradient of human impacts, from uninhabited Kingman Reef to Kiritimati, also called Christmas Island, with a population of 5,000 people.

The results are published in two papers in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) ONE (Feb. 27) journal and a companion essay in PLoS Biology (Feb. 26).

At Kingman, the researchers described one of the planet’s most pristine coral reefs, a resource they say provides a much-needed baseline for the conservation of coral reefs. In one paper, the scientists describe Kingman’s atypical food web, where predators such as sharks accounted for 85 percent of the total fish biomass (the weight of all fish together). This inverted pyramid, they say, runs contrary to the bottom-heavy pyramids seen in other parts of the world where top predators have been fished out. Kingman also exhibited healthy coral populations and was nearly absent of seaweed and had low microbe concentrations, unlike evidence found elsewhere on disturbed reefs.

A comparison of Kingman with other reefs in the Line Islands revealed increasing levels of human impacts, including declining coral health, fewer and smaller fish and an increase in microbes.

The Kingman baseline, the researchers say, will be essential for comparisons against degraded reefs elsewhere and for evaluating the efficacy of current conservation actions. They say the data will stimulate new ideas for conserving reefs against threats such as pollution, global warming and overfishing.

“This is the first study in which an entire coral reef community, from the smallest to the largest organisms, is described across a gradient of human habitation,” said Enric Sala, who led the 2005 expedition and is a coauthor of the PLoS ONE papers. Sala, an adjunct professor at Scripps and a National Geographic emerging explorer and fellow, is based at the National Council of Scientific Research of Spain. “We use Kingman as a window into the past, a time machine that allows us to understand what we have lost and how we lost it.”

“One of the major surprising findings from this study, with direct conservation relevance, is that the healthier reefs showed the capacity to recover from climate change events,” said Scripps Oceanography scientist Stuart Sandin, lead author of the PLoS paper covering large organisms and coordinator of the Line Islands Expedition. “When the ecosystem structure is intact, the corals appear to bounce back better from previous warm water events that have killed coral.”

The second PLoS ONE paper describes the ecology of microbes across the four atolls. The researchers, led by Elizabeth Dinsdale and Forest Rohwer of San Diego State University, found 10 times more microbial cells and virus-like particles in the Kiritimati water column compared with Kingman. The microbes around Kiritimati’s reefs, which had the highest percentage of coral disease and smallest coverage of corals, contained a large percentage of potential pathogens.

“Obtaining this microbial data set is particularly important given the association of microbes in the ongoing degradation of coral reef ecosystems worldwide,” the authors noted.

A PLoS Biology essay authored by Nancy Knowlton, adjunct professor at Scripps Oceanography and currently with the Smithsonian Institution, and Jeremy Jackson, professor, Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation, Scripps Oceanography, analyzes the importance of establishing baselines for understanding reef ecology in the face of global threats.

They argue that so-called “shifting baselines,” when ecosystems degrade and baselines are downgraded from one generation to the next, is at the root of understanding the factors driving coral reef decline and what, if anything, can be done to stop it.

In the essay, titled “Shifting Baselines, Local Impacts and Global Change on Coral Reefs,” they write: “How to manage coral reefs locally in a globally changing world so that they retain or regain the critical ecosystem attributes of uninhabited reefs and still meet human needs is the central challenge facing reef conservation today.”

“In a world of doom and gloom, it is important to know that reefs with exuberant coral growth and abundant fish populations still exist,” said Knowlton. “These remote healthy reefs clearly show that local protection can make reefs resilient to the impacts of global change. The challenge is to translate the lessons of these reefs to management, so that reefs near people can also thrive.”

Mario Aguilera | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.plosone.org/doi/pone.0001548
http://explorations.ucsd.edu/Features/Paradise_pt1/
http://explorations.ucsd.edu/Features/Paradise_pt2

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>