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 Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

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: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland

19.01.2017 | Earth Sciences

Not of Divided Mind

19.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Molecule flash mob

19.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>