Once plentiful, coral reefs worldwide and locally have been ravaged by a number of stresses, including global threats like rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification, and local threats like pollution, overfishing and coastal development.
An estimated 25-30 percent of the world’s coral reefs are already severely degraded or lost, and another very high percentage are in danger of greater impact or worse. Some even predict reefs could be essentially wiped out within a human generation unless action is taken.
The coral reef issue is not only an environmental problem, but an economic one. The United Nations estimates globally, coral reefs generate over $172 billion per year from the services they provide including tourism, recreation and fisheries. In South Florida alone, where 84 percent of the nation’s reefs are located, reef ecosystems have been shown to generate over $6 billion in annual economic contributions and more than 71,000 jobs.
In July, hundreds of scientists joined in a consensus statement written at the recently held 12th International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns Australia, stating: “Across the globe, these problems cause a loss of reef resources of enormous economic and cultural value. A concerted effort to preserve reefs for the future demands action at global levels, but also will benefit hugely from continued local protection.”
Is there good news for the posterity of reefs? There can be. Research is allowing greater understanding about how reefs response to threats. Consequently, there are clear steps that must be taken to ameliorate stresses. Some of these are easy fixes that include stopping overfishing, controlling pollution and establishing marine protected areas. Others, like the rising ocean temperatures that are causing coral bleaching or the increasing acidity in our oceans, are more complex.
Research can also help us learn how to restore these valuable reefs. This includes raising corals in places where larvae and juveniles are nurtured in a relatively safe environment before being moved to a location where we can hope to restore a coral population.
Offshore coral nurseries are showing tremendous potential for restoration. A corollary, and less studied technique, is to grow corals under more controlled conditions in on-land nurseries where they are less subject to stress and variation. These specimens can then be transplanted back to degraded reefs that need a kick start. It’s a fairly new idea – and one among others that we hope will lead to increasing the tools for restoring coral reefs.
Because coral nurseries can play a significant role in restoration, we are expanding our grow-out facilities. With our new reef research facility, the Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Research in Hollywood, Fla., we will triple the size of our land-based coral nursery operation. Our offshore nursery research area with thousands of corals will continue its efforts. We’ll use state-of-the-art facilities to study coral stressors in a controlled environment in order to better understand the impacts of these threats and how to better take corrective actions.
There are many unanswered research questions: What size of coral best survives transplantation? When is the optimum time to conduct the transplantation? What genetic strains and mix of a single species will have greatest survivorship? How are the most appropriate species for restoration? How long does it take to restore a reef?
Coral reefs are the rainforests of the sea. And like the Amazonian rainforest that’s facing extreme degradation, reefs are disappearing at an alarming rate. We are embarking on a critical mission to understand and restore reef ecosystems. It’s a mission that must be accomplished.
Richard E. Dodge, Ph.D., is dean of the Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center in Hollywood, Florida, and executive director of its National Coral Reef Institute.
Ken Ma | Newswise Science News
Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel
Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
22.02.2018 | Life Sciences
22.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
22.02.2018 | Earth Sciences