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
“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
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.
Terry Hughes | EurekAlert!
Plant seeds survive machine washing - Dispersal of invasive plants with clothes
11.09.2018 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.
Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases
21.08.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
The building blocks of matter in our universe were formed in the first 10 microseconds of its existence, according to the currently accepted scientific picture. After the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, matter consisted mainly of quarks and gluons, two types of elementary particles whose interactions are governed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the theory of strong interaction. In the early universe, these particles moved (nearly) freely in a quark-gluon plasma.
This is a joint press release of University Muenster and Heidelberg as well as the GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung in Darmstadt.
Then, in a phase transition, they combined and formed hadrons, among them the building blocks of atomic nuclei, protons and neutrons. In the current issue of...
Thin-film solar cells made of crystalline silicon are inexpensive and achieve efficiencies of a good 14 percent. However, they could do even better if their shiny surfaces reflected less light. A team led by Prof. Christiane Becker from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) has now patented a sophisticated new solution to this problem.
"It is not enough simply to bring more light into the cell," says Christiane Becker. Such surface structures can even ultimately reduce the efficiency by...
A study in the journal Bulletin of Marine Science describes a new, blood-red species of octocoral found in Panama. The species in the genus Thesea was discovered in the threatened low-light reef environment on Hannibal Bank, 60 kilometers off mainland Pacific Panama, by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (STRI) and the Centro de Investigación en Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (CIMAR) at the University of Costa Rica.
Scientists established the new species, Thesea dalioi, by comparing its physical traits, such as branch thickness and the bright red colony color, with the...
Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.
An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome, providing the research community with an invaluable resource to decode the response of fish to...
21.09.2018 | Event News
03.09.2018 | Event News
27.08.2018 | Event News
21.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
21.09.2018 | Life Sciences
21.09.2018 | Event News