Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Call to Heal the World's Coral Reefs

07.10.2010
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.

Program: http://www.coralcoe.org.au/events/symposium2010/program.html

More information:
Terry Hughes, CoECRS and JCU, +61 (0)400 720 164
Jeremy Jackson, Scripps Institution, +1 858 518 7613 or jbjackson@popmail.ucsd.edu
Nick Graham, CoECRS and JCU, 0466432188
Bob Steneck, University of Maine, steneck@maine.edu
Peter Mumby, The University of Queensland, p.j.mumby@uq.edu.au
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:
http://www.coralcoe.org.au/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Plant seeds survive machine washing - Dispersal of invasive plants with clothes
11.09.2018 | Gesellschaft für Ökologie e.V.

nachricht Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases
21.08.2018 | Universitätsmedizin der Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

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: Scientists present new observations to understand the phase transition in quantum chromodynamics

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...

Im Focus: Patented nanostructure for solar cells: Rough optics, smooth surface

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...

Im Focus: New soft coral species discovered in Panama

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...

Im Focus: New devices based on rust could reduce excess heat in computers

Physicists explore long-distance information transmission in antiferromagnetic iron oxide

Scientists have succeeded in observing the first long-distance transfer of information in a magnetic group of materials known as antiferromagnets.

Im Focus: Finding Nemo's genes

An international team of researchers has mapped Nemo's genome

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

One of the world’s most prominent strategic forums for global health held in Berlin in October 2018

03.09.2018 | Event News

4th Intelligent Materials - European Symposium on Intelligent Materials

27.08.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Astrophysicists measure precise rotation pattern of sun-like stars for the first time

21.09.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Brought to light – chromobodies reveal changes in endogenous protein concentration in living cells

21.09.2018 | Life Sciences

"Boston calling": TU Berlin and the Weizenbaum Institute organize a conference in USA

21.09.2018 | Event News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>