Coral Collapse Can Be Avoided in the Caribbean

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A recent study by a research team of scientists from Australia, Germany, Israel, Mexico, the United Kingdom, and the United States determined that it is possible for Caribbean reefs to keep growing for the next 70 years. Here is the full article with a link to the original below:

“We were relieved to find that it is possible to maintain reefs,” said team member Professor Roberto Iglesias-Prieto of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. “But it requires countries to take the management of their reefs seriously and global action to address climate change,” he added.

Another member of the research team, Dr Peter Mumby of the University of Queensland and University of Exeter, expanded on Iglesias-Prieto’s comment. “Some people have felt that coral reef management might be futile given the problems posed by climate change, such as coral bleaching. But our research reveals that control of fishing and pollution is essential to maintaining reefs and that it can have a very meaningful impact,” he said.

In a release from FoRCE, the researchers said they drew on hundreds of scientific studies to develop computer models of Caribbean reefs and stressed the importance of reef function to reef diversity. Those functions, it said, include the provision of habitat for fisheries and the provision of a natural breakwater to reduce the size of waves reaching the shore. “In very practical terms, hundreds of millions of people depend directly on reefs for their food, livelihoods, and even building materials,” the FoRCE document said. “Reefs are mostly built by living coral, but the limestone structures they build are naturally eroded by other animals and plants, such as sponges. In a healthy ecosystem, reefs grow faster than they erode and the reef is able to provide habitat for thousands of fish and to support fisheries,” said Mumby.

Human impacts, however, including pollution, overfishing of parrot fish, and climate change tip the balance towards erosion, which means the reef habitat could be totally eroded, leaving a flat, barren habitat in its place, the professor added. “People benefit by reefs having a complex structure — a little like a Manhattan skyline but underwater. Coral reefs provide nooks and crannies for thousands of species and provide the habitat needed to sustain productive reef fisheries. They’re also great fun to visit as a snorkeller or diver. “[But] if we carry on the way we have been, the ability of reefs to provide benefits to people will seriously decline,” Mumby warned. Added Emma Kennedy, a PhD student at the University of Exeter who developed the models: “If people are to continue being able to fish, snorkel, and attract tourists to reefs, then they have to take (better) care of the ecosystem.”

FoRCE’s findings were reported a week ago in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

For more information, see http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/environment/CORAL-COLLAPSE-can-be-avoided–researchers-say_14240382

For more on Current Biology, see http://www.cell.com/current-biology/

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