Hope for Coral reef recovery in Marine Protected Areas

New Research appears to show that there is hope that Coral reef recovery, from damage resulting from climate changes, is more possible than previously understood.

The University of Exeter has released a study, published in January 2010, where the evidence suggests reefs in Marine Protected Areas (MPA) can recover from the detrimental effect of a warming climate.

Coral reef scene

The thrust of the evidence is that a reduction in the levels of fishing in these locations, provides a viable proposition in being able to ensure or at least improve levels of coral reef recovery.

There has long been an argument that Marine Protected Areas are one of the best ways to ensure the future of the ocean ecosystems.

The reefs serve as breeding grounds for much of the oceans' sea life and serve as what may be termed as a parallel to the jungles of the earth, absolutely and indisputably vital to the well being of the ocean ecosystems, without which sea creatures would cease to thrive to any viable extent.

The study surveyed coral reefs in the Bahamas area where reefs have been severely damaged by both bleaching and by hurricane activity.

Bleached Coral

Bleaching is caused by an increase in water temperature, increase in water salinity, bacterial infections exacerbated by warmer water and other factors like starvation from a reduction in zooplankton due to the warmer water and increased salinity.

In the two and a half years covered by the study of ten sites within and outside MPA’s, reefs within the MPA’s gained 12% coverage from an average of 7% at the beginning of the study, whilst reefs outside the MPA’s gained little or no coral reef recovery.

Less than 2% of the worlds coral reefs are within Marine Protected Areas where fishing and other harmful human activities are prohibited. Where the reefs were damaged, the upset in the balance of the ecosystem means that seaweed increases. The seaweed increase smothers the corals and inhibits their access to sunlight and therefore their recovery chances.

Certain fish, such as parrotfish, feed on the seaweed.

Allowing the Parrotfish to increase in population , keeps the seaweed increase at bay and gives the coral reef recovery a chance to occur faster without being taken over by the algae. The fact that fishing is prohibited in the MPA’s makes this happen.

Even if you put aside the disputed links between global warming or climate change and carbon dioxide emissions, the global warming is happening and human activities are decreasing, if not frankly destroying, the chances of coral reef recovery from the bleaching and other destructive events which are occurring with increasing regularity.

The fight to decrease Carbon Dioxide emissions continues and is likely to take too long to save many of our coral reefs from destruction.

Reduction of fishing, pollution of water and other destructive activities will have meaningful impact on the future of the intricate and hugely diverse environments on the coral reefs which almost all ocean life is dependent.

Reef facts

  • A coral reef is made up of thin layers of calcium carbonate (limestone) secreted over thousands of years by billions of tiny soft bodied animals called coral polyps.
  • Coral reefs are the world's most diverse marine ecosystems and are home to twenty-five percent of known marine species, including 4,000 species of fish, 700 species of coral and thousands of other plants and animals.
  • Coral reefs have been on the planet for over 400 million years.
  • The largest coral reef is the Great Barrier Reef, which stretches along the northeast coast of Australia, from the northern tip of Queensland, to just north of Bundaberg. At 2,300km long, it is the largest natural feature on Earth.
  • Coral reefs occupy less than one quarter of one percent of the Earth's marine environment, yet they are home to more than a quarter of all known fish species.
  • As well as supporting huge tourist industries, coral reefs protect shorelines from erosion and storm damage.

I watched a television talk show the other night where Edward Norton, the American film star (The Fight club/Primal fear), was interviewed while he was in Asia.
During the interview he very briefly mentioned finning and shark soup saying it was a no-no. I not only wish he had been a little firmer about it, but that other celebrities would be a little more vocal about coral reef destruction. They are all too keen to climb on the united nations bandwagon and save the starving people. What is needed to save future millions from starvation is to raise awareness of the impact of human activities on coral reefs and in turn the future devastation of sea life and coastline erosion resulting from the destruction of reefs.

How many millions are going to starve when there aren’t enough fish in the sea to sustain them because we have destroyed the coral reefs?

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