The world's largest study investigates endangered coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific
The world's largest coordinated study on coral reefs has found out where and how to salvage coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific. More than 80 scientists, including an Australian team from the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE), researched 2,500 coral reefs in 44 countries across the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Together, researchers identified critical social and environmental pressures and human impacts on coral reefs and recommended key strategies for their rescue and protection. The results of their research have now been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
The study found that nearly 450 reefs in 22 countries have survived the recent heat extremes in climatic "cool spots". It is these spots that the authors say should be prioritized for urgent protection and management.
"The good news is that functioning coral reefs still exist, and our study shows it's not too late to save them," says Dr. Emily Darling, lead author of the study and scientist of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Dr. Georgina Gurney of Coral CoE explains that the conservation of coral reefs depends mainly on the reduction of CO2 emissions.
The study focused on reef-building corals that are the backbone of any reef ecosystem. These corals are the home of reef fish and the livelihood for 500 million people worldwide.
Coral reefs will suffer a worldwide loss of up to 90 percent by the middle of the century. But they can still be saved through strategic protection measures. The current study outlines a framework for management strategies that can be rapidly implemented to protect the ecology of reefs and their ecosystem services: protection, recovery, and transformation.
"Securing coral reefs for the future means protecting the world's last functioning reefs and rescuing the reefs affected by climate change," Dr. Darling. "But with severely damaged reefs, many coastal societies need to find new livelihoods for the future."
Coral reefs are changing, they may never look the same again as they did 30, 10, 5 years ago - but the time has come to make sure they have a future.