Coral reefs are in global decline largely as a result of climate change and ongoing destructive human activities, such as overfishing and poorly managed coastal development. However, the effects of human activity on coral reefs are often hard to assess because there are few reefs beyond the influence of humans and efforts to mitigate human impacts, such as reducing fishing pressure, are often thwarted by a lack of compliance. Here, I show that the recovery of degraded coral reefs in Aceh, Indonesia, was rapid and closely linked to reductions in human pressures following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 26 December 2004. Within five years of the tsunami, coral cover increased 3-fold from less than 10% to over 30% in two regions that experienced dramatic reductions in human populations. At some sites that were seriously degraded prior to the tsunami, coral cover increased 16-fold, from less than 5% to over 50% cover. In contrast, there was negligible change in coral cover within an adjacent region where tsunami-associated human mortality was low. These results demonstrate that if human activities can be curtailed, coral reefs, even those that have been degraded for decades, can recover rapidly to provide the goods and services upon which many human communities depend.
Light refreshments will be served after the lecture.
Please register here by Monday, 26 May 2014