The world’s largest coordinated study of coral reefs identifies just where and how to save coral reefs across the Indo-Pacific.
More than 80 scientists, including an Australian team from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE), scoured 44 countries and 2,500 coral reefs across the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Together they identified key social-environmental pressures and human impacts on coral reefs, recommending key strategies to save and protect them.
The study found nearly 450 reefs in 22 countries survived recent heat extremes in climate ‘cool spots’. It’s these spots the authors say should be prioritised for urgent protection and management.
“The good news is that functioning coral reefs still exist, and our study shows that it is not too late to save them,” says Dr Emily Darling, lead author and Wildlife Conservation Society scientist.
Dr Georgina Gurney from Coral CoE says while sustaining coral reefs depends largely on reducing carbon emissions, “identifying reefs that are likely to respond—or importantly, not respond—to local management is critical to targeting development and management strategies to build the well-being of the millions of people dependent on coral reefs across the globe.”
The world-first study focused on reef-building corals, which are the backbone for any reef ecosystem. These corals support reef fish, fisheries, and the livelihoods and wellbeing of 500 million people worldwide.
Coral reefs face a worldwide loss of up to 90 percent by mid-century. But they can still be saved with strategic and urgent conservation action.
The study outlines a framework for management strategies that can be quickly enacted to safeguard reef ecologies and their ecosystem services: protect, recovery and transform.
“Safeguarding coral reefs into the future means protecting the world’s last functioning reefs and recovering reefs impacted by climate change,” Dr Darling says. “But realistically—on severely degraded reefs—many coastal societies will need to find new livelihoods for the future.”
Coral reefs are changing, they may never again look the way they did 30, ten, five years ago—but the time to make sure they have a future is now. The findings of the study “can guide urgent management efforts for coral reefs, by identifying key threats across multiple scales and strategic policy priorities that might sustain a network of functioning reefs in the Indo-Pacific to avoid ecosystem collapse.”
Darling E, McClanahan T, Maina J, Gurney G, Graham N, Januchowski-Hartley F, Cinner J, Mora C, Hicks C, Maire E, Puotinen M, Skirving W, Adjeroud M, Ahmadia G, Arthur R, Bauman A, Beger M, Berumen M, Bigot L, Bouwmeester J, Brenier A, Bridge T, Brown E, Campbell S, Cannon S, Cauvin B, Chen C, Claudet J, Denis V, Donner S, Estradivari E, Fadli N, Feary D, Fenner D, Fox H, Franklin E, Friedlander A, Gilmour J, Goiran C, Guest J, Hobbs J, Hoey A, Houk P, Johnson S, Jupiter S, Kayal M, Kuo C, Lamb J, Lee M, Low J, Muthiga N, Muttaqin E, Nand Y, Nash K, Nedlic O, Pandolfi J, Pardede S, Patankar V, Penin L, Ribas-Deulofeu L, Richards Z, Roberts T, Rodgers K, Safuan C, Sala E, Shedrawi G, Sin T, Smallhorn-West P, Smith J, Sommer B, Steinberg P, Sutthacheep M, Tan C, Vargas-Angel B, Williams G, Wilson S, Yeemin T, Bruno JF, Fortin MJ, Krkosek M and Mouillot D (2019). Nature Ecology & Evolution. ‘Social–environmental drivers inform strategic management of coral reefs in the Anthropocene’. DOI: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-019-0953-8
Dr Georgina Gurney (Townsville, AEST)
Dr Emily Darling (New York, EDT)
Wildlife Conservation Society
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Melissa Lyne (Sydney, AEST)
Media Manager, Coral CoE
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