July 2012: Support the Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs
At the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia on July 9, 2012, an important Scientific Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs will be announced. This statement, drafted by a working group of eminent scientists brought together by the Center for Ocean Solutions, urges governments to ensure the healthy future of coral reefs through global action on reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and via improved local protection of coral reefs. Show your support! Click HERE and join the more than 2,430 individuals who endorse the statement.
This month, the Pacific Ocean Library blog focuses on climate change and coral reefs. How is changing climate affecting corals and coral reef ecosystems in the Pacific? What solutions are being used to restore degraded coral reefs? Climate change is occurring due to increased levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the earth’s atmosphere. This is leading to a host of impacts on coastal and ocean ecosystems, including ocean acidiﬁcation, higher ocean temperatures, sea level rise, shifts in habitat and species composition, increased storm intensity, altered precipitation patterns and coral bleaching, among others.
Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on Earth. Often called the “rainforests of the sea,” they comprise less than 1 percent of the ocean floor and play an essential role in sustaining thriving ocean environments. Coral reef ecosystems provide economic beneﬁts via ﬁsheries and tourism, critical habitat and resources to a variety of organisms as well as help to protect coasts from storms and waves. But coral reefs are fragile and at risk from the effects of climate change. The impact of climate change is exacerbated on these already fragile ecosystems when coupled with other threats such as runoff, sedimentation and land-based sources of pollution within adjacent watersheds, which are among the greatest to coastal coral reefs surrounding high islands and along continental margins.
In the Coral Triangle, which is comprised of six countries in the Pacific (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste), the total value of the coral reef ecosystems is estimated at US$2.3 billion each year. Yet, the Coral Triangle has the highest proportion of coral species in all categories of IUCN’s Red List Criteria, a widely understood system for classifying species at high risk of global extinction. In Micronesia (which includes the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau and other U.S. Remote Islands), sea-level rise has been documented as a threat severe enough that it will foreclose the long-term ability of people to inhabit parts of the region, such as atolls. Micronesia has also seen an increase in the spread of White Syndrome, a disease that degrades coral tissue, because of higher susceptibility of unhealthy corals. Learn more about climate change impacts to corals, such as the recent coral bleaching event in the Coral Triangle, by viewing The California Academy of Sciences: Coral Bleaching and the 1998 coral bleaching event in Micronesia, Palau: A Case Study.
The cumulative impacts of climate change and other threats in the Pacific provide a challenge for effective management, conservation and restoration efforts. As coral degradation increases, a range of solutions to provide reef rehabilitation is needed more than ever. Networks such as the Micronesia Challenge provide funding and support research and outreach efforts, with the goal of effectively conserving 30 percent of near-shore marine resources in the region. In addition, leadership meetings across the Pacific, such as the annual Micronesian Chief Executives’ Summit, the annual meeting of the Association of Pacific Island Legislatures and the Pacific Islands Forum , provide important opportunities for leaders to come together to discuss common challenges, exchange key findings and develop strategies to improve reef resiliency and the quality of life of citizens throughout the Pacific.
Take for example the successful reef rehabilitation projects in Guam and Palau. In Guam, coral health is improving as a result of more than seven years of action taken by the community. Coral recovery efforts have included vegetation restoration within the watershed to reduce sedimentation discharge onto coral and placement of a temporary ban on harvesting herbivorous fishes, which help to control algal cover on coral. Following the massive coral bleaching event that occurred in Palau in 1998, traditional leaders and fishers worked with the government to stop the leasing, clearing and grading of mangroves to help control sedimentation and have implemented both state and national watershed protection legislation. Data are demonstrating the recovery of coral reefs and associated marine resources, illustrating the importance of using methods that are supported by the government and aligned with communities’ needs. The use of methods such as combined watershed restoration activities, enhanced community awareness, implementation of erosion control measures and locally supported efforts restricting the take of herbivorous fishes demonstrate that recovery of coral reefs can occur. The resulting healthier coral reef is a key component for improving ecosystem climate change resiliency.
Want to learn about more about management and conservation efforts in place for coral reefs? Check out the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium and NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program to increase your awareness of reef degradation and conservation strategies.
Climate Change and Coral Reef Research
This month we highlight climate change and coral reefs in three articles that provide insight into the threats of rising ocean temperatures and its effects on coral reef communities, and look into possible solutions in reef management. Click on the title links below to view the abstracts in the library, and while you are there, have a look around!
This review looks at identifying threats, gaps in knowledge and future research studies of coral reefs in Malaysia. It provides information on how corals in this region are being damaged at an increasing rate due to climate and locally caused events. In particular, it examines the mass coral bleaching event that affected coral reefs in the Coral Triangle region including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand due to global climate change.
This article highlights a transplantation experiment with the goal of restoring a degraded coral reef environment in the northwestern Philippines. These results demonstrate the potential of coral transplantation to initiate the establishment of natural communities in degraded reef areas, a concern for coastal managers in developing countries.
This article incorporates climate change projections into the process of identifying priority areas for marine conservation. This study shows that inclusion of climate-related disturbances in marine conservation planning is feasible and should become common practice, together with targets for biodiversity. Lessons learned from this report highlight strategies for local management to incorporate climate into planning processes.
Explore the Library!
Did you know that the Pacific Ocean Library now contains more than 6,500 articles, government publications and reports from the Pacific region that focus on the greatest threats, environmental and socioeconomic impacts, and potential solutions for the region? The library is a great resource for anyone involved in coastal and ocean conservation and management. Each month, we select focal topics of importance to practitioners, managers, academics, decision makers and stakeholders within Pacific Ocean communities and add interesting reports, resources and tools that provide a robust one-stop information source. This month, we added 42 new articles related to climate change and coral reefs (coral bleaching, reef restoration, coral transplantation) with a focus on Malaysia, Philippines and Australia.