Why is it useful to compare rainforests and reefs?

Gregor Hodgson gregorh at pacific.net.hk
Sat May 27 05:19:18 EDT 2000

Extending poetic license to ecology, we have used the phrase "coral reefs are
the rainforests of the sea" in Reef Check's published and website PR and media
materials since 1996, so have probably helped to spread this useful ecological
falsehood far and wide. I don't know where the phrase was first used (and I
would be interested to find out), but we found it very valuable to convey in a
nutshell many of the conservation related ideas already noted by others.

The fundamental message that this phrase carries to the general public is that
coral reefs, like rainforests:
1) have a high biodiversity
2) are suffering heavy human impacts
3) deserve protection/conservation.

The public and media have already been through a long learning curve regarding
the "save the rainforests" campaign and it is a useful analogy primarily in this
sense. However, I have seen some fellow ecologists wince when they hear it.

To add to Bob's ecological comments, I would also note that a major difference
between the two ecosystems is that many rainforest organisms such as insects,
birds, and mammals are herbivores and EAT the major structural component of a
rainforest --- trees (leaves, flowers, fruit etc), whereas, there are few coral
reef organisms which directly consume corals. Fish are not insects and corals
are not trees.

Gregor Hodgson, PhD
Coordinator, Reef Check Global Survey Program
GPO Box 12375, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2802-6937
Fax: (852) 2887-5454
Email: gregorh at pacific.net.hk
Web: www.ReefCheck.org

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