[Coral-List] Workshop report: Reducing impacts of climate change on coral reefs

Roger B Griffis Roger.B.Griffis at noaa.gov
Mon Jul 14 20:08:13 EDT 2003

Workshop Report:  "Coral Reefs, Climate Change and Coral Bleaching"

Contact:  NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program
(301-713-2989x115; roger.b.griffis at noaa.gov)

Last month over 100 U.S. and international coral reef management and science
representatives met in Hawaii to address the devastating impact of climate
change and variability on coral reefs.  The experts identified specific
actions and new research priorities to help reduce impacts and increase the
resiliency of these valuable ecosystems.  The workshop, conducted June
18-20, 2003, was organized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the
Department of the Interior (DOI), state and territory governments and
non-governmental partners at the request of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force.

In a consensus statement, meeting participants agreed that coral reefs
continue to be under serious pressure from a variety of threats including
climate change, with many reefs already showing alarming declines.  Climate
change is a particularly potent threat, as its effects on coral reefs can be
complex, far-reaching and devastating.  Warming sea temperatures associated
with climate change have already caused extensive coral “bleaching” (the
loss of microscopic symbiotic algae that provide corals with most of their
color and energy) and coral death.  Experts concluded that climate change
will continue to render coral reefs even more vulnerable to other
human-related stresses, such as water pollution, diseases, habitat
destruction and overfishing.

“Management tools and action plans are essential to help coral reef users
and managers reduce the impacts of climate change on these sensitive and
valuable ecosystems.  This workshop clearly demonstrates that actions can be
taken at local to regional levels,” said Mary Glackin, NOAA assistant
administrator for Program Planning and Integration.  During her keynote
address at the workshop Glackin stated, “Global climate change is a capstone
issue for our generation, and coral reefs are sensitive ecosystems with
significant climate implications.”

The workshop reiterated the need for urgent global effort to minimize the
rate and extent of future climate change.  However, experts also concluded
that much can be done at the local level to reduce the vulnerability of
corals to climate change impacts.  A number of critical actions were
identified including:

- reduce stresses from pollution, overfishing, coastal development and other
activities that can increase the susceptibility of corals to elevated ocean
temperatures and other climate-related impacts;
- identify reefs that may be more resistant to climate change;
- establish monitoring and communication systems to warn reef users and
managers of possible reef damage and improve response and assessment to
climate events;
- limit some activities that may increase vulnerability of reefs during
severe climate events;
- build networks of reef protected areas to help reef recovery.

“Although climate change is a daunting challenge, an exciting outcome of the
workshop was identification of specific actions that local users and coral
reef managers can take to help corals better cope with climate change
impacts” said David Kennedy, Manager of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation

Proceedings of the workshop will be available from workshop organizors and
the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force later this year.  They will also be part of a
“Reef Manager’s Guide to Action”.  For copies or additional information
please contact Heidi Schuttenberg at 301-713-2989 x 224 or by email at
heidi.schuttenberg at noaa.gov.

Coral reefs are some of the most biologically rich and economically valuable
ecosystems on the planet.  They provide food, jobs, income, coastal
protection and other important services to billions of people world-wide.
They may also be the world’s most threatened ecosystems, being degraded and
lost in many areas due to over-exploitation, pollution, habitat loss,
invasive species, diseases, bleaching and climate change.

Additional Information On the Internet:
NOAA - http://www.noaa.gov/
Coral reefs - http://coralreef.noaa.gov/
Coral Reef Task Force – http://www.coralreef.gov/
Coral Bleaching -

The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program supports effective management and
sound science to preserve, sustain and restore valuable coral reef
ecosystems. The goal of the program is to reduce the loss and degradation of
coral ecosystems through work with government, private, academic and other
non-government partners.
NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce is dedicated to enhancing
economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of
weather and climate-related events. NOAA provides environmental leadership
of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

More information about the Coral-List mailing list