[Coral-List] New approach identifies corals more likely to survive climate change

Mark Eakin mark.eakin at noaa.gov
Tue Nov 30 10:53:42 EST 2010

For a bit of bright news instead of the usual drumbeat of climate change impacts on coral reefs, a new paper has just come out that looks at a new approach to identify reefs more likely to survive in a changing climate -- if we protect the reefs from other forms of stress.
 The paper, "Reserve design for uncertain responses of coral reefs to climate change", was just published in Ecology Letters. It uses NOAA satellite data and models of larval connectivity to design marine reserves best suited for future climate change. This approach provides a tool that planners and managers can use when considering different coral reefs for protection against local threats.
 "This new approach provides a tool that allows coral reef ecosystem stakeholders to prepare for climates of the future" says paper co-author Dr. C. Mark Eakin, Coordinator of NOAA's Coral Reef Watch. "Resource managers can now identify reefs that are more likely to survive climate change if we protect them from other threats like land-based pollutants and overfishing."
 This work was supported, in part, by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (coralreef.noaa.gov), as well as the Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building for Management program, which is funded by the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank (www.gefcoral.org). 
 The release follows and is available online at: http://www.gefcoral.org/Newshighlights/Inthespotlight/LocationLocationLocation/tabid/5136/language/en-US/Default.aspx
 The paper can be accessed at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1461-0248/earlyview

MEDIA RELEASE                                              

 Location! Location! Location!

Some coral reefs less vulnerable to rising sea temperatures

 New research highlighting coastal locations where coral can better withstand rising sea temperatures, a leading cause of stress to coral reefs, may guide efforts to conserve the largest living structures on Earth.

 The findings hold promise for an estimated 100 million people living along the coasts of tropical developing countries whose livelihoods and welfare depend directly on coral reefs, but are currently under threat from climate change.

 In a report published in an online edition of Ecology Letters today, scientists from Australia, the UK, Mexico and the US, mapped coral stress across the Bahamas in the Caribbean and found that sea temperatures, which strongly influence coral health, caused less stress to reefs in certain areas.

 This discovery was borne out in the second half of the study, during which the researchers designed marine reserves best-suited to four possible scenarios of how coral would respond to further sea temperature rises. In each hypothetical scenario, 15 per cent of the locations in the Bahamas were consistently selected.

 While the study’s lead author, Professor Peter J. Mumby, from The University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute and the School of Biological Sciences says the research complicates current understanding of marine reserve design, the findings can help make the best use of the limited resources available for coral reef conservation.

 “Designing marine reserves for the long-term is more difficult than we thought”, Prof. Mumby says. “The responses of coral to the impacts of climate change are relatively unknown at this stage. Yet the good news is that some geographic locations were consistently selected in the generated scenarios, regardless of how corals might adapt to warmer temperatures.

 “These areas are great contenders for early conservation no matter what the future holds”. Prof Mumby adds that, “The research found good locations for protecting corals and we are providing this information to conservation partners in the Bahamas to help them in their efforts to work with local communities and establish new reserves.”

Prof. Mumby says the response of coral to climate change is an ongoing focus for scientists and conservation advice will be updated regularly to reflect new research findings.

Prof. Mumby says the world’s oceans are becoming warmer due to the increasing concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels. A rise in sea temperature by as little as 1°C causes stress to corals and can lead to coral bleaching, where corals lose their internal symbiotic algae that help them grow, and may result in vast areas of dead coral. 

Scientists expect that warming sea temperatures could cause coral to die in large numbers. The destruction of coral reef ecosystems will expose people in coastal areas of developing countries to flooding, coastal erosion and the loss of food and income from reef-based fisheries and tourism. 

The project was funded by the Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building for Management (CRTR) Program, Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, National Environment Research Council, European Space Agency and the EU Seventh Framework Programme.


About the CRTR

The CRTR is a leading international coral reef research initiative that provides a coordinated approach to credible, factual and scientifically proven knowledge for improved coral reef management. 

The CRTR Program is a partnership between the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank, The University of Queensland (Australia), the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and approximately 40 research institutes and other third-parties around the world.


About the Global Change Institute

The Global Change Institute at UQ, Brisbane, Australia, investigates complex, interconnected, large-scale global issues in innovative ways, in order to contribute evidence-based, progressive solutions to the major problems of a rapidly-changing world. 

The Global Change Institute is a vehicle for collaborative research, learning, engagement and advocacy. It seeks to partner with third-parties and achieve multi-disciplinary, integrated solutions to global change issues within the existing and projected frameworks of those problems: political, environmental, social, economic and technological.

 Further information:

 Professor Peter J.  Mumby

ARC Laureate Fellow, Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation

School of Biological Sciences & Global Change Institute
University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus, Brisbane Qld 4072 Australia

p.j.mumby at uq.edu.au Tel: +61 7 3365 1686 Mob: +61 449 811 589 Skype: pete_mumby

www.marinespatialecologylab.org , Free video clips of coral reefs: http://www.reefvid.org

 Media: Robert Mackay-Wood, Communications Manager, Global Change Institute (r.mackaywood at uq.edu.au, +61 7 3346 9041 or +61 410 491 159)

C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
Coordinator, NOAA Coral Reef Watch
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Center for Satellite Applications and Research
Satellite Oceanography & Climate Division
e-mail: mark.eakin at noaa.gov
url: coralreefwatch.noaa.gov

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"Together, we must confront climate change by ending the world's dependence on fossil fuels, by tapping the power of new sources of energy like the wind and sun, and calling upon all nations to do their part. And I pledge to you that in this global effort, the United States is now ready to lead." 
– President Barack Obama, Apr. 5 2009

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