[Coral-List] Fw: Coral Worse Off Than Believed SCIENCE NOW 08 2007

Osmar Luiz Jr osmarjljr at terra.com.br
Sat Aug 11 20:05:50 EDT 2007

Subject: Coral Worse Off Than Believed SCIENCE NOW 08 2007

Coral Worse Off Than Believed
By Amy Coombs
ScienceNOW Daily News

The first large-scale analysis of the world's largest reef system
indicates that coral destruction is faster and more widespread than
researchers previously thought. Over the past 2 decades, coral has
disappeared at five times the rate of Earth's rainforests.
Long considered a hotbed of biodiversity, the Indian and Pacific oceans
are home to 75% of the world's coral reefs. For years, conservationists
have been trying to document coral loss in the Indo-Pacific region,
which encompasses Hawaii, Australia, and Southeast Asia, but its large
size has frustrated efforts. All researchers had to go on were scattered
reef studies, which no one has attempted to integrate due to the large
number of national, international, and nonprofit groups collecting the

Undaunted, John Bruno, a marine biologist at the University of North
Carolina in Chapel Hill, and colleagues spent 3 years compiling over
6000 independent surveys. In all, the data spanned 4 decades and
recorded the status of more than 2600 reefs. The team then combed
through data collected by the many different parties working in the
area, searching for historical and geographic coral loss patterns.

The results were not pretty. Over 3000 square kilometers of living coral
reef are lost each year, the team found, and the speed of destruction is
no lower in protected habitats such as Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
Conservationists had previously believed that accelerated declines
started in the 1990s, but the researchers found reports of widespread
loss dating back to the 1960s, when pollution, deforestation, and
over-fishing trends began. Reefs vanished at an annual rate of 1% during
the 1980s, with declines climbing through the 1990s to the current rate
of 2%--nearly five times the pace of rainforest elimination, say the
authors. Global warming, pollution, and over-fishing remain the likely
culprits, the team reports online today in PLoS One. As each square
kilometer of coral reef can generates hundreds of thousands of dollars
in revenue for local economies through tourism and sustainable
fishing--and because numerous species depend on coral for survival--the
losses will have huge economic and ecologic impacts, the authors

"Much of the previous information on the decline of reefs in the Pacific
region has rested on pretty scant data," says Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a
biologist at The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. "[This
paper] systematically looks at reef decline and finds an unambiguous and
highly significant statistical trend." Nancy Knowlton, a marine
biologist at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego,
California, adds that the findings challenge widely-held beliefs about
the global status of coral reefs. Prior to this study, researchers
thought that Indo-Pacific reefs were in better shape than those in other
parts of the world she says. "Here we learn that this guarded optimism
was without basis? there are no bright spots."

Related sites

NOAA site on coral disease http://www.coris.noaa.gov/about/diseases/
Researchers' site, with coral photos

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