6 Steps to Saving the World's Coral Reefs
Photo by USFWS Pacific via Flickr CC
At the World Oceans Conference 2009 in Manado, Indonesia, scientists are focusing on the Coral Reef Triangle, a section of ocean near the nations of Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and the Solomon islands. The Coral Reef Triangle is home to the largest number of diverse coral species on the planet, and while it remains relatively healthy right now, researchers know that it is only a matter of time before climate change and pollution do their damage...unless we put in place a few rules right now. The six regional governments, Australia, and the US are all working to implement the Coral Reef Initiative, a move that puts forward six rules of thumb for how to maintain healthy coral reefs.
These rules are:
1 - allow margins of error in extent and nature of protection, as insurance against unforeseen threats;
2 - spread risks among areas;
3 - aim to create networks of protected areas which (a) protect all the main types of reef creatures, processes and connections, known and unknown; (b) achieve sufficient protection for each type of reef habitat type, and for the whole region; (c) achieve maximum protection for all reef processes (d) contain several examples of particular reef types to spread the risk;
4 - protect whole reefs where possible; place buffer zones around core areas.
5 - allow for reef species to spread over a range of distances, especially 20 km; and
6 - use a range of conservation approaches, including marine protected areas.
The purpose of the rules is to make sure that even in areas where research about how problems like global climate change, over-fishing, and pollution is sparse, there are steps that can be taken to preserve the habitat.
"The Coral Triangle Initiative is one of the most important marine conservation measures ever undertaken anywhere in the world and the first to span several countries. It involves the six nations of Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor and the Solomon islands, and is as much about nation building and food security as it is about reef conservation" says Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the CoECRS, attending the Coral Triangle meeting today in Manado.
The World Ocean Conference runs through Friday, and more than 5,000 scientists are in attendance, hoping to work out ways to care for the oceans and reefs that are clearly in distress. And some countries, such as Indonesia, move that such countries with large sea territories should receive credit for the carbon storage capacities of their ocean areas, thereby reducing the country's total carbon footprint and earning assistance from other countries in preserving marine areas. However, some people at the conference feel that more than loose rules and easy rewards should be put forward.
"We must make sure that we are not spectators at the climate talks but that those of us who speak for the ocean have a role," said Tony Haymet, director of the Scripps Institute for Oceanography of the University of California. "To get credit for preserving the ocean or avoiding deforestation is like getting credit for not beating your wife,"
We'll follow the World Oceans Conference throughout the week and keep you updated.
More on Coral Reefs
Many of World's Coral Reefs Will Be Gone By 2050: 25% of Marine Species Too & Half a Billion People Without a Job
Coral Reef Deaths: Could Bacteria Be Just as Culpable as Global Warming?
Coral Reef Alliance Talks About What's Stressing Out Coral Reefs