photo: Marc via flickr.
Ocean acidification is only likely to be a growing problem in the coming years as the world's oceans continue to warm. One severe effect is the bleaching and death of coral reefs, one of the most biodiverse and economically important ecosystems on the planet. New research, however, offers a ray of hope that marine reserves can help corals recover:Writing in the online journal PLoS One, the University of Exeter's Professor Peter Mumby says,
In order to protect reefs in the long-term we need radical action to reduce CO2 emissions. However, our research shows that local action to reduce the effects of fishing can contribute meaningfully to the fate of reefs. The reserve allowed the number of parrotfishes to increase and because parrotfish eat seaweeds, the corals could grow freely without being swamped by weeds. As a result, reefs inside the park were showing recovery whereas those with more seaweed were not. This sort of evidence may help persuade governments to reduce the fishing of key herbivores like parrotfishes and help reefs cope with the inevitable threats posed by climate change.
Areas Outside of Reserves Showed No Recovery
This was determined after examining ten coral reef sites in the Bahamas over a period of two and a half years. All had been severely damaged by bleaching, and then by Hurricane Frances. At the start of the period the reefs in marine reserves had an average 7% coral cover. By the end of the period this increased to an average of 19%. Areas outside of reserves showed no recovery.
Currently about 2% of the world's coral reefs are in protected marine reserves.
Read more: Marine Reserves Enhance the Recovery of Corals on Caribbean Reefs
Dying Coral Reefs to be Frozen, Preserved for the Future
Caribbean Coral Reefs 'Flattened' Over the Past 40 Years
6 Steps to Saving the World's Coral Reefs