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Can We Save Coral Reefs?

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Can We Save Coral Reefs?

By Stephanie Wear, The Nature Conservancy

The news about coral reefs seems dire lately—overfishing, pollution and climate change have some scientists picturing a world without coral reefs. It’s true, the threats to reefs today are severe and growing. Caribbean reefs are a shadow of what they were a few decades ago, and many other reefs globally are changing.

But there are also thriving reefs around the world in spite of all the things people have done to them—from Curaçao to Raja Ampat to Palau. Their ability to persist in the face of global climate change is remarkable. Marine science is discovering that reefs are incredibly resilient—and that this resilience can be boosted with proper management techniques.

Here’s an example: In 1998, when the world experienced the largest ever coral bleaching event, and massive extents of corals died, some observers thought that was it for coral reefs. Yet, little by little, corals came back. What scientists and conservationists alike have been doing since is trying to understand why and how—and we are making significant strides that we can build on in our protection work.

There certainly will be winners and losers among reef ecosystems, and reefs will be different in the future than they were a few decades ago or than they are even today. And there is no question that if we don’t get a handle on CO2 emissions (increasing CO2 makes the ocean more acidic—a problem for reefs and many marine organisms), we will certainly see a loss in reefs and the many benefits they provide as sources of food, jobs, medicines and as buffers from storm waves.

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12:20PM PDT on Apr 26, 2013

good information

10:03PM PDT on Apr 16, 2013


3:44PM PDT on Apr 14, 2013

thank you for an informative article...we do need to protect our reefs.

2:19PM PDT on Apr 13, 2013

Thanks for sharing

7:12AM PDT on Mar 24, 2013


12:37PM PST on Feb 28, 2013

Thank you to the Nature Conservancy for this work. More power to you.

1:16PM PDT on Oct 6, 2012

good read, thanks!!!

5:53AM PDT on Sep 24, 2012

interesting article, thanks for sharing :)

12:39PM PDT on Sep 22, 2012

Noted & Twittered. Thanks.

9:15PM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

The problem is that climatic change cannot be reversed. The ocean is capable of absorbing 525 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. But now we have gone beyond that amount. Coral need zooxanthellae (a blue green algae) to survive, they perform the photosynthesis, just like with plants. Coral is a symbiosis of the animal polyps and the zooxanthellae. When the water reaches 91 Fahrenheit, it expels the zooxanthellae, and dies or coral bleaching. The sedimentation and dynamite fishing can be controlled, but not the climatic change.

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