Friday, March 7, 2014

Reef fate in hands of chiefs and researchers — for now

Jan Piotrowski in Trust and strong relationships between researchers and traditional tribal leaders of small pacific islands allows for quick and effective implementation of science-based strategies that slow the decline of coral reefs, an international conference has heard.

Coral reefs recovered far quicker when scientists worked directly with leaders of local communities — rather than national governments — on changing the damaging land-use practices that pollute coastal waters, said Robert Richmond, a professor of marine biology at the University of Hawaii, United States.

...But these strategies can only be a stopgap as the rising sea levels, water temperatures and acidification — which could spell the end for many reef ecosystems — will need to be addressed by an international climate change agreement, he said.

For local populations dependent on ever-diminishing coral reefs for survival, conservation laws take too long to devise, and are difficult to enforce and monitor in remote regions, Richmond tells SciDev.Net.

Local chiefs have the ability to quickly change damaging practices but researchers must first work to build trust before their advice will be considered, he adds. “Many times, the local level is much more efficient than national governance. Working at a local level means communities can act immediately,” Richmond says....

Hawaii's Pearl and Hermes atoll, US Fish and Wildlife photo

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