Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saving the world's coral reef eco-systems

European Commission Research: Coral reefs, often teeming with marine life, are one of nature's most delicate organisms. A healthy coral reef can contain thousands of species; unfortunately, however, they are coming under immense pressure and their very survival is at risk. An international team of researchers jointly led by Newcastle University, UK, and the Wildlife Conservation Society, USA have identified where conservation efforts should be focused if coral reefs are to be saved.

Coral reefs around the world are under threat. Increases in temperature of even as little as one or two degrees, can cause coral bleaching, or can even magnify the effects of infectious diseases, killing off huge sections of coral. Certain fishing techniques, such as the use of dynamite, are also responsible for the destruction of coral reefs. For this reason No-take areas (NTAs) were set up not only to protect the fish, but the coral reefs they inhabit. According to the latest research, however, the location of these NTAs needs to be reviewed and updated.

An international team of researchers from Australia, France, Sweden, the UK and the US were brought together to conduct one of the largest studies of its kind. Together they investigated NTAs covering 66 sites across 7 countries in the Indian Ocean. Their research was published in the journal PLoS ONE. What they discovered was that conservation zones are now located in the wrong place leaving some coral reefs vulnerable to the effects of climate change. According to lead researcher Nick Graham, from Newcastle University’s School of Marine Science and Technology, urgent action is needed. 'We need a whole new approach — and we need to act now,' he said. The research showed that all existing NTAs should remain as such; however, new zones are needed to protect other coral reefs….

Reef snorkeler, shot by Masato Ikeda, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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