Coral reefs worldwide need saving, say experts

National, Normal

The National, Tuesday 10th July, 2012

WITH coral reefs around the world in rapid decline, it is imperative to make every effort to save what is left, the world’s top marine researchers say.
In an unprecedented move, 2,600 of the world’s top marine researchers who gathered this week in Australia for the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium released their Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs.
The statement called for a worldwide effort to overcome growing threats to coral ecosystems and to the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on them.
It urged measures to head off the escalating damage caused by rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, overfishing and pollution from the land.
Symposium convener and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies director Terry Hughes said there was a window of opportunity for the world to act on climate change – but it was closing rapidly.
Hughes was joined by three of the world’s leading coral experts.
They are  Jeremy Jackson, senior scientist emeritus Smithsonian Institution, Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station director Stephen Palumbi and research professor for Kewalo Marine Laboratory at the University of Hawaii Robert Richmond, at a media briefing at the start the symposium.
Jackson said reefs globally had seen severe declines in coral cover over the past several decades.
He said in the Caribbean, 75-85% of the coral cover had been lost in the past 35 years.
Even the Great Barrier Reef, the best-protected reef ecosystem on the planet, has seen a 50% decline in coral cover in the past 50 years.
Jackson said climate change was exacerbating that already rapid decline and on its own calls for immediate action to better protection of coral reefs.
“But climate change is causing increased droughts, agricultural failure and sea level rise at increasingly faster rates that implies huge problems for societies,” he said.
“That means what’s good for reefs is critically important for people and we should wake up to that fact,” Jackson said.
“The future of coral reefs isn’t a marine version of tree-hugging but a central problem for humanity.”
The symposium is for a week and is held every four years.