Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Coral Reef Yin-Yang: challenges and what's being done

Yin-Yang news for coral reefs. The bad news: the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a study that predicts that coral reefs in the Coral Triangle - a wide expanse that includes the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste - could be wiped out by the end of the century due to climate change. This would not only represent a tremendous loss of coral species, but also the fish that are supported by the reef ecology. And then there's the millions of people who depend on the reefs for food and other marine resources.

"This is the planet's crown jewel of coral diversity and we are watching it disappear before our eyes," said Catherine Plume, director of WWF's Coral Triangle Program.

Now the good news: One of the forces threatening coral reefs, due to increasing temperatures or human interaction, is the increased growth of algae that essentially smothers or crowds out coral species. Hawaii is planning on banning the taking of three species - parrotfish, chubs (a type of surgeonfish) and urchins - that feed on invasive algae. The ban, if approved by Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle, starts with the island of Maui and would be a first for the state.

More good news: Japan is developing a new restoration process for re-planting coral reefs that involves growing coral polyps on ceramic pods and ensuring genetic diversity. While currently focused on Japanese reefs, the project with its new techniques hopes to expand to a worldwide level. As promising as their efforts are, it must be tempered with the need for addressing the problems that have brought coral reefs to the point where they require replanting techniques - coastal development, chemical pollution, and of course, climate change.

News bytes from Seaweb.org

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