People must be part of reef conservation

This is from a July 10 (2008) press release from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.  I think this and Terry’s plenary did a great job of covering the importance of people in the equation.  You can watch Terry Hughes’ plenary talk here.


The world’s coral reefs are not doomed – provided governments and communities take the urgent and necessary actions to preserve them.

That’s the message from eminent Australian marine scientist and recipient of this year’s Darwin Medal Professor Terry Hughes in his keynote address to the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, being held at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA from June 7-11.

Prof. Hughes is the Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, based at James Cook University, Townsville, Australia.

“The global coral reef crisis is really a crisis of governance. Many of the measures put in place are failing, not because of biology, but because of lack of support from local people and governments,” he says.

“For example many no-take marine reserves have been set up round the world by non-government organisations – but nearly all of them are proving unsuccessful because they ignore the needs of the local population and have failed to win their backing.”

Professor Hughes called on coral reef researchers worldwide to work harder at the societal and economic aspects of protecting the oceans and their living resources.  Good biology alone is not enough. “The reefs are not doomed if we all do the right thing,” he asserts.

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Coral reef deaths bring bleak outlook – The Age

10th July, The Age

Food supplies will run short, tourism will be hit and coastal communities affected as the world’s coral reefs gradually decline under climate change, scientists say.

The reefs already were dying at an increasing rate because of global warming and acidification of the oceans, said researchers meeting this week at the International Coral Research Symposium (ICRS) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Chair of the climate change session, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (Ove Hoegh-Guldberg) of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Townsville, said there was evidence that all coral reefs were in trouble.

“The evidence suggests reef systems are becoming more brittle, as a result of bleaching, disease and the effects of acidifying water,” he said on Thursday.

“This means we are likely to see more moonscape-like areas where reefs once used to be.

“This will be accompanied by a switch from the spectacularly colourful fish that people normally associate with reefs to much fewer and plainer ones.”

Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said around 500 million people, mainly in developing countries, depended on coral reefs for food and their livelihoods and developed countries used them as a tourism drawcard.

But weakened coral would no longer provide enough protection against the threat of storm surges and tsunamis, particularly with rising sea levels.

“This will be accompanied by murkier, less productive waters as water quality suffers.”

Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said researchers had found evidence that the rate at which coral reefs have been deteriorating and disappearing had accelerated in the past five years.

“For the past 30 years, the loss has been between one to two per cent of the world’s coral per year,” he said.

“The latest data suggest that the rate is now around two per cent a year. This doesn’t give us much time.

“If we continue on the pathway that we are on right now, we get to levels where you are looking at the total loss of reef structures worldwide.”

Urgent action was needed to cap the use of oil, gas and coal contributing to global warming, he said.

“With no other solutions in front of us, then it would be foolhardy and unethical for us not to consider these urgent actions.”

Off to the ICRS

Our lab are off to the ICRS Symposium in Ft Lauderdale, Florida – the worlds largest gathering of coral reef scientists – over 2,500 presentations from 114 different countries in 5 days! I will be writing with updates from the conference over the next week:

USNewswire, 17th June

The world’s leading coral reef science conference, the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), begins Monday, July 7 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Held once every four years, the ICRS brings more than 2,500 international scientists, policy makers, managers, and conservationists together to present the latest findings on coral reef science and management. Reports will be announced on topics including the emerging link between climate change, ocean acidification and coral reef health; diseases affecting coral reefs around the world; recovery of coral reef ecosystems following bleaching episodes; and the effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas.

  • Sanctioned by the International Society for Reef Studies, the largest society focused on coral reefs worldwide.
  • Hosted by the US Coral Reef Task Force and the state of Florida. Chair organization by Hidden List
  • Nova Southeastern University of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, home of the United States’ National Coral Reef Institute.
  • Occurs during the 2008 International Year of the Reef.

Online web seminars detail the future of coral reefs

As part of the International Year of the Reef, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies has uploaded a series of online seminars from the the ‘Coral Reef Futures’ symposium (held in Canberra late last year) as a way to convey the pressing issues surrounding reefs today to the general public. See the full news brief here, and check out the links to the videos below on a wide range of topics, from climate change and anthropogenic threats to sustainable management and the economy of reefs. There really are some great presentations in here from some of the worlds leading scientists on coral reefs – I strongly urge you to explore some of these seminars.


  Climate change and coral reefs
  44.8 mb 24min Ten things you need to know about Climate Change and coral reefs Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
  42.8 mb 24min Ocean acidification and coral reefs Malcolm McCulloch
  46.5 mb 27min The risk of coral bleaching to coral reef biodiversity Morgan Pratchett
  44.6 mb 26min Can reefs respond quickly enough? Line Bay
  48.4 mb 28min Rising Plague: Diseases in marine organisms and climate change Bette Willis
  47.7 mb 26min What next? Managing the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park under climate change Laurence McCook
  New paradigms for ecosystem-based management of coral reefs  
  32.2 mb 18min How to kill a coral reef: Lessons from the Caribbean Bob Steneck
  46.4 mb 26min Anticipating ecological surprises: Managing reef resilience Terry Hughes
  37.6 mb 21min Blast from the Past: Messages for reef management from the fossil record John Pandolfi
  24.1 mb 14min A role for aquaculture in ecosystem restoration? Rocky de Nys
  28.6 mb 18min Coral reefs and the nascent economics of resilience John Quiggin
  Sustainable Reef Resources  
  40.7 mb 23min Marine protected areas: What they can and cannot do Geoff Jones
  33.2 mb 19min Marine protected areas: Will they provide resilience through reduced stress? Mark McCormick
  36.6 mb 21min Connectivity, climate change and the future for reef fishes Philip Munday
  41.7 mb 22min Power to the people: 25 years of reef management in the Philippines Garry Russ
  37.2 mb 22min Managing top predators: Reef shark fisheries Howard Choat
  Catchments to Reefs: Integrated planning, management and governance  
  84.6 mb 47min Australian coral reefs: Adaptive management of critical natural resources John Tanzer
  76 mb 42min Muddy Waters: Water quality and run-off Jon Brodie
  40.6 mb 22min Before and after the Asian tsunami: Lessons for coastal management Andrew Baird
  46.6 mb 26min Capacity building on our doorstep: Governance of near-shore marine systems in Melanesia Simon Foale
  33 mb 17min Conservation in a changing climate Josh Cinner

Has the Great Barrier Reef got a future?

Once I would have thought that a ridiculous question. Yet today, if we assemble all the best science we have, the answer can at best be “maybe”.

It may seem preposterous that the greatest coral reef in the world – the biggest structure made by life on Earth – could be seriously (I mean genuinely seriously) threatened by climate change. The question itself is probably already relegated in your mind to a ‘here-we-go-again’ catch-bag of greenie diatribe about the state of our planet. This view is understandable given that even a decade ago, there were many scientists who had not yet come to grips with the full implications of climate change.

Very likely you have a feeling that dire predictions about anything almost always turn out to be exaggerations. What you really think is: OK, where there’s smoke there’s fire, so there’s probably something in this to be worried about, somewhere. But, it won’t be as bad as those doom-sayers are predicting. When I started writing “A Reef in Time”, I knew that climate change was likely to have serious consequences for coral reefs, but even I was shocked to the core by what all the best science that existed was saying. In a long phase of personal anguish I turned to specialists in many different fields of science to find anything that might suggest a fault in my own conclusions. No luck. The bottom line remains: the GBR can indeed be utterly trashed in the lifetime of today’s children. That certainty is what motivates me to broadcast this message as clearly, as accurately and, yes, as loudly, as I can.

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Coral Reefs May Be Protected By Natural Ocean Thermostat

Science Daily, Feb 8th 2008

Natural processes may prevent oceans from warming beyond a certain point, helping protect some coral reefs from the impacts of climate change, new research finds. The study, by scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), finds evidence that an ocean “thermostat” appears to be helping to regulate sea-surface temperatures in a biologically diverse region of the western Pacific.

The research team, led by NCAR scientist Joan Kleypas, looked at the Western Pacific Warm Pool, a region northeast of Australia where naturally warm sea-surface temperatures have risen little in recent decades. As a result, the reefs in that region appear to have suffered relatively few episodes of coral bleaching, a phenomenon that has damaged reefs in other areas where temperature increases have been more pronounced.

The study lends support to a much-debated theory that a natural ocean thermostat prevents sea-surface temperatures from exceeding about 88 degrees Fahrenheit (31 degrees Celsius) in open oceans. If so, this thermostat would protect reefs that have evolved in naturally warm waters that will not warm much further, as opposed to reefs that live in slightly cooler waters that face more significant warming.

“Global warming is damaging many corals, but it appears to be bypassing certain reefs that support some of the greatest diversity of life on the planet,” Kleypas says. “In essence, reefs that are already in hot water may be more protected from warming than reefs that are not. This is some rare hopeful news for these important ecosystems.”

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2005 a deadly year for Caribbean coral

Following close on the heels of IUCN report …

PARIS (AFP, Jan 28 2008) — The Caribbean’s fragile coral reefs were devastated in 2005 by a doubly whammy of record-high temperatures and 13 full-on hurricanes, according to a UN-sponsored report released Monday.During the last 50 years many Caribbean reefs have lost up to 80 percent of their coralacp-palmata.jpg cover, damaging or destroying the main source of livelihood for hundreds of thousands of people, said the report, prepared by a team of scientists and experts at the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.

The study was jointly sponsored by UNESCO and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

Coral-based ecosystems are extremely sensitive to temperature increases, which have led over the last 50 years to massive bleaching — affecting up to 95 percent of the reefs around some islands, including the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Cuba, and the French West Indies.

2005 was the warmest year since records were first kept in 1880, and global warming is likely to increase in years to come, climate scientists have warned.

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Science Expedition to Coral Reefs in Caribbean Helps Launch International Year of the Reef

launch Fetch AUV.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
January 24th 2008

A NOAA-sponsored expedition is investigating shallow and deep coral ecosystems off the Caribbean island of Bonaire, part of the Netherland Antilles. Multiple underwater robots and divers are surveying arguably the most pristine coral reefs in the Caribbean to learn why they remain relatively healthy while many in the Caribbean and around the world are threatened. The mission is one of the first in the International Year of the Reef 2008.


“The International Year of the Reef is a year-long, worldwide campaign to highlight the importance of coral reef ecosystems, and to motivate people to protect them,” said Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Jr., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “NOAA supports this campaign with leadership and coordination, and by sponsoring scientific study of reef systems such as those off Bonaire.”

The expedition runs through January 30 and is chronicled online.

In shallower waters, the team is measuring changes from limited surveys in the 80’s and 90’s. In deeper waters, three robots called Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, will survey the “Twilight Zone,” 65 to 150 meters deep, where sunlight is scarce and little is known about reef systems.

“We believe this is the first science expedition using multiple AUVs to chart Bonaire’s reefs and likely the first to do so on coral reefs anywhere,” said expedition leader Dr. Mark Patterson of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary. “This is important because of scale, AUVs obtain wide-area data, allowing scientists to pinpoint further investigation.”

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