|Corals [Photo: Reuters]|
By Linda Bach, in Cairns, Australia
Close to 2,600 scientists from around the world on Monday (July 9) released their Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs.
The consensus statement urges all governments to protect coral reefs, through global action to reduce the emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It also calls for measures to address the escalating damage caused by rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, overfishing and pollution from the land.
Stephen Palumbi, Director of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, said governments must make stronger commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“Research has shown that coral reefs are more resilient to climate change and recover faster from bleaching events. Positive local actions include rebuilding fish stocks, reducing harmful runoff and pollution, preventing habitat destruction and establishing more marine protected areas.
Prof Terry Hughes, convener of the symposium and Director of the Australian Research Council, said: “There is a window of opportunity for the world to act on climate change but the window is closing rapidly.”
Jeremy Jackson, Senior Scientist Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution and the 2012 recipient of the Darwin Medal said that reefs globally have seen declines in coral cover over the last several decades.
“In the Caribbean for example, 75-85 per cent of the coral reef cover has been lost in the last 35 years. But even the Great Barrier Reef, the best-protected reef ecosystem on the planet, has seen 50 per cent decline in coral cover in the last 50 years,” he said.
According to Jackson, climate change is exacerbating that rapid decline and on its own calls for immediate action. But climate change is also causing increased droughts, agricultural failure and sea level rise.
“That means what’s good for the reefs is also critically important for people and we should wake up to that fact. The future of coral reefs isn’t a marine version of tree—hugging but a central problem for humanity.”
The Great Barrier Reef in Cairns Australia is the world’s largest reef system. It is composed of more than 2,900 individual reefs and boasts 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises. Tourism to the reef generates approximately AU$4-5 billion per year.
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