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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Bringing Corals back from the Brink

restoriing coral reefs while difficult is still possible

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Tuesday, September 3, 2013/Categories: natural history, sustainability, environment, climate change

Riled Up has paid recurring attention to coral reefs and the impacts caused by climate change and ocean acidity to their sustainability. New research offers a bit of hope in the otherwise sorry state of the world's corals. A study by the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Australia and published in the Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment shows that living coral coverage can be restored to a degraded reef system with proper attention and management.

Lead author Nick Graham at James Cook University in Queensland commented: "With 70 percent or more of the world’s coral reefs now assessed as degraded, adopting a business-as-usual approach to how we use and manage reefs is no longer an option".

The Australian researchers say that protection and recovery of corals calls for a fundamental change in how people interact and use reef ecosystems, the "rainforests of the sea".

Great Barrier Reef Coral Coverage, Australia
(credit: Coral Reef Studies, ARC)

The key to this new thinking is resilience: healthy corals are resilient to environmental shocks – but damaged reefs can become degraded by sea-grass, eliminating coral coverage. The solution to reef recovery is relatively simple but often hard to implement and is exactly the same as preventing corals being lost to being with – reducing human impacts through proper regulation of fisheries and water quality.

Coral reefs are not only amazingly beautiful and ecologically important but they also provide economic benefit from tourism and as fish nurseries in marine regions where they exist. The Australians, with the largest reef system in the world, the Great Barrier Reef, are providing essential scientific insight to any other nation lucky enough to enjoy coral reef benefits and a way forward in their protection and recovery.


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