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News item: 'Super Reefs' Fend Off Climate Change, Study Says

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1 comment on May-1-2009   Add a comment   Contributor:  TheTeam (Apr-28-2009)    Play a Video
Optimism: 4 Categories: Global Warming, Pollution, Wildlife and Nature

African coral reefThe Wildlife Conservation Society announced today a study showing that some coral reefs off East Africa are unusually resilient to climate change due to improved fisheries management and a combination of geophysical factors. WCS announced the results of the study at the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), which is meeting this week in Phuket, Thailand.

The study, published in the online journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, provides additional evidence that globally important "super reefs" exist in the triangle from Northern Madagascar across to northern Mozambique to southern Kenya and, thus, should be a high priority for future conservation action.

Authors of the study include Tim McClanahan and Nyawira Muthiga of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Joseph Maina of the Coral Reef Conservation Project, Albogast Kamukuru of the University of Dar es Salaam's Department of Fisheries Science and Aquaculture, and Saleh A.S. Yahna of the University of Dar es Salaam's Institute of Marine Sciences and Stockholm University's Department of Zoology.

The study found that Tanzania's corals recovered rapidly from the 1998 bleaching event that had wiped out up to 45 percent of the region's corals. Along with monitoring Tanzania's reefs, WCS helps coral conservation in this region through training of park staff in protected areas.

The authors attribute the recovery of Tanzania's coral reefs due in part to direct management measures, including closures to commercial fishing. Areas with fishery closures contained an abundance of fish that feed on algae that can otherwise smother corals, while the few sites without any specific management measures remain degraded; one site had experienced a population explosion of sea urchins—pests that feeds on corals.

The findings also showed that the structure of the reefs played a major factor in their resiliency. Tanzania's reefs are particularly complex and experience unusual variations in current and water temperature. These factors allow for greater survivorship of a higher diversity of coral species, including those that can quickly re-colonize after bleaching.

"Northern Tanzania's reefs have exhibited considerable resilience and in some cases improvements in reef conditions despite heavy pressure from climate change impacts and overfishing," noted Wildlife Conservation Society scientist Dr. Tim McClanahan, the study's lead author. "This gives cause for considerably more optimism that developing countries, such as Tanzania, can effectively manage their reefs in the face of climate change."

The authors suggest that reefs in Tanzania and elsewhere that exhibit similar environmental conditions have the ability to recover from large-scale climatic and human disturbances. They may, therefore, be a priority for conservation under predicted climate change scenarios where many reefs are expected to suffer further degradation.

On a broader scale, the Wildlife Conservation Society is actively conserving nearly 90 percent of the world's tropical coral reef species in priority seascapes in Belize, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Kenya and Madagascar.

The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) is a global partnership among governments and organizations working to stop and reverse the degradation of coral reefs and related ecosystems. This ICRI General Meeting was convened by the joint Mexico - United States Secretariat. WCS is an institutional partner to ICRI.

From Fiji to Glover's Reef, the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) and The Tiffany & Co. Foundation have provided generous support for Dr. McClanahan's research, which examines the ecology, fisheries, climate change effects, and management of coral reefs at key sites throughout the world.

See original news item: ScienceDaily, Apr-27-2009  
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Comment by:  IONIESKYE (May-1-2009)   
"No one can say exactly what it looks like when a planet takes ill, but it probably looks a lot like Earth. Never mind what you've heard about global warming as a slow-motion emergency that would take decades to play out. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the crisis is upon us.

It certainly looked that way last week as the atmospheric bomb that was Cyclone Larry--a Category 4 storm with wind bursts that reached 125 m.p.h.--exploded through northeastern Australia. It certainly looked that way last year as curtains of fire and dust turned the skies of Indonesia orange, thanks to drought-fueled blazes sweeping the island nation. It certainly looks that way as sections of ice the size of small states calve from the disintegrating Arctic and Antarctic. And it certainly looks that way as the sodden wreckage of New Orleans continues to molder, while the waters of the Atlantic gather themselves for a new hurricane season just two months away. Disasters have always been with us and surely always will be. But when they hit this hard and come this fast--when the emergency becomes commonplace--something has gone grievously wrong. That something is global warming.

The image of Earth as organism--famously dubbed Gaia by environmentalist James Lovelock-- has probably been overworked, but that's not to say the planet can't behave like a living thing, and these days, it's a living thing fighting a fever. From heat waves to storms to floods to fires to massive glacial melts, the global climate seems to be crashing around us. Scientists have been calling this shot for decades. This is precisely what they have been warning would happen if we continued pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, trapping the heat that flows in from the sun and raising global temperatures.

Environmentalists and lawmakers spent years shouting at one another about whether the grim forecasts were true, but in the past five years or so, the serious debate has quietly ended. Global warming, even most skeptics have concluded, is the real deal, and human activity has been causing it. If there was any consolation, it was that the glacial pace of nature would give us decades or even centuries to sort out the problem.

But glaciers, it turns out, can move with surprising speed, and so can nature. What few people reckoned on was that global climate systems are booby-trapped with tipping points and feedback loops, thresholds past which the slow creep of environmental decay gives way to sudden and self-perpetuating collapse. Pump enough CO2 into the sky, and that last part per million of greenhouse gas behaves like the 212th degree Fahrenheit that turns a pot of hot water into a plume of billowing steam. Melt enough Greenland ice, and you reach the point at which you're not simply dripping meltwater into the sea but dumping whole glaciers. By one recent measure, several Greenland ice sheets have doubled their rate of slide, and just last week the journal Science published a study suggesting that by the end of the century, the world could be locked in to an eventual rise in sea levels of as much as 20 ft. Nature, it seems, has finally got a bellyful of us. In 1928, below shows how the Upsala Glacier, part of the South American Andes in Argentina, used to look. The ice on the Upsala Glacier today, shown in 2004 below, is retreating at least 180 ft. per year"

GREENPEACE

  
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About contributor Member: TheTeam (PlanetThoughts Team) TheTeam (PlanetThoughts Team)

Member: TheTeam (PlanetThoughts Team) The volunteers of PlanetThoughts.org are happy to give you their best selection of news, opinion, reviews, stories, quotes, tips, and more. We hope you enjoy the reading... and thinking. Thanks!

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