Growing human population endangering Caribbean coral reefs

January 9th, 2008 - 2:44 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, Jan 9 (ANI): A new study has suggested that coral reefs in the Caribbean have suffered significant changes due to the proximal effects of growing human population in the region.

The human expansion in coastal areas inevitably poses severe risks to the maintenance of complex ecosystems such as coral reefs, said author Camilo Mora from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada.

The continuing degradation of coral reefs may be soon beyond repair, if threats are not identified and rapidly controlled, he added.

Published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, the study monitored coral reefs, including corals, fishes and macro algae, in 322 sites across 13 countries throughout the Caribbean.

The study showed clearly that the number of people living in close proximity to coral reefs is the main driver of the mortality of corals, loss of fish biomass and increases in macro algae abundance.

Additionally, the area of cultivated land was the main driver of increases in macroalgae. Warmer temperatures further accelerated the coral mortality.

It is well acknowledged that coral reefs are declining worldwide but the driving forces remain hotly debated, said author Camilo Mora at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada.

In the Caribbean alone, these losses are endangering a large number of species, from corals to sharks, and jeopardizing over 4 billion dollars in services worth from fisheries, tourism and coastal protection, he added.

A comparative analysis of different human impacts revealed that coastal development, which increases the amount of sewage and fishing pressure by facilitating the storage and export of fishing products, was mainly responsible for the mortality of corals and loss of fish biomass.

According to Mora, the array of human stressors arising from changes in land use, exploitation of natural resources and increases in ocean temperature due to an increasing demand for energy, are significantly affecting all major groups of coral reef organisms.

The simultaneous effect of human threats on coral reef organisms and the potential escalation of their effects to the entire ecosystem highlight the critical situation of coral reefs and the need to adopt an ecosystem-based approach for conservation and an integrated control of multiple human stressors, said Mora.

The future of coral reefs in the Caribbean and the services they provide to a growing human population depend on how soon countries in the region become seriously committed to regulating human threats, he added. (ANI)

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