Scientists use maps to shed light on effective coral conservation

April 7th, 2009 - 3:11 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 7 (ANI): In a new study, scientists have used maps to shed light on how threats to the world’s endangered coral reef ecosystems can be more effectively managed.

The study was conducted by researchers from UC (University of California) Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS).

Lead study authors Kimberly A. Selkoe and Benjamin S. Halpern, both of NCEAS, have explained how their maps of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) — a vast area stretching over 1,200 miles — can be used to make informed decisions about protecting the world’s fragile reefs.

Coral reef ecosystems are at risk due to the direct and indirect effects of human activities.

This study was designed to help natural resource managers make decisions on issues such as surveillance priorities, granting of permits for use, and discernment of which areas to monitor for climate change effects.

“Our maps of cumulative human impact are a powerful tool for synthesizing and visualizing the state of the oceans,” said first author Selkoe, who is also affiliated with Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii.

“The maps can aid in strategically zoning uses of oceans in an informed way that maximizes commercial and societal benefits while minimizing further cumulative impact,” she added.

According to Selkoe, “Our maps of cumulative human impact on these islands show that, despite their extreme isolation, humans are already significantly impacting this special place, and that many of the key threats, such as those associated with climate change, are not mitigated with Monument designation.”

“We must continue to act to protect these islands and coral atolls if we hope to preserve them for future generations,” she added.

The authors studied 14 threats specific to NWHI.

The threats, all generated by humans, included alien species, bottom fishing, lobster trap fishing, ship-based pollution, ship strike risks, marine debris, research diving, research equipment installation, and wildlife sacrifice for research.

Human-induced climate change threats were also studied, including increased ultraviolet radiation, seawater acidification, the number of warm ocean temperature anomalies relevant to disease outbreaks and coral bleaching, and sea level rise.

Risk of increased rates of coral disease due to warming ocean temperature was found to have the highest impact, along with other climate-related threats.

“Threats like marine debris, pollution from shipping, climate change effects and alien species still threaten to degrade these reefs,” said Selkoe.

“Our effort to systematically inventory and map the ongoing threats to these reefs, as we have done in this project, is an important part of protecting them,” she added. (ANI)

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