‘Super reefs’ near East Africa can fend off climate change

April 24th, 2009 - 12:32 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 24 (ANI): A new study has suggested that some coral reefs off East Africa are unusually resilient to climate change, and can be termed as ’super reefs’.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), showed that the reefs have become super tough due to improved fisheries management and a combination of geophysical factors.

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.

The researchers 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.

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,” he added.

According to the researchers, 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.

The study 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. (ANI)

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