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Large-scale ocean sanctuaries could be used to protect coral reefs against climate change

Large-scale ocean sanctuaries could be used to protect coral reefs against climate change

Andrea Grottoli

Earth’s oceans are home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, but warming temperatures are causing many marine animals, including coral, to die out. A new study examining the impact of climate change on coral species has revealed that more international collaboration is needed in order to protect their future.

“Coral reefs are an essential ecosystem on our planet,” said Andrea Grottoli,A co-author and a professor in the study. Earth sciences at Ohio State University “Coral reefs are really important for humans in that they provide protection to coastlines from erosion and storms, and they’re essential for certain services like tourism and other parts of the economy.” 

The study was published in the journal. Global Change BiologyTo protect these ocean environments, advocates for mesoscalesanctuaries. These are areas that can extend thousands of miles across national borders.

Andrea Grottoli“Global warming is the No. 1 threat to coral reefs right now,“ Grottoli said. “So when we think about coral reef conservation, we can’t limit ourselves to arbitrary geographic boundaries.”

Providing a “continuum of conservation” would benefit reefs immensely, Grottoli said. However, conservation policies can differ between different governments and politicians, making it difficult to protect the environment. 

Although coral reefs occupy less than 0.1% of the surface area in Earth’s oceans, about 30% of all marine species are in some way associated with them, Grottoli said. However, coral reefs have seen an increase in stress from rising sea temperatures. Coral bleaching, or visible paling of coral surface. 

Under coral bleaching, the animal’s skeleton, once obscured, becomes visible, and effectively turns the creature a faded, ghostly white. Although bleached coral does not necessarily mean death, it can cause mass mortality. Researchers say mass bleaching events are an indicator of an ecosystem’s declining health. 

Coral is a popular choice for many people. Great Barrier Reef,Complex coral systems so large that they can be incorporated into the living structures. Observed from space.It is just off Australia’s coast and hosts upwards to 2 million tourists annually. The attraction has an estimated annual economic value of $36 billion.

Yet despite being the world’s most protected marine area, the GBR was recently hit by another Mass bleaching eventThis is the fourth time it has happened in six years. 

Climate change has undoubtedly contributed in increasing frequency and intensity of these events. However, warming seas are also changing coral reefs’ composition and architectural complexity. “Under this reality, the future of coral reefs may appear grim,” the paper said.

There are some good things. Even though coral numbers are declining worldwide, there is still a lot of genetic diversity in coral species that allows them to adapt and recover. While there is a pressing need to reduce global greenhouse gases emissions, the study also suggests the need for broad transdisciplinary approaches to create large-scale ocean sanctuary.

Grottoli believes that education will do a lot of the heavy lifting in saving coral. 

“People who understand coral reefs, and who understand the value of coral reefs, are much more likely to do something to help protect them,” she said. “If you don’t know anything about coral, and you’ve never seen one, how can you have any empathy or feel any connection to that ecosystem?” 

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In her role of president of The International Coral Reef SocietyGrottoli and her coworkers even compiled a list of actions that individuals can do at home. help scientists’ conservation efforts.

This research was supported in part by the National Science Foundation.

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