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Coral Reef Decline - Not Just Overfishing

Date:
August 31, 2005
Source:
Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Summary:
Scientists widely agree that coral reefs are in declining. As featured in Geology in its September 2005 issue, a team led by Richard Aronson of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab took cores of reefs in Belize that reconstructed their history over the past several thousand years and found that they were healthy and vibrant until the 1980's when they were killed by disease and high sea temperatures. This dictates a different strategy for policymakers intent on saving reef ecosystems than just focusing on overfishing.

Coral reefs, the rainforests of the sea, feed a large portion of theworld's population, protect tropical shorelines from erosion, andharbor animals and plants with great potential to provide newtherapeutic drugs. Unfortunately, reefs are now beset by problemsranging from local pollution and overfishing to outbreaks of coraldisease and global warming. Although most scientists agree that reefsare in desperate trouble, they disagree strongly over the timing andcauses of the coral reef crisis. This is not just an academic exercise,because different answers dictate different strategies for managers andpolicymakers intent on saving reef ecosystems. The cover storypublished this month in Geology helps focus the debate.

A team led by Richard Aronson of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabamatook cores through reef frameworks in Belize to reconstruct the historyof the reefs over the past several thousand years. Although somescientists have suggested that reefs began their decline centuries agodue to early overfishing, Aronson's team found that coral populationswere healthy and vibrant until the 1980s, when they were killed bydisease and high sea temperatures. The research effort was supported bythe National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution and theNational Science Foundation.

As Aronson points out, "Protecting fish populations is important in itsown right, but it won't save the corals. Corals are being killed at anunprecedented rate by forces outside local control. Saving coral reefsmeans addressing global environmental issues--climate change inparticular--at the highest levels of government."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Dauphin Island Sea Lab. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Dauphin Island Sea Lab. "Coral Reef Decline - Not Just Overfishing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 August 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050830072609.htm>.
Dauphin Island Sea Lab. (2005, August 31). Coral Reef Decline - Not Just Overfishing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050830072609.htm
Dauphin Island Sea Lab. "Coral Reef Decline - Not Just Overfishing." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050830072609.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

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