Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Indo-Pacific Coral Reefs Disappearing More Rapidly Than Expected

Date:
August 9, 2007
Source:
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Summary:
Corals in the central and western Pacific ocean are dying faster than previously thought, researchers have found. Nearly 600 square miles of reef have disappeared per year since the late 1960s, twice the rate of rainforest loss.

Map of study region and the 2667 surveyed reefs (green dots).
Credit: Image courtesy of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Corals in the central and western Pacific ocean are dying faster than previously thought, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers have found. Nearly 600 square miles of reef have disappeared per year since the late 1960s, twice the rate of rainforest loss.

Related Articles


The reefs are disappearing at a rate of one percent per year, a decline that began decades earlier than expected, the researchers discovered. Historically, coral cover, a measure of reef health, hovered around 50 percent. Today, only about 2 percent of reefs in the Indo-Pacific have coral cover close to the historical baseline

"We have already lost half of the world's reef-building corals," said John Bruno, lead study author and associate professor of marine ecology and conservation in the department of marine sciences in UNC-Chapel Hill's College of Arts and Sciences.

The study provides the first regional-scale and long-term analysis of coral loss in the region, where relatively little was known about patterns of reef loss.

The Indo-Pacific contains 75 percent of the world's coral reefs and has the highest coral diversity in the world. High coral cover reefs in the Indo-Pacific ocean were common until a few decades ago, the researchers found.

Bruno and Elizabeth Selig, a graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences' curriculum in ecology, compiled and analyzed a database of 6,000 quantitative surveys performed between 1968 and 2004 of more than 2,600 Indo-Pacific coral reefs. The surveys tallied coral cover, a measure of the ocean floor area covered by living corals. Scientists rely on coral cover as a key indicator of reef habitat quality and quantity, similar to measuring an area covered by tree canopy as a gauge of tropical forest loss.

Coral cover declined from 40 percent in the early 1980s to approximately 20 percent by 2003, the researchers found. But for Bruno and Selig, one of the most surprising results was that coral cover was similar between reefs maintained by conservationists and unprotected reefs. This consistent pattern of decline across the entire Indo-Pacific indicates that coral loss is a global phenomenon, likely due in part to large-scale stressors such as climate change. But for Bruno and Selig, one of the most surprising results was that coral loss was just as extensive on some of regions most intensely managed reefs.

The results of the study have significant implications for policy makers and resource managers searching for ways to reverse coral loss. "We can do a far better job of developing technologies and implementing smart policies that will offset climate change," Bruno said. "We can also work on mitigating the effects of other stressors to corals including nutrient pollution and destructive fishing practices."

Although reefs cover less than one percent of the ocean globally, they play an integral role in coastal communities, Bruno said. They provide economic benefits through fisheries and tourism and serve invaluable services like buffering from storms. When corals die, these benefits quickly disappear. Coral disease, predators, rising ocean temperatures due to climate change, nutrient pollution, destructive fishing practices and sediment run-off from coastal development can all destroy reef communities.

"Indo-Pacific reefs have played an important economic and cultural role in the region for hundreds of years and their continued decline could mean the loss of millions of dollars in fisheries and tourism ,It's like when everything in the forest is gone except for little twigs,a few lone trees" Selig said.

The results were published Aug. 8, 2007, in the online journal PLoS One.

The research was funded by a grant by the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency's Science to Achieve Results program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Indo-Pacific Coral Reefs Disappearing More Rapidly Than Expected." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070808082051.htm>.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (2007, August 9). Indo-Pacific Coral Reefs Disappearing More Rapidly Than Expected. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070808082051.htm
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Indo-Pacific Coral Reefs Disappearing More Rapidly Than Expected." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070808082051.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

Raw: Lava Inches Closer to Highway

AP (Dec. 21, 2014) Officials have opened a new road on Hawaii's Big Island for drivers to take care of their daily needs if encroaching lava from Kilauea Volcano crosses a highway and cuts them off from the rest of the island. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

Raw: Scuba Diving Santa Off Florida Keys

AP (Dec. 20, 2014) A scuba diving Santa Claus explored the waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Dive shop owner Spencer Slate makes the dive each year to help raise money for charity. (Dec. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) US President Barack Obama says that construction of the Keystone pipeline would have 'very little impact' on US gas prices and believes there are 'more direct ways' to create construction jobs. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins