Please select your home edition
Edition
Southern Spars - North Technology

New ways to help coral reefs survive

by ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies on 29 Jan 2012
Butterflyfish © João Paulo Krajewski / ARC http://www.coralcoe.org.au/
Lessons from tens of millions of years ago are leading to new ways to help protect and save today's coral reefs and the myriad of stunning and vibrantly colored fishes at a time of significant change in the earth's systems.

The complex relationship we see today  between fishes and corals developed relatively recently in geological terms – and is a major factor in shielding reef species from extinction, says Professor David Bellwood of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University.

'Our latest research provides strong evidence for a view that today’s coral hotspots are both a refuge for old species and a cradle for new ones,' said Peter Cowman, lead author of a recent report.  'This is the first real inkling we’ve had that just protecting a large area of reef may not be enough – you have to protect the right sorts of reef.'

Early coral reefs, 300-400 million years ago were much simpler affairs than today’s colourful and complex systems, Prof. Bellwood says. The fish were not specialised to live on or among corals – either lacking jaws altogether, or else feeding on detritus on the seabed or preying on one another.

'By 200 million years ago we are starting to see fish with jaws capable of feeding on corals, but the real explosion in reef diversity doesn’t occur till about 50 million years ago when we see fishes very like today’s specialist coral feeders emerging.'

It is the ever-increasing complexity of this relationship between corals and fishes over the last 20 or 30 million years that produces the wondrous diversity of today’s reefs, he says. Each has become more critical to the survival of the other as their lives have become more interwoven.


'When people think of coral reefs, they usually think of the beautiful branching corals like staghorn (Acropora) – well the evidence is now fairly clear that Acropora needs certain fish for it to flourish. But, it now appears that this may be a reciprocal relationship with Acropora being important for the evolution and survival of fishes on coral reefs. '

Unfortunately Acropora corals are highly vulnerable to external impacts like Crown-of-Thorns starfish, coral bleaching, climate change and ocean acidification. Their demise will have far reaching effects on the fishes which interact with them, such as damsels, butterfly fish, cardinals and wrasses.

'The study of the past tells us that reefs are all about relationships and, like a family, for them to survive those relationships need to remain strong,' Peter Cowman said.

'In coming years it is probable reefs will be subject to relentless presses that may cause them to change fundamentally. Those with the best long-term prospects of survival will be the ones where the relationships between fish and corals are healthiest.

Both fish and corals managed somehow to survive the five great mass extinction events of the past, though they sustained massive loss of species. Over time these have left us with a world focus of reef biodiversity centered on the Coral Triangle region to Australia’s north, which in turn helps recharge Australian coral reefs, especially in the west.


'The Coral Triangle is currently subject to intensifying human and ecosystem pressure. The latest work by Peter Cowman and Prof Bellwood suggests it is both a cradle for new species and a refuge in troubled times – so it is vital that it remain intact.

'This isn’t about saving individual species or particular reefs, it’s about maintaining the basic relationships which ensure the survival of the whole,' says Prof Bellwood.

'We’ve had a ‘heads up’ from the past that is giving us fresh insights into what is most important on reefs and why we must protect our precious reefs and fishes into the future.'

Their paper 'Coral reefs as drivers of cladogenesis: expanding coral reefs, cryptic extinction events, and the development of biodiversity hotspots' by Peter F. Cowman and David R. Bellwood was published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24: 2543-2562. DOI 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2011.02391.x  

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies website

Wildwind 2016 660x82Helm Events 660x82Zhik Yachting 660x82

Related Articles

Great Barrier Reef managers and industry prepare for summer
Marine park managers, scientists and experts recently met for the annual pre-summer workshop Marine park managers, scientists and experts recently met for the annual pre-summer workshop to assess climate-related risks to the Great Barrier Reef over the coming months. Current predictions by the Bureau of Meteorology and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are for a summer of average sea temperatures across the Great Barrier Reef.
Posted on 7 Dec
Fourth Blog from on board Perie Banou II
Oh no - not the coffee cup Oh no - not the coffee cup - Jon keeps us all entertained as he approaches Reunion Island. The B&G chartplotter tells me since leaving the pleasant mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon (by world standards, an isolated town), that I have sailed some 2559 NM and have 751nm to go to Le Port Reunion Island. French. Reunion is a Suburb (department) of Paris. Population 844,000.
Posted on 23 Nov
Third Blog from onboard Perie Banou II
Wind over the last week has been quiet and mild - Trade Winds from South East and South South East. It is 0830am here. 1030 in Western Australia. Windy. Rather Windy. Wind over the last week has been quiet and mild - Trade Winds from South East and South South East. Barometer 1018 to 1020 whatever they are. Last night I tapped the barometer and it sorta went oops. 1015hPa. Blimey.
Posted on 18 Nov
Second Blog from onboard Perie Banou II
This is day 13 since leaving the mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon. Remote region. Beautiful town. This is day 13 since leaving the mid Western Australian town of Carnarvon. Remote region. Beautiful town. Kept cooler by the strong south winds, which make the trees bend and grow to the north. Carnarvon is nice, especially the months of September, October, November, and December. The wind is strong. Often near gale strength, with squalls and blue skies.
Posted on 15 Nov
Mayflower 400 Crowdfunding Campaign
On 24th October a Crowdfunding campaign was started to help raise funds to build the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) On 24th October a Crowdfunding campaign was started to help raise funds to build the Mayflower Autonomous Ship (MAS) which aims to sail across the North Atlantic Ocean in 2020 in the footsteps of the Pilgrim Fathers.
Posted on 5 Nov
Predictwind - Images of Hurricane Matthew's trajectory - 0800GMT Oct 7
Hurricane Matthew is now moving up the Florida coast, having bypassed Miami. Hurricane Matthew is now moving up the Florida coast, having bypassed Miami. In these images from Predictwind's wind mapping facility we can see the path and shape of the of the hurricane as it moves past Daytona Beach moving along the US coast before coming to a stop around Jacksonville.
Posted on 7 Oct
Predictwind - Images of Hurricane Matthew's trajectory - 1
In these images from Predictwind's wind mapping facility we can see the path and shape of the of the hurricane Hurricane Matthew has wrecked havoc in the Caribbean and Haiti in particular. In these images from Predictwind's wind mapping facility we can see the path and shape of the of the hurricane as it moves towards a landing point on the US coast just north of Miami and then moves along the US coast before coming to a stop around Jacksonville. A second hurricane is aimed at Bermuda.
Posted on 6 Oct
Terry Kohler, driving force of North Technology dies at 82
Terry Kohler who purchased North Sails was the driving force behind the North Technology Group, has died aged 82 Terry Kohler who purchased North Sails from Lowell North over 30 years ago and was the driving force behind the North Technology Group, has died aged 82. With the combined company of North sails and Southern Spars, Kohler created the 'Engine above the Deck' concept which married the technology used to build the sails and spars to be designed and work as an integral unit.
Posted on 21 Sep
'Grate Art' in Hong Kong
Hong Kong charity pioneers environmental awareness through innovative storm grate installations In an effort to help Hong Kongers play their part in protecting the world’s ocean, Ocean Recovery Alliance is raising awareness through a unique public art installation called ‘Grate Art’. Hong Kong’s drainage system is one of the main sources for debris outflow into the ocean, and Ocean Recovery Alliance is tackling this problem upstream through an initiative that uses “art for awareness”.
Posted on 14 Sep
Zhik sailors win 17 sailing medals at 2016 Olympic Regatta
The 2016 Olympic games are over and what a Games they have been - Zhik sailors dominated Zhik sailors won almost 60% of the medals contested at Rio de Janeiro. It was a regatta which tested sailors and gear - with one day being the most severe conditions ever experienced at an Olympic regatta. For the Zhik team riders on the waters of Rio, four years and more of hard work and dedication have paid off for many.
Posted on 29 Aug