World study reveals coral reefs at dire risk

Tropical coral reefs are under pressure from a suite of global and local stressors. Photo courtesy of Jeff Maynard
A new global study has found that 75% of the world's coral reefs are currently threatened by environmental and social pressures, and that number is likely to grow to 90% by 2030 if left unremedied.

The 'Reefs at Risk Revisited' study is said to be the most detailed assessment of threats to coral reefs ever undertaken, and was carried out by the World Resources Institute, along with the Nature Conservancy, the WorldFish Center, the International Coral Reef Action Network, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, and the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Center, along with a network of more than 25 organisations.

For the first time, the analysis includes threats from climate change, including warming seas and rising ocean acidification. The report shows that local pressures such as overfishing, coastal development and pollution pose the most immediate and direct risks, threatening more than 60% of coral reefs today.

'This report serves as a wake-up call for policy-makers, business leaders, ocean managers, and others about the urgent need for greater protection for coral reefs,' said Dr Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. 'As the report makes clear, local and global threats, including climate change, are already having significant impacts on coral reefs, putting the future of these beautiful and valuable ecosystems at risk.'

The risks are great with scientists surmising that If left unchecked, more than 90% of reefs will be threatened by 2030 and nearly all reefs will be at risk by 2050.

The report includes multiple recommendations to better protect and manage reefs, including through marine protected areas. The analysis shows that more than one-quarter of reefs are already encompassed in a range of parks and reserves, more than any other marine habitat. However, only 6% of reefs are in protected areas that are effectively managed.

For the first time, the report identifies the 27 nations most socially and economically vulnerable to coral reef degradation and loss. Among these, the nine most vulnerable countries are: Haiti, Grenada, Philippines, Comoros, Vanuatu, Tanzania, Kiribati, Fiji, and Indonesia.

More at http://www.wri.org/project/reefs-at-risk/
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