If left unchecked, the effects of climate change and pollution could erode around 70 to 90 percent of coral reef habitats. In response to this alarming news about how vulnerable these crucial marine habitats are, researchers around the world have focused a lot of their energy on coming up with creative approaches to saving the coral reefs.
Now, a new study led by researchers at Florida Tech has come up with another effective strategy for saving the corals from the effects of climate change: the establishment of multinational networks of protected reef areas.
“While traditional marine reserves were commonly designed to prevent over-harvesting, the study recommends the establishment of networks of huge ‘mesoscale’ multinational sanctuaries to preserve the genetic diversity necessary to fuel evolutionary adaptation,” says Rob van Woesik, professor and director of the Institute for Global Ecology. “To ‘climate-proof’ reefs, we need to conserve both coral reef habitats and genetic diversity.”
“There are several examples of such large multinational networks of protected areas on land, and we need to make similar efforts in the ocean,” adds post-doctoral fellow Tom Shlesinger.
Both Shlesinger and van Woesik led the new study with the support of 26 colleagues worldwide. Their findings point toward the need for international collaborations to best protect and conserve the world’s coral reefs.
We’ve written about the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor, a multinational marine reserve spanning the waters of Panama, Ecuador, Colombia, and Costa Rica, which is certainly a step in the right direction, however, according to the study, more nations need to collaborate.
“Innovative, interdisciplinary solutions and novel molecular methods will help resolve responses to thermal stress and, therefore, can improve the identification of corals best suited for restoration efforts,” says van Woesik.
Another area of focus that will help save coral reefs is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, a goal that many organizations, businesses, and countries are striving to accomplish
Source study: Global Change Biology—Coral-bleaching responses to climate change across biological scales