Thursday, 1 September 2011

Map Identifies Important Coral Reefs Exposed to Stress:

Marine researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other groups have created a map of the world’s corals and their exposure to stress factors, including high temperatures, ultra-violet radiation, weather systems, and sedimentation, as well as stress-reducing factors such as temperature variability and tidal dynamics.

The study, said the authors, will help to conserve some of the world’s most important coral reefs by
identifying reef systems where biodiversity is high and stress is low, ecosystems where management has the best chance of success. The paper appeared in the 10 August 2011 issue of the journal PLoS One. The authors include Tim McClanahan, a senior conservation zoologist at WCS.

Using a wide array of publicly available data sets from satellites and a branch of mathematics known as fuzzy logic, which can handle incomplete data on coral physiology and coral-environment interactions, the researchers grouped the world’s tropical coral reef systems into clusters based on the sum of their stress exposure grades and the factors that reinforce and reduce these stresses. Overall, stress factors such as surface temperature, ultra-violet radiation, and doldrums were the most significant, and also ones over which ecosystem management has no control. “When radiation stress and high fishing are combined, the reefs have little chance of surviving climate change disturbances because they both work against the survival of corals that are the foundation of the coral reef ecosystem,” said McClanahan.

The authors recommend that the study results be used to formulate fishing restrictions and inform the management of watersheds through improved agricultural practices and reforestation of coastal watersheds that play a role in healthy coral systems.

For more information”