Be resilient. Be like coral
Home to more than one quarter of the planet’s marine life, coral reefs world-wide are threatened by rising ocean temperatures, over-fishing, tourists and oxybenzone, a common sunscreen ingredient. Activists around the world are clamouring to save the precious coral reefs which are deteriorating or ‘bleaching’. They are calling for less intrusive fishing and pollution.
The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) of California aims at empowering local communities to protect their ocean ecosystems. “The reality is that, for coral reefs to continue to exist, and for people and wildlife to continue to benefit from them, coral reefs need to adapt — and they need to adapt to a rapidly changing world.”
However, some experts Down Under seemed to question whether they should be interfering with reefs that are evolving and adapting to global warming by themselves.
The publication Nature warned that recurring marine heat waves are disrupting the Great Barrier Reef. The coral is not able to regrow as abundantly and diversely as before. The authors warn that the reef ecosystem will soon experience an “ecological collapse.”
There are more reasons for pessimism about the reef’s future than optimism, some scientists feel. Recent bleaching events, caused by rising water temperatures, stressed and killed most coral. Coral reefs could be largely eliminated by 2050.
Research pegged coral die-back at about 75% of all the corals in the northern two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef. Yet, the optimists cheer, 25% of the corals survived! They made it through — and that’s where their resilience lies. Although baby coral declined by 89% across the Great Barrier Reef between 2016 and 2017, experts reckon the surviving coral could be more resilient than ever. The severe bleaching events mean that the surviving corals were able to withstand the extreme heat, and that they may prove more resilient to future events as well.
Michael Webster, executive director of the Coral Reef Alliance in Australia, said this latest research can be viewed through an optimistic lens and that the decline shows natural selection in action.
Resilience. Tenacity. Survival. Vasbyt.