According to findings in a May 9 article in Current Biology, coral reefs are in decline, but their collapse can still be avoided with local and global action.
To predict the reefs’ future, the researchers spent two years constructing a computer model of how reefs work, building on hundreds of studies conducted over the last 40 years. They then combined their reef model with climate models to make predictions about the balance between forces that will allow reefs to continue growing their complex calcium carbonate structures and those such as hurricanes and erosion that will shrink them.
One author, Peter Mumby (University of Queensland and University of Exeter) stated that ideally the goal is a carbonate budget that remains in the black for the next century at least. Such a future is possible, the researchers’ model shows, but only with effective local protection and assertive action on greenhouse gases.
“Business as usual isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “The good news is that it does seem possible to maintain reefs—we just have to be serious about doing something. It also means that local reef management—efforts to curb pollution and overfishing—are absolutely justified. Some have claimed that the climate change problem is so great that local management is futile. We show that this viewpoint is wrongheaded.”
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