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A look at coral reeds their habitats and the problems that they are facing

Accelerating climate action

Explore the latest strategic trends, research and analysis Much ecological literature focuses on the effects that human actions have on species, habitats or ecosystems. Unfortunately, human effects on the natural world are often negative.

  • The stones break and kill the coral;
  • Although this has slowed global warming, it is also changing ocean chemistry.

In the marine world, coral reef ecosystems have received particular attention. Beautiful in color, shape and the diversity of species they harbor, corals have been called the rainforests of the oceans.

How does climate change affect coral reefs?

Many scientific investigations have documented direct causal effects of human behaviors on coral reef systems: Few, however, have taken a step back to look at how the presence of humans can affect the natural functioning of coral reef systems as a whole. Presumably there are certain physical drivers for how a healthy reef community grows.

Coral Reefs

What natural physical conditions lead to healthy reefs in environments untouched by human beings? What are the natural biophysical relationships in these ecosystems? A recent study published in the journal Ecography takes a wider view.

Rather than identifying a particular negative effect of a certain human activity, the researchers investigated what the natural drivers are for a healthy coral reef ecosystem.

How have humans impacted the ocean’s coral reefs?

With that knowledge, they could then describe how humans alter the way nature works in tropical coral systems. Twenty-four remote and unpopulated islands served as low human impact controls. Using SCUBA and towing specialized camera gear around the circumference of each island, the team documented the corals and algae living on each reef — their so-called benthic communities.

  1. That can cause loss of life.
  2. Inside the body of the polyp are digestive and reproductive tissues. It narcotizes the fish, which are then easily captured.
  3. Without their zooxanthellae, the living tissues are nearly transparent, and you can see right through to the stony skeleton, which is white, hence the name coral bleaching. Using SCUBA and towing specialized camera gear around the circumference of each island, the team documented the corals and algae living on each reef — their so-called benthic communities.
  4. In the 1980s, "rock—hopper" trawls attached large tires and rollers to allow the nets to roll over rough surfaces.

This study is among the first. But this connection held only for the unpopulated, low human-impact sites.

Scientists warn US coral reefs are on course to disappear within decades

Around the people-free islands, environmental measurements explained the benthic cover the team saw. For instance, coral cover peaked in warmer, more productive waters where the magnitude of anomalous wave events was low. At populated islands, however, the story was quite different.

  • It also highlights the fact that not all reefs look the same; management targets for coral reef ecosystems therefore must be context specific;
  • Christian Ziegler Coral reef biologist Dr;
  • Over time, a lagoon forms between the corals and the sinking island and a barrier reef forms around the lagoon;
  • Changes in storm patterns;
  • Despite knowing about these issues for many years, conditions have worsened.

The benthic communities there were not determined by the same natural environmental parameters. At these human-affected islands, the team either saw novel relationships emerge between the benthic communities and the background environment or the ability to explain variation in benthic communities between islands was lost.

Decoupling the biological from the physical At populated islands, benthic communities no longer reflected the natural physical regimes in which they were found.

  • Bottom dragging gear such as beach seines can damage corals by abrasion and fracturing;
  • Some 14,000 tons of sunscreen ends up in the ocean each year;
  • What natural physical conditions lead to healthy reefs in environments untouched by human beings?
  • This is aggravated by destructive fishing practices , such as cyanide and blast fishing.

Such work gives us a glimpse into the forces that structure ecological communities in a world without humans.

It also highlights the fact that not all reefs look the same; management targets for coral reef ecosystems therefore must be context specific.

Smithsonian Ocean

Importantly, this research suggests that at populated islands, coral reef benthic communities are not determined by the natural surrounding environment, but by something else: This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Read the original article. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.