Researchers determined while making a coral reef census that besides the worrying news about the reefs, some of them are thriving. These in healthy conditions were defined as “bright spots” in all over the world. Such preservation could offer some clues over the measures taken to avoid endangering the habitats.
The survey took into account more than 2,500 reefs spread worldwide. From those studied, 15 were healthier than expected, considering their proximity to large human populations or unfavorable environmental conditions analyzed in an approximation model by the team, according to the study published in the journal Nature.
Some of the notable findings are that many of the bright spots were not comprised of remote areas with small fishing presence. Instead, they included localities with large human populations that have an increased use and dependence of the ecosystem.
An example of such method was Karkar Island in Papua New Guinea, where ecological feedbacks are used to implement a system of harvest rotation, and marine tenure permitted the exclusion of fishers from outside the local village, as reported by Christian Science Monitor.
“We thought this was counterintuitive,” Jack Kittinger, from the Conservation International and co-author of the recent study, told National Geographic. “You might expect a high dependency on the reefs to mean high harvesting and therefore a dark spot, but we found the converse is true. What we saw is that people who are dependent on it are more likely to be better stewards, perhaps because if they crash that resource they are really in trouble.”
Another factor present in the healthier-than-expected reefs were the fact that the bright spots found had proximity to deep water, which can provide a refuge where fish could retreat in the face of any disturbance.
The results, the authors wrote in the paper, suggest that investments in strengthening fisheries governance, particularly aspects such as participation and property rights, could facilitate innovative conservation actions that help communities defy expectations of global reef degradation.
Study Finds 15 'Bright Spots' Where Coral Reefs Aren't Dying As Fast As Expected https://t.co/4IXz0rKwX7
— NPR (@NPR) June 16, 2016
Not all good news
Even though the presence of the bright spots all over the world could offer some possible measures to be taken into account to expand the habitat’s protection further, the team found through the survey some dark spots as well.
This dark spots accounted for 35 reefs that were more damaged than previously thought. Complementing over the bright spots that showed that human populations do not necessarily mean a more damaged environment, uninhabited and often considered near pristine is not to say a more preserve reef either.
Dark spots were characterized by fast capture and storage technology that allow an intensive exploitation, such as freezers that enabled stockpiling of large quantities of catch. Also, a recent history of environmental shocks was present in the not so good spots as well, like increased coral bleaching and more severe cyclones.
“Reefs are hugely threatened. I saw my field site meltdown and completely die,” Julia Baum, an assistant biology professor at Canada’s University of Victoria, told The Atlantic. “The danger is that we lose hope, or we feel like there is nothing to be done. That is why this study is so important. It shows that the end state of people relying on and using coral reefs doesn’t have to be reef degradation.”
Did the world’s bigger reef fulfill the expectations?
According to lead author Joshua Cinner, a professor at James Cook University in Australia, the factors that gave the Australia’s reef the ability to fulfill the expectation was its remoteness and its high level of protection.
In addition to the measures already taken to protect the Great Barrier Reef, Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pledged on Monday an A$1 billion, which is about $740 million, a fund for the reef. Scientists say the habitat is currently suffering a widespread coral bleaching related to climate change.
What is left to do?
Researchers in the study commented that there are two possible pathways to go through from their work. One is to shift the conversation away from the preservation of pristine places, and instead seeking to learn from the practices performed by the small localities that confronted the reef stressors and found a sustainable way of coexisting with the ecosystem.
As for the second way, it is to reinvigorate efforts to manage socio-economic drivers that can have a dramatic impact on the coral reef health, to shape governance intervention and social drivers such as markers and development.
“The long-term viability of coral reefs will ultimately depend on international action to reduce carbon emissions,” the authors concluded. “However, fisheries remain a pervasive source of reef degradation, and effective local-level fisheries governance is crucial to sustaining ecological processes that give reefs the best chance of coping with global environmental change.”
— Nature News&Comment (@NatureNews) June 16, 2016