Jon White – From the President’s Office: 12-03-2018

2018-12-03T16:40:31+00:00 December 3, 2018|

Corals Are Not Organisms Of High Intelligence, But Climate Change Is Certainly Affecting Their Future

The coral reefs in our ocean today are estimated to be between 5,000 and 10,000 years old. Last week, I attended a briefing at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on the initial report from the Committee on Interventions to Increase the Resilience of Coral Reefs. This study confirms the distressing fact that since the 1980s, global reef cover around the world has been reduced by approximately 30-50 percent. This drastic loss over the last 40 years can clearly be attributed to humans, whether through habitat destruction, overfishing, pollution, or our role in changing the Earth’s climate. Fortunately, the ocean science community is working hard to understand what we can do to increase the persistence and resilience of coral reefs, with interventions ranging from the genetic level (e.g., breeding, gamete and larval capture and seeding) to the community and environmental level (e.g., relocations, promotion of seagrass meadows and macroalgal beds). But can we find solutions that include resilience and regrowth in time to dramatically decrease the rate of die-off we are currently seeing?

The report discussed at last week’s event, A Research Review of Interventions to Increase the Persistence and Resilience of Coral Reefs, is the first in a two-part study examining the benefits and risks of these human interventions. Over the years, studies have repeatedly shown the negative consequences of certain human activities on our planet, so I look forward to helping use the recommendations from these studies to catalyze actions – including policies, programs, and investments – that help organisms counter our impacts. Improving the health and resilience of our coral reefs must be a global priority, as they are not only stunningly beautiful but are critical to the complex biodiversity of our global ocean and its overall health and prosperity. I certainly hope we can help ensure living coral reefs will still be on this planet for millions of years to come, and I thank the dedicated ocean scientists who are working diligently to that end, including those involved in this important study.

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