Scientists push for coral reef protection
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Over 2,600 scientists from across the world signed a landmark agreement to push policy makers to save what’s left of the world’s coral reefs, damage to which threatens everything from food security and tourism to the livelihoods of millions of people.
The so-called Consensus Statement on Climate Change and Coral Reefs, first drafted two years ago by a group of prominent scientists, was officially launched at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium on Monday.
“This consensus is just a beginning. We’re giving this away to the world, reaching out to the public and political leaders to turn science into action,” said director of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, Steve Palumbi.
The five-day symposium in Australia’s northeast city of Cairns near the Great Barrier Reefs, hosts some 2,000 delegates from 80 countries, including 76 from Indonesia.
In the statement governments are pushed to take action to preserve coral reefs amid growing threats to their ecosystems, from rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification, overfishing, pollution from the land,
Director of Makassar’s Hasanuddin University’s Center for Coral Reef Research, Jamaluddin Jompa, said scientists tend to agree to disagree but for the future of coral reefs it is important to unite to push science into action.
“We hope the public and policymakers will listen and make the issue a priority,” said Jamaluddin. “When we talk with the government, they always take the issue seriously but not urgently enough. We hope the consensus can push the issue higher up in the priorities. We’re running out time.”
There has been a severe decline of coral cover in the past 35 years.Even on the Great Barrier Reef, the best-protected reef on the planet, has seen a 50 percent decline in coral cover in the last 50 years.
Palumbi urged governments to make stronger commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while seriously addressing local threats, such as poor land development and unsustainable fishing.
Positive local actions, he said, could include rebuilding fish stocks, reducing harmful runoffs, preventing habitat destruction and establishing more protected marine areas.
Research professor Robert Richmond of Hawaii University’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory said the consensus is not just another effort at documenting the mounting problems facing coral reefs. Instead, it is focused on bringing the best available science to policy development and implementation by partnering both elected and traditional leaders.
“An enormous amount of research shows we have a problem. But right now, we are like doctors diagnosing a disease, but not prescribing any effective cures,” said Richmond, who is also president of the International Society for Reef Studies.