Some coral reefs contradict expectations: despite the common belief that corals are impacted negatively by overfishing, some of the ecosystems studied managed to surprise scientists.
A new report published in the science magazine “Nature” mentions that 15 from over 2500 reefs studied around the world were thriving despite hostile conditions. The exposure to large human populations should typically affect the life and evolution of the reefs, however in these 15 particular cases, the coral reefs contradict expectations.
Josh Cinner, an Australian professor at James Cook University, explains that the discovery of these spots is shadowed by the detection of 35 other places where the evolution was not as positive as researchers would have expected.
Following the data gathered so far in their research, the scientists are trying to determine the exact factors contributing to the state of each reef. Hoping to find new insights that can help ameliorate the issues that can undermine the existence of a reef, Josh Cinner said:
“We wanted to know why these reefs could ‘punch above their weight,’ so to speak, and whether there are lessons we can learn about how to avoid the degradation often associated with overfishing.”
It is important to understand that coral reefs are very diverse ecosystems, which provide home and food for many different underwater species. Despite their small sizes (these “rainforests of the sea” occupy less than 0,5 percent of the ocean`s total surface), up to 25% of the species we know of in the sea found a home near coral reefs.
This study also points out that most of the conservation efforts are focused on remote areas, which are already under a minimal threat. However, the paper fights for increased support for those coral reefs situated in the regions inhabited by humans.
The main threats these ecosystems confront are the human presence, overfishing and climate change. Through this study, scientists are trying to determine the factors that contributed to the wellbeing of those 15 spots where coral reefs contradict expectations.
The same logic applies to the 35 other places where the evolution was not as fulminant as anticipated. Choosing to study these ecosystems researchers hope to find the specific influences that contributed to such results. Also, they hope to determine if any of these factors can be manipulated in order to improve the life of a coral reef.
Image source: Wikipedia