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Scientists explore novel options to save coral reefs



A global bleaching event that devastated many coral reefs around the world from 2014 to 2017 has further increased the sensitivity of coral experts to protect reefs from damage caused by future temperature increases. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says the event is the third global episode and the most widespread, longest and most damaging bleaching event ever documented. This latest round of devastation is causing scientists to investigate potentially radical interventions.

A study by an ad hoc committee of the National Academies of Science, Technology and Medicine, which began in February, examines the science, risks, and benefits of a range of possible interventions ̵

1; some of which are engineering, others mainly environmental or genetically – to help reefs to recover and survive.

"The main problem we face is that we have conventional coral reef protection methods relying on it does not keep pace with the environmental changes that we are seeing today," said Ned Cyr, director of the NOAA Fishery Office for Science and technology, on the 8th of February. He spoke at the committee's first meeting, which was implemented in its 2-year study on measures to improve the resilience of coral reefs. NOAA, the sponsor of the study, has been responsible for environmental responsibility, coral research, coral assessment and management, and coral protection under the US Federal Law on Endangered Species, said Cyr, one of several NOAA scientists before the Committee on Health of reefs and the objectives of the agency for the study.

Coral reefs provide ecosystem goods and services such as fishing, storm surge protection and tourism. Under stressful conditions, such as higher temperatures than normal, bleaching can occur when corals emit symbiotic algae. This expulsion causes the corals to whiten and become more susceptible to disease.

"We spend millions on marine protected areas in coral reefs, implementing sustainable fishing practices, minimizing land-based sources of pollution, rebuilding coral reefs, corals, etc., and yet these intervention methods simply do not match the extent we are now faced by global warming, "noted Cyr. Increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to altered pH and calcification conditions in the oceans, which have far-reaching consequences for reefs, he added

"We really need new solutions that match the scale of the problem," said Cyr. "What we really need is a paradigm shift in our approach to conservation biology."

Radical Interventions

The project scope for the study by the committee states that reefs are threatened by "rapidly deteriorating environmental conditions, which are warmer, less favorable for calcification, impaired water quality and ongoing disease threats." The study calls for study of strategies including relocation of non-native coral stocks or species, targeted selection, stress-hardening, and technical solutions such as shading and cooling of reefs during bleaching events. "Although these interventions raise societal, political, legal, and likely ethical implications for decision-making, these considerations go beyond the scope of this review," states the scope of the project.

Some of the interventions "are not undisputed within the science community and the conservation community," Cyr told the committee, mentioning, for example, possible concerns about genetically modified organisms or "franc-fish." "Where you can help us is to reach a consensus for Science and the management community are justifying the testing and implementation of some of these novel techniques that we believe will ultimately help us in our conservation mission. "

Jen Koss, director of the NOAA Coral Protection Program, said The committee notes that "radical solutions" are needed quickly, "we are aware that they need to be reviewed." She notes examples of the past in other eco systems that have led to significant problems, such as the introduction of Kudzu for soil retention in the Southeastern United States.

Concerns of the Committee

The members of the committee largely agreed with the scale of the problem and the need to act quickly. "The conventional things we do do not really work or work well enough or fast enough," said committee member Nancy Knowlton to Eos . Knowlton is a coral reef biologist and the Sant Chair of Marine Science at the Smithsonian Institution. She is also an Emeritus Emeritus Scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

"We're faced with a situation here, even in reefs that were well managed in terms of, say, overfishing and pollution, which were problematic, say, a few decades ago," Knowlton continued. Corals "are still hit very hard, especially by global warming in these mass bleaches."

  The committee investigates possible ecological, genetic and technical interventions to help coral reefs. This aerial photo shows coral bleaching in March 2016 in New Caledonia, a French area in the South Pacific
The committee is investigating possible ecological, genetic and technical interventions to help coral reefs. This aerial photo shows coral bleaching in March 2016 in New Caledonia, a French area in the South Pacific. Credit: The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers

An important consideration is the consideration of the costs and benefits of possible interventions like moving species around the world, said committee chairman Stephen Palumbi Eos with respect to those who have gone wrong sometimes. Past failures are "a tremendous wake-up call" about the need to be "very careful" when considering new interventions and possibly use them, said Palumbi, a professor of marine biology at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove , California. "We know that climate change is accelerating and accelerating bleaching, and so we have to make sure that this study does not talk about some beautiful areas of science, but too little and too late for it." the corals. "

Mark Eakin, coordinator of the NOAA Coral Reef Watch, emphasized to the committee the need for fast, effective action. "We know that climate change is accelerating and accelerating bleaching," he said. "So we have to make sure this study does not talk about some beautiful areas of science, but too little and too late for the corals."

-Randshowstack ( @RandyShowstack ), Staff Writer

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citation: () ,, Eos, ,
doi: 10.1029 /.
Published on.

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