Tuesday 25th October 2016                 Change text size:

Cutting back deforestation will save coral reefs

photo: USFWS - Pacific Region via Flickr

As the world celebrates World Oceans Day, a new study has suggested that deforestation, more so than global warming, can put coral reefs at risk because of the sediment that is washed down to the coast.

Australian research, led by a team from Macquarie University, says that clearing forest for land use might have a severe effect on coral ecosystems.

The consequences on corals caused by deforestation would be even greater than those caused by manmade climate change, the study adds.

Coral reefs systems are facing greater sediment supply due to the conversion of forests to other land uses. This causes the water to be shadier and the corals less likely to receive light.

The researchers suggested that by tackling deforestation, coral reefs will receive benefits as well.

Lead author Joseph Maina, said, “Efforts to set conservation goals have been hampered, because managers have no data on how reforestation will benefit reefs.

Our study not only captures this important relationship, but also demonstrates that watersheds can behave very differently to one another, and so conservation goals should be tailored accordingly.

In analysing coral reefs and land use in Australia and Madagascar, scientists found that the adverse effects of climate change were outweighed by the impact of deforestation.

 “We initially expected climate change to aggravate the sedimentation problems”, Maina added.

However, climate projections suggest overall decreases in rainfall and increases in temperature, which creates a negative water balance.  This places far more emphasis on land use.”

Meanwhile, another study – this time from Plymouth University in the UK – has found that corals take a long time to recover from catastrophic weather events.

Today, June 8, the UN celebrates World Oceans Day, a global event to remind governments and people of the important role that the oceans play in ensuring life on the planet and balancing our ecosystem.

This year, the organisers have launched the ‘Make a promise to the Oceans’ initiative, urging people to commit to doing something for the oceans and post a picture of their promise on social media. Visit www.worldoceansday.org and get involved on Twitter using the hashtag #WorldOceansDay.

Further reading:

Welcome to planet Ocean

No truly ‘green economy’ without a ‘blue economy’

MPs call for more urgent marine protection

Investment needed to recover marine ecosystems, says WWF

Neglecting our oceans could cost trillions

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