Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Happy as Larry

Cyclone Larry "helped save the Great Barrier Reef from a major bleaching event by lowering water temperatures" (see here).

New MPA is "Earth's third largest"

A "major initiative" to protect nearly a third of coastal waters and fifth of the land area of Micronesia has been launched with $18m pledged by governments, conservation organisations and international finance insitutions:
The new marine protected area in Kiribati will cover an area twice the size of Portugal, and will heavily restrict human activities in the Phoenix Islands, a group of eight coral atolls between between Hawaii and Fiji.

They are nearly uninhabited, and have stunned conservation scientists with an extraordinary variety of unique wildlife including 120 species of coral and more than 500 fish, some new to science.
Pacific Isles Get Wildlife Drive by Tim Hirsh, BBC online
New Marine Protected Area Safeguards Entire Coral Archipelago by
Jennifer Shatwell, Conservation International.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Global network of marine reserves

Callum Roberts, Leanne Mason and Julie Hawkins have suggested a design for a global network of high seas marine reserves on behalf of Greenpeace (see here).

One of the proposed reserves, the Central Indian Ocean and Arabian sea, includes Saya de Malha:
It contains the largest coral reef and sea grass habitat in the world in international waters and is a crucial stepping stone providing connectivity across the entire Indian Ocean.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Jamaican phoenix?

Jamaican coral reefs are often given as the classic example of reef degradation and virtual collapse. But a paper published in Coral Reefs (15 Mar) says there has been a rapid phase shift reversal on at least one:
...Dairy Bull on the north shore near Discovery Bay is once again dominated by scleractinian corals and several key species have returned. Living coral cover at 6 to 8 m depth...has doubled over the past 9 years and is now [about] 54%. The absolute cover of [Staghorn coral] was [less than] 1% in 1995, but increased to about 11% by January 2004. During this time the cover of macroalgae decreased by 90% from 45 to 6 %.
The authors speculate that long-lived colonies of Lobed star coral (Montastraea annularis) may have facilitated recovery by providing structural refugia.

"This change occurred on reefs still heavily overfished, [with] no increased protection from wastewater or stormwater runoff, and an ever increasing local [human] population", says Bill Precht.

Coral talk in KL

One of three talks I'm giving in Kuala Lumpur this week will start something like this:
Climate change, science and the public: the case of coral reefs

"Coral reefs are thought to be the ocean ecosystems most vulnerable to climate change. The consequences for fisheries that feed many hundreds of millions of people are likely to be severe. What are or should be the roles of scientists, educators and the media in exploring the issues? The speaker will offer a perspective from European public policy and media".

You may have wise thoughts on these matters, in which case please let me know. Even better, please come along to Universiti Malaya, Malaysian Society of Marine Biology at 9am on 23 March and take part.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Por qué buceamos

from Gabriel Despaigne

Bikini boom boom

The Castle-Bravo blast at Bikini in 1954 was a fifteen megaton surface blast. It blew a hole over a mile wide and four hundred feet deep in the atoll, completely obliterating the island and vaporizing over thirteen billion cubic feet of coral, rock and water, sending it in a radioactive cloud extending into the stratosphere.

--Stephen H. Osborn, a veteran of Operation Redwing, Bikini, 1956, on opEdNews (thanks, Wolf, for this).

I'd like to read or hear detailed and truthful assessment of the atoll now, and to look at it myself.

Compounding tsunami damage

Rehabilitation efforts to coral reefs following the Dec 2004 tsunami "may actually result in more economic damage in the future" say IUCN and GCRMN:
The need for urgent supplies of building material has led local people to take sand and rock illegally from the coral reefs, which are protected under international conservation agreements [the report says].

Felling of coastal forests for building timber has also increased the risk of landslides that could cover reefs with sediment . "Reconstruction material should be drawn from sustainable sources and not from protected areas or steep forested hills...Sand and rock should not be dredged or mined from coral reef flats."

Donations of new, powerful and highly efficient boats and equipment to fishermen who lost their gear in the tsunami also heightened the likelihood of over-fishing and a decline in fish stocks. "A balancing act is required to re-establish employment for the fishers, while introducing sustainable fishing practices ... so that communities will have sustainable fisheries benefits in the future". (Reuters)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Too painful to bear

The Belize Barrier Reef is "fragile and needs special care; losing [its] wonder and beauty for future generations because of short term gain and greed would be too painful to bear" - Candy Gonzalez of the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy (BELPO) in a BBC report published earlier today about a UNESCO meeting.

Too painful for who?

Environmental groups have lodged petitions with UNESCO charging that four sites including the Belize Reef are threatened by greenhouse gas emissions. Can this make a difference, and if so how? The petition for the BBR (dated 15 Nov '04) said:
Petitioner BELPO requests assistance under the [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] for the protection of the Belize Barrier Reef from the detrimental impacts of global climate change and the compound effects of other threats to the reef that will make the Belize Barrier Reef less resilient to global climate change impacts. An appropriate scheme of financial support for design and implementation for this program is also requested.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Tough reefs and doing nothing

On 7 March, this blog noted that the GCRA had made a classic paper available again. On 13 March, Doug Fenner wrote this to the coral list:
The Goreau paper is indeed a classic and a great introduction to coral reefs. I have used it in teaching many times and highly recommend it. It's great to have it available again. Many thanks! (interesting about the publication delay, didn't know that!)

I wanted to just comment on the two paragraphs in the message about resilience. First, I don't think anyone suggests that coral reefs will always bounce back from any disturbance, no matter what we do. That's ridiculous. If people produce a chronic disturbance that badly damages a reef, then is the reef going to bounce back after an acute disturbance? No way. But, if a reef is totally undisturbed by humans, will it bounce back from a natural disturbance? Almost surely.
His response continues in the comment attached to this post

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Zanzibar quest

The Tanga Dynamite Fishing Network in Tanzania reports that:
  • Around Kigombe dynamiting is now being done during neap tides as well as spring tides. "Bombing is on the increase daily, at 7-10 blasts during both neap and spring tides...There is no fuel for the village patrol boat..."
  • Mainland dynamiters are reported to expand their activities to Zanzibar. "Fishers from the mainland come over to Zanzibar dynamite fish and then disappear, mstly around Pungume island and the southern district. This has been going on for the last 3 months..."
  • There is an encouraging private sector initiative in the Ushongo area off Pangani."We have been working in the Ushongo area to get a program started which brings together the fishermen, recreational stakeholders, and goverment - both fisheries and Tanga Coastal Program - to provide better management and enforcement for the Maziwi Reserve.. In December fisherman from Ushongo village begin to send out daily ngalawa patrols to Maziwi - both to check on tourist visits and permits as well as to guard against illegal use..."
  • Dynamite fishing has been brought to the attention of the Minister of Fisheries and other senior officials in a recent high-level meeting.
(See also this 2 Feb post about the Network)

Victory in Hawaii

The US EPA reports that a Hawaii property owner will pay more than $7.5 million for Clean Water Act violations at Pila'a on Kaua'i - reportedly the largest ever settlement of this kind. Unpermitted construction activity had caused a discharge of sediment-laden stormwater which damaged a beach and coral reefs.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A classic introduction

CGRA has published what it describes as "still the classic introduction to the field" that has long been hard to find.

Corals and coral reefs was written back in 1970 by Thomas F. Goreau et al, but it was not published in Scientific American until 1979 "because the publishers did not think coral reefs were of sufficient interest to the public."

It should be read in combination with more recent papers on bleaching, diseases, eutrophication and restoration, says GCRA.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Charismatic carapace

Turtles may not be as cute as polar bear or Amur leopard cubs, but they are one of the few big animals on reefs and in oceans in which large numbers of people easily vest emotions.

There's an imaginative series of events in the International Year launched yesterday, including a "Turtle Witness Camp" to monitor mass nesting of Olive ridleys in Orissa.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Dutch courage

The Dutch have a particular fondness of coral reefs. As generalisations go this may not be too absurd. (one historical root for this phenomenon may be the long Dutch involvement in SE Asia and the scientific curiousity that on occasions went with it)

WWF Netherlands has an large high membership relative to the country's relatively small population of some 15 million, and is active and well funded in marine work.

But the local sovereign authorities in the still formally Dutch territory of Antilles are not doing to well on protecting coral reefs for which they have direct responsibility, according to observers in Saint Maarten. One writes:
"The lagoon was pristine 30 years ago and is now littered with marinas, boat yards and other developments. Part of the lagoon now looks and smalls like open sewage...[Also] some companies simply dump their waste including paint and other chemicals into it. This lagoon of course runs straight into the ocean".
Some photos documenting the state of lagoon are here.

Ocean Care, a local environment group, is doing what it can. Last October it documented extensive bleaching in St Maarten Marine Park. This year it is looking at options such as a Biorock project.