Coral reef conservation failing

One of the largest studies to date of coral reef protection measures warns that conservation zones are in the wrong place to protect reefs from collapse.

Research published today in the journal PLoS ONE by an international team of scientists indicates that current zones or ‘No-take areas’ (NTAs) are vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The scientists studied 66 sites across seven countries over a decade in the Indian Ocean.

They conclude that while existing conservation zones should not be removed, new zones are urgently needed to protect coral reef ecosystems against the effects of rising temperatures.

What does this research mean for marine conservation? We asked marine scientists to give their views.

Jeff Shima – Director of the Victoria University Coastal Ecology Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, said:

“Coral reefs are the arks of the oceans. This work by Nick Graham and co-authors underscores the need for urgent action in the tropical Indo-Pacific. Their publication in PLoS One is the latest in a growing list of scientific articles that present compelling evidence for losses of living corals across large regions of our planet. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that these losses will adversely affect the fishes and many other animals that rely upon living corals for food and shelter. But like so many effects of climate change, these changes to reefs and their occupants happen slowly (in comparison to the length of most scientific research programmes), so they are exceedingly difficult to document. One key message: long-term research programmes are imperative, and these need to be supported.

“Graham and colleagues draw upon long-term data covering a large area to paint a compellingly bleak future for coral reefs. Projected losses of corals and their associated organisms