News from Nature: Coral Disease Under Climate Change
Read more about the latest coral reef science from NOAA scientists and their partners featured in the journal Nature!
Scientists Expect More Coral Disease Under Climate Change :
Scientists expect more coral disease as the climate continues to change, according to a paper recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change. As greater atmospheric carbon dioxide boosts sea temperatures, tropical corals face a challenging future. New climate model projections show that worsening climate conditions are likely to increase the frequency and severity of coral disease outbreaks.
Conserving coral reefs is crucial to maintaining the biodiversity of our oceans and sustaining the livelihoods of the 500 million people that depend on coral reefs. Coral reefs are also important to the global economy. NOAA estimates the world's coral reef systems are worth about $30 billion annually.
The paper details new model outputs of future conditions on reefs and are the first to examine how expected changes in climate affect the risk of diseases in these important ecosystems. Scientists also looked at both climate stress and strain caused by human activities to develop global impacts of disease risk.
Coral reef managers and policymakers now can use these maps to target actions to reduce stress on coral reefs and to test approaches to reduce disease impact. The report authors also recommend warning systems be built into coral disease response plans to help conservationists and managers reduce disease impacts. The NOAA Climate Program Office and National Science Foundation funded the study.
Recovery potential of the world's coral reef fishes :
Scientists estimate just how long efforts to rebuild coral reef fish populations, and the ecosystem functions that come along with them, would take in a recent paper published in the journal Nature.
There's little argument in the research community that local and global stressors need to be addressed to stem the decline of coral reefs. Globally, unsustainable fishing practices are a major contributor to the decline of coral reef ecosystem function.
Authors of the paper report that with adequate protection from fishing, reef fish populations will typically recover to near natural states within 35 years, on average, and in around 60 years where stock are heavily depleted. The findings are based on the examination of data from more than 800 coral reef surveys at 64 locations across the globe.
Their study generated fish baseline benchmarks for each locality, based on their environmental and oceanographic conditions, and used those to determine the status of local reef fishes against their potential.
Results illustrate how important ecosystem functions can be lost or recovered as fish assemblages move between depleted and more natural states, and how those functions can be maintained through a range of fisheries management actions. These finding will help coral reef managers develop recovery plans that meet conservation and livelihood objectives.
The NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program was established in 2000 by the Coral Reef Conservation Act. Headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, the program is part of NOAA's Office for Coastal Management.