Why Do Large Reefscapes Matter?

Coral reefs face many natural and human-caused threats. In March 2017, a British-owned cruise ship ran aground at Raj Ampat causing significant damage to roughly 1,600 square meters of coral reefs. Recent studies in West Maui have shown that land-based pollution is reducing water quality and covering corals in sediment. Extensive coverage about bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef reminds us that these delicate ecosystems are in crisis. Fortunately, we have a solution that will help corals grow, reproduce and continue to build reefs. We can create Adaptive Reefscapes, which are networks of healthy reefs that is Diverse, Connected and Large. But what’s the right size for an Adaptive Reefscape? It turns out that there may be a Goldilocks solution that’s not too big and not too small. Adaptive Reefscapes should be as big as possible to reduce problems caused by large disturbances; a small Reefscape might be at risk from one major … [Read more...]

Why Does Connectivity Matter?

It’s a clear fall night in the Caribbean. High in the sky is a full moon and the water is perfectly warm. Once a year, the conclusion of a full moon and warmer water temperatures sets the mood for an incredible event – coral spawning. On this night, coral polyps release bundles of eggs and sperm into the water forming billions of free-floating larvae. These baby corals are starting unique journeys, following ocean currents for a few days or weeks before settling down on new reefs. Some corals stay close to home, while others travel for many kilometers to distant reefs. If they are lucky, they’ll find a safe place to call home, and will flourish and produce offspring of their own. This connection of reefs at the local scale is an important attribute in an Adaptive Reefscape, which are diverse, connected and large networks of healthy reefs designed to help corals adapt to climate change. Baby corals are looking for a reef that … [Read more...]

Why Does Coral Reef Diversity Matter?

Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet and are home to 25 percent of all marine life though they occupy less than one percent of our oceans. There are sponges and corals of all shapes and sizes, hard and soft; tiny fishes like pygmy seahorses and big fishes like tiger sharks; there are anemones, nudibranchs and snails – the list goes on! Reefs are also diverse in types of habitats: fringing reefs, barrier reefs and atolls to name a few. Even a single species of coral is genetically diverse. But why does coral reef diversity matter in an era of global climate change? We all know the facts: corals face an uncertain future due to local threats, such as pollution and overfishing, and global threats, such as climate change and ocean acidification. But without the reef-building corals, like staghorn or elkhorn, there is no reef and no habitat for the myriad forms of life that call reefs home. If we are to have … [Read more...]

Who Should Pick the Winners of Climate Change?

The facts are clear: our world is getting warmer, and the warming is happening rapidly. For plants, animals and other organisms, shifts in climate have enormous consequences. Nowhere is this more true than on coral reefs, where a worldwide crisis is underway that has scientists and environmentalists asking a chilling question: how can we save coral reefs? At the Coral Reef Alliance, we believe that the natural process of adaptation can help save coral reefs. A new article in Trends in Ecology and Evolution, co-authored by CORAL staff and others, argues that adaptation will occur faster and have a better chance of succeeding if nature has many options with which to work. Options take the form of different species, individuals and genes and work like tickets in a lottery: most are not winners, but a few have just the right combinations to succeed. This article outlines an innovative approach and practical advice about how we can … [Read more...]