August 17, 2012

Good & Bad News from the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium


By Reef Check Executive Director Dr. Gregor Hodgson

Every four years, the world’s coral reef scientists gather for a meeting focused on the science of coral reefs. The 12th ICRS was held in Cairns (pronounced “cans”) on the northeast coast of Australia during July 9 to 12, 2012 with over 2000 scientists participating. Apparently, the “secret” is out that scientific study of coral reefs is both exciting and rewarding. Reef Check and two long-time partners (Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and SOCMON) organized a special “mini” symposium to investigate the question: “Does monitoring lead to successful management of coral reefs?” Of course, we knew the answer but we were looking to document examples of how this process has worked in different parts of the world. Some 70 scientists including many Reef Check team scientists and coordinators applied to present papers answering this question so we had to spread the “mini” symposium over two days. The audience often reached several hundred people.

The papers and poster presentations were truly a smorgasbord of examples of how important monitoring is to the process of marine spatial planning, management and ultimately successful conservation. In some examples, it was Reef Check monitoring that spurred an interest in conservation and led to the establishment of a marine protected area. In other examples, Reef Check has been selected as the one of the official monitoring methods for entire countries such as the Bahamas, Brunei and Brazil. In fact, the long-time coordinators of RC Brazil, Drs. Mauro Maida and Beatrice Padovani Ferreira of University Pernambuco presented results showing how their monitoring program eventually led to the establishment of a network of MPAs along the coast of Brazil. Dr. Jean Kenyon of US Fish and Wildlife Service and coauthors showed how the results of monitoring were essential language used to justify establishing the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument, one of the most amazing biodiversity reserves in the world. I reported that with the assistance of Reef Check, Brunei has now set up a no-take MPA network that encompasses about 90% of their coral reefs – probably the highest level in the world.

There were winners and losers at the meeting – the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority noted that the coral cover in the park has declined dramatically in the past few years – almost reaching the level in the Caribbean – about 30%. Korean scientists noted the arrival of tropical coral and fish species at their southernmost island Chejedo, and were making plans to set up a coral reef unit. Global climate change trackers from several countries reported that global warming is occurring much faster than anyone had predicted and that both sea level rise and changes in weather patterns will be more severe and will occur earlier than predicted causing major impacts to cities and towns throughout the world.

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