Coral reef protection

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A diversity of corals

Coral reef protection is a process of maintaining healthy coral reefs. Two types of stressors are associated with reef systems: the natural and human-induced. The effects of these stressors can range from negligible to catastrophic.

Reefs are not well adapted to survive exposure to long-term stress. Some examples include agricultural and industrial runoff, increased sedimentation from land clearing, human sewage and toxic discharges.[1] Reducing these stressors mitigates the effects of increased ocean temperature associated with climate change.[2]

Short-term stressors can also inflict damage, such as from boat anchors or accidental groundings. Boaters can protect coral by dropping their anchors on sandy patches of sea bed.[3] Accidental groundings by boats can obliterate large areas of coral reef. Lettuce corals and branching corals such as elkhorn and finger coral are extremely fragile, but even massive boulder corals can be crushed or snapped off and turned upside down to die by a sailboat keel. Groundings in sand, or even the churning action of propellers, can cause major localized siltation, indirectly killing adjacent corals.[4]

Marine Protected Areas[edit]

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have become increasingly prominent for reef management. MPAs promote responsible fishery management and habitat protection. Much like national parks and wildlife refuges, and to varying degrees, MPAs restrict potentially damaging activities. MPAs encompass both social and biological objectives, including reef restoration, aesthetics, biodiversity, and economic benefits. Conflicts surrounding MPAs involve lack of participation, clashing views, effectiveness, and funding.[citation needed] Many MPAs have been found to offer inadequate protection for coral reefs by marine researchers. Only 27% of coral reefs are in MPAs. In addition, only 15% of sites were considered effective, with 38% being partially effective and 47% being ineffective. This leaves only 6% of coral reefs in effectively managed MPAs.[5] In some situations, as in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, MPAs can also provide revenue, potentially equal to the income they would have generated without controls, as Kiribati did for its Phoenix Islands.[6]

Biosphere reserve, marine park, national monument and world heritage status can protect reefs. For example, Belize's Barrier reef, Chagos archipelago, Sian Ka'an, the Galapagos islands, Great Barrier Reef, Henderson Island, Palau and Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument are world heritage sites.[citation needed]

In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and is the subject of much legislation, including a biodiversity action plan.[citation needed]

Inhabitants of Ahus Island, Manus Province, Papua New Guinea, have followed a generations-old practice of restricting fishing in six areas of their reef lagoon. Their cultural traditions allow line fishing, but not net or spear fishing. The result is both the biomass and individual fish sizes are significantly larger than in places where fishing is unrestricted.[7][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Wagner, D. E.; Kramer, P.; Van Woesik, R. (2010). "Species composition, habitat, and water quality influence coral bleaching in southern Florida". Marine Ecology Progress Series 408: 65. doi:10.3354/meps08584.  edit
  3. ^ Bartels, Paul. "Fragile reefs: handle with care." Cruising World 22.n1 (Jan 1996). 15 Oct. 2009 [1].
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Reefs at Risk Revisited". World Resources Institute. February 2011. Retrieved March 16, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Phoenix Rising". National Geographic Magazine. January 2011. Retrieved April 30, 2011. 
  7. ^ Cinner, Joshua E.; MARNANE, Michael J.; McClanahan, Tim R. (2005). "Conservation and community benefits from traditional coral reef management at Ahus Island, Papua New Guinea". Conservation Biology 19 (6): 1714–1723. doi:10.1111/j.1523-1739.2005.00209.x-i1. 
  8. ^ "Coral Reef Management, Papua New Guinea". Nasa's Earth Observatory. Retrieved 2 November 2006.