Corals Come Back To Life In Marine Protected Areas

The world’s coral reefs – which have been around for about 50,000 years – represent a critical treasure trove not only of Earth’s precious remaining biodiversity, but also of potential undiscovered medical solutions hidden in nature’s cloth. But agricultural runoff and climate change are taking a heavy toll: our coral reefs are bleaching and dying, and could vanish entirely by 2110 or sooner.

Vincent Pieribone, assistant professor of neurobiology at Yale School of Medicine, recently told Big Think that in his lifetime – from childhood recreational ocean dives in the Florida Keys to recent research dives in Australia – he has literally watched the world’s coral reefs disappear. “They’re getting destroyed faster than rainforests,” he said, “but no one really knows it because you don’t see them.”


But researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have some good news from the deep. In an analysis of 8,534 live coral cover surveys conducted all over the world between 1969 and 2006, two brainy Ph.Ds found that in marine protected areas (MPAs), where fishing and other disruptive activities are monitored and limited to protect ecosystems and marine life, coral die off patterns not only slow down but even actually go into reverse.

“We found that, on average, coral cover in protected areas remained constant, but declined on unprotected reefs,” said the study’s lead author.

Studying coral reefs, though, is apparently an exercise in delaying gratification. Results don’t show until long after protection efforts have been put into place in a particular area – as many as 14 years later, in fact, in one Caribbean study.

The wait is worth it. Once results start showing, and corals start getting the color back in their cheeks, they seem to do so heartily. According to the UNC researchers, coral cover in protected areas increased by 0.05 to 0.08 percent between 2004 and 2005, but decreased in unprotected areas by 0.41 to 0.43 percent. The study’s authors – no surprise here – believe that their findings should encourage the establishment of more MPAs around the world, before it’s too late.

How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
Sponsored
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Keep reading Show less

How to make time for exercise — even on your craziest days

A new study shows choosing to be active is a lot of work for our brains. Here are some ways to make it easier.

Personal Growth

There's no shortage of science suggesting that exercise is good for your mental as well as your physical health — and yet for many of us, incorporating exercise into our daily routines remains a struggle. A new study, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, asks why. Shouldn't it be easier to take on a habit that is so good for us?

Keep reading Show less

Jesus wasn't white: he was a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew. Here's why that matters

There is no doubt that the historical Jesus, the man who was executed by the Roman State in the first century CE, was a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew.

Hans Zatzka (Public Domain)/The Conversation, CC BY-ND
popular

I grew up in a Christian home, where a photo of Jesus hung on my bedroom wall. I still have it. It is schmaltzy and rather tacky in that 1970s kind of way, but as a little girl I loved it. In this picture, Jesus looks kind and gentle, he gazes down at me lovingly. He is also light-haired, blue-eyed, and very white.

Keep reading Show less

Why American history lives between the cracks

The stories we tell define history. So who gets the mic in America?

Videos
  • History is written by lions. But it's also recorded by lambs.
  • In order to understand American history, we need to look at the events of the past as more prismatic than the narrative given to us in high school textbooks.
  • Including different voices can paint a more full and vibrant portrait of America. Which is why more walks of American life can and should be storytellers.
Keep reading Show less