The best way to protect corals threatened by climate change is to conserve a wide range of their habitats, according to a study in Nature Climate Change.
The best way to protect corals threatened by climate change is to conserve a wide range of their habitats, according to a study in Nature Climate Change. The finding likely applies to conservation efforts for many other species in the ocean and on land, including trees and birds.
“Rather than conserving just the cold places with corals, we found that the best strategies will conserve a wide diversity of sites,” said co-author Malin Pinsky, an associate professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “Hot reefs are important sources of heat-tolerant corals, while cold sites and those in between are important future refuges and stepping stones for corals as the water heats up.”
Worldwide, about 500 million people rely on coral reefs for food and livelihoods, with billions of dollars a year boosting economies, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Reefs protect coastlines from storms and erosion; provide habitat as well as spawning and nursery grounds for fish; and result in income from fishing, recreation and tourism, among other benefits.
But corals face several threats, including global warming, warm water bleaching episodes, reef destruction, nutrient pollution and ocean acidification from carbon dioxide emitted when fossils fuels burn.
Read more at Rutgers University
Image: A coral reef off Cuatros Islas in the Philippines. (Photo Credit: Michelle Stuart/Rutgers University-New Brunswick)