The grand challenge of maintaining coral reefs
More than 500 million people depend directly on coral reef services for their survival (food, tourism, coastal protection). These reefs are hot spots, the marine equivalent of tropical forests. However, since the 1980s, they have experienced a significant increase in mass bleaching and mortality events as a result of global warming.
In an article published in the journal Biological Conservation, 21 international experts from seven countries, including two researchers from the Centre Scientifique de Monaco, demonstrate that the degradation of coral reefs will continue to escalate, threatening their survival over the course of this century. Experts assessed the effectiveness and timeliness of 16 proposed measures to save coral reefs. Their analysis shows that the window for action is closing fast and that these measures will need to be part of an organised strategy, requiring strong government support and investments comparable to those applied to other major challenges facing humanity, such as the conquest of the Moon.
The urgency of the coral reef crisis requires strong coordination between disciplines and governments. The basis for this coordination should ideally take advantage of the many existing organisations and networks, such as ICRI, of which the Principality of Monaco is currently vice-president, as well as the many governmental organisations, NGOs and private institutions that are already partnering to achieve common goals. These partnerships need to be strengthened by a clearly defined mission statement of key priorities for the next 20-30 years and a flexible plan to coordinate the multiple adaptation measures. It is no longer time for discussion but for action if we want to save the first ecosystem that is in danger of disappearing because of human activities.
To carry out this ambitious work, two groups of experts met in December 2018, to initiate the assessment of future coral bleaching events and potential measures to address them. The initial findings were presented to HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco as a side-event of the ICRI General Meeting in Monaco. This work was funded by the Pew Marine Fellows programme and The Oceans Solutions Initiative, with support from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, the International Ocean Acidification Coordination Centre leaded by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Veolia Foundation and the Fond français pour l'environnement mondial (FFEM).
- Kleypas, J., Allemand, D., Anthony, K., Baker, A. C., Beck, M. W., Hale, L. Z., Hilmi, N., Hoegh-Guldberg, O. H., Hugues, T., Kaufman, L., Kayanne, H., Magnan, A.K., Mcleod, E., Mumby, P., Palumbi, S., Richmond, R.H., Rinkevich, B., Steneck, R.S., Voolstra, C.R., Wachenfeld, D., Gattuso, J.-P. (2021). Designing a blueprint for coral reef survival. Biological Conservation 257, 109107.