May 19, 2009

Study predicts worldwide coral catastrophe

An Australian-led World Wild Life study predicts worldwide catastrophic losses of coral by the end of this century due to climate change.

The WWF-commissioned study, led by University of Queensland Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, determined coral reefs could disappear entirely from the Coral Triangle region of the Pacific Ocean, thereby threatening the food supply and livelihoods for about 100 million people.

Researchers said averting such a catastrophe will depend on quick and effective global action on climate change, as well as implementation of regional solutions to problems of over-fishing and pollution.

This area is the planet's crown jewel of coral diversity and we are watching it disappear before our eyes, said Catherine Plume, director of the WWF's Coral Triangle Program. But as this study shows, there are opportunities to prevent this tragedy while sustaining the livelihoods of millions who rely on its riches.

The Coral Triangle is comprised of the coasts, reefs and seas of the countries of Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste. Although the Coral Triangle occupies just 1 percent of the Earth's surface, the researchers said it is home to 30 percent of the world's coral reefs, 76 percent of reef-building coral species and more than 35 percent of coral reef fish species.

The report was presented last week in Manado, Indonesia, during the World Oceans Conference.