Consensus declaration on coral reef futures

October 21, 2007

"Being a coral reef scientist these days can be depressing. So many reefs around the world have collapsed before our eyes in the past few years," says Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC's Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. "But we've got to get past the gloom-and-doom, and use the best science to find practical ways to protect reefs from global warming."

The world has a narrow window of opportunity to save coral reefs from the destruction caused by extreme climate change, according to a unanimous statement issued today by leading Australian scientists (see communiqué, above). The call for action is the outcome of a National Forum on Coral Reef Futures, held at the Australian Academy of Science, in Canberra.

"Local action can help to re-build the resilience of reefs, and promote their recovery. It is critically important to prevent the replacement of corals by algal blooms, by reducing runoff from land and by protecting stocks of herbivorous fishes," says Prof Hughes.

"When corals die from pollution, disease or climate change, it affects all the other species on reefs that depend on corals. Without corals, the habitat is destroyed. Many reef fisheries are collapsing because of coral bleaching," says Dr Morgan Pratchett, an Australian Research Fellow at James Cook University.

"Reefs cannot be climate-proofed except via reduced emissions of greenhouse gasses. Without targeted reductions, the ongoing damage to coral reefs from global warming will accelerate and soon be irreversible," says Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a Professor at the University of Queensland and Deputy Director of the ARC Centre.

Hughes and Hoegh-Guldberg are both contributing authors to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which shares the latest Nobel Prize with Al Gore.

"Climate change is not some potential future threat - it has already caused enormous damage to people's livelihoods that will increase in coming years," according to Professor Malcolm McCulloch, a coral reef geologist at the Australian National University and also a Deputy Director of the ARC Centre. "The oceans are already becoming more and more acidic due to increased atmospheric CO2"

"Overfishing is another serious issue for reefs that must be addressed" says Dr Sean Connolly, a Professorial Fellow in the Centre. "Reef sharks are being decimated while we speak. No-one knows the long-term effects of removing these important top predators - yet more than 90% of them are gone already."

Over 50 scientists of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies today declared the following statements unanimously:
More information:
Professor Terry Hughes, CoECRS and JCU, ph 07 4781 4222

Prof. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, CoECRS and UQ, ph 0749781399, 07 3365 1156

Professor Malcolm McCulloch, CoECRS and ANU, ph 02 6125 9969

Dr Morgan Pratchett, CoECRS & JCU, 07 4781 5747 mob 0410471801

Dr. Sean Connolly, CoECRS and JCU, ph 07 4781 4242

Jenny Lappin, CoECRS, 07 4781 4222 or 0417 741 638

Jan King, UQ Communications Manager, 07 3365 1120, 0413 601 248

Jim O'Brien, James Cook University Media Office, 07 4781 4822

ARC Centre of Excellence in Coral Reef Studies

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