American and Australian scientists have called for a worldwide effort to save deep water coral reefs as insurance against the ongoing and widespread decimation of shallow water coral reefs and their inhabitants. The scientists have published a study in the journal Nature Climate Change saying conservation efforts to save reefs on a global scale have largely failed to protect shallow water reefs and more needs to be done to not only save these shallow water ecosystems, but the deeper water reefs as well.
Dr. Tom Bridge of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Australia says that more than 60 percent of the world’s reefs are under immediate threat due to human activity and that coral reefs that are 30 to 150- meters deep in the ocean should be better protected before they to begin to suffer.
“The area of these deep reefs may in fact be quite large. On the Great Barrier Reef recent surveys have revealed up to 20,000 square kilometres of deep reef – equal in size to the combined area of all the shallow reefs,” Dr. Bridge said in a press release put out by the university.
“While many species inhabit both shallow and deeper waters, the extent to which this occurs is as yet poorly understood. However they may form an important source of replenishment for shallow reefs and their fish stocks, given the destruction that is occurring on these reefs themselves and in the surrounding mangroves and sea-grass beds which are a nursery for juvenile fish.”
In their paper, the scientists say that the deeper reefs are insulated from the effects of global warming and other human factors for now, but activities such as overfishing, pollution and other types of degradation are beginning to be noticed on these reefs, making protection of these ecosystems a priority.
“We recommend acting quickly, because pressure to over-exploit deep reefs will inevitably grow as shallow reefs become almost universally degraded due to growing human population pressures and climate change,” said co-author Dr. John Guinotte from the Marine Conservation Institute.
An abstract of the article “The need to protect all coral reefs” by Tom C.L. Bridge, Terry P. Hughes, John M. Guinotte and Pim Bongaerts can be found in the journal Nature Climate Change.