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    Past as Prologue for Caribbean Reefs?

    By Keith R | June 13, 2008

    Topics: Environmental Protection, Marine/Coastal Issues | No Comments »

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    Earlier this year the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) published a report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) assessing the state of the Caribbean’s coral reefs after their toughest year in recent history, 2005. The IOC is the lead international entity assessing and reporting on the state of the world’s marine environment. The GCRMN is a collaborative effort chaired by the led by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the IOC and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with participation from the World Bank, several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and research institutions.*

    Why should you care about reefs, and even if you accept that you should, why worry about their state at the end of 2005? The reasons that reef protection matters are many and the subject of the first entry of my very first series here on The Temas Blog [the other entries discussed the challenges facing LAC’s reefs, what we can do about it, and what divers, snorkelers and boaters should do. Since 2008 is the International Year of the Reef, you really should read up on the issue!

    As to why understanding what happened in 2005 is important… Two of the most traumatic years in recorded observation of reef health (since 1880) were 1998 and 2005. A key difference between the two was that in 1998 there was no systematic monitoring of reef health in the Caribbean; in 2005, thanks to the efforts of GCRMN, NOAA (which provided satellite data) and Reef Check, we have a near blow-by-blow account of what happened to the Caribbean reefs during the year. Reef experts think that this may provide valuable clues as what Caribbean reefs will face in the future as global climate change places increasing stresses on the reefs.

    The Damage Caused by Events in 2005

    I will not repeat here the extensive diagnosis and month-by-month review of the year’s events affecting coral reefs, including “hot spots,” coral bleaching and hurricane damage (Emily, Katrina, Rita, Wilma), and the diseases the reefs were more susceptible to as a result of the other stresses. The report summarizes the damage thus:

    Lessons for Reef Management and Future Options

    What lessons does the report draw? The report sums it up thus:


    * The secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Reef and Rainforest Research Centre (RRRC), Reefbase, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), the Reef Check Foundation, World Resources Institute (WRI), and the US Government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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