L. Shimek, Ph. D.
While we sit at home and enjoy our hobby, it is important
to remember the precarious situation of coral reefs in nature.
Here are a couple of recent articles you should find worth
reading and considering. Pandolfi et al., describe
the long-term decline of coral reefs, and give the reasonable,
although totally disheartening, prediction that coral reefs
are effectively doomed. Jones et al., discuss how as
the coral goes, so goes the associated fauna, in this case,
the fishes. As individuals there are only a few reasonable
courses of action to take in toward conserving what remains
of coral reefs. These include membership in the appropriate
conservation societies and lobbying your legislators. It is
in our interest as aquarists - to say nothing of our interest
as responsible individuals - to take some action in this situation.
I hope these articles will provide some impetus to any fence-sitters
in the readership.
Jones, G. P., M. I. McCormick, M. Srinivasan,
and J. V. Eagle. 2004. Coral decline threatens fish biodiversity
in marine reserves. Proceedings of the National Academy of
Sciences 101: 8251-8253.
The worldwide decline in coral cover has
serious implications for the health of coral reefs. But what
is the future of reef fish assemblages? Marine reserves can
protect fish from exploitation, but do they protect fish biodiversity
in degrading environments? The answer appears to be no, as
indicated by our 8-year study in Papua, New Guinea. A devastating
decline in coral cover caused a parallel decline in fish biodiversity,
both in marine reserves and in areas open to fishing. Over
75% of reef fish species declined in abundance, and 50% declined
to less than half of their original numbers. The greater the
dependence species have on living coral as juvenile recruitment
sites, the greater the observed decline in abundance. Several
rare coral-specialists became locally extinct. We suggest
that fish biodiversity is threatened wherever permanent reef
degradation occurs and warn that marine reserves will not
always be sufficient to ensure their survival.
Pandolfi, J. M., R. H. Bradbury, E.
Sala, T. P. Hughes, K. A. Bjorndal, R. G. Cooke, D. McArdle,
L. McClenachan, M. J. H. Newman, G. Paredes, R. R. Warner,
J. B. C. Jackson. 2003. Global Trajectories of the Long-Term
Decline of Coral Reef Ecosystems. Science. 301: 955-958.
Degradation of coral reef ecosystems began
centuries ago, but there is no global summary of the magnitude
of change. We compiled records, extending back thousands of
years, of the status and trends of seven major guilds of carnivores,
herbivores, and architectural species from 14 regions. Large
animals declined before small animals and architectural species,
and Atlantic reefs declined before reefs in the Red Sea and
Australia, but the trajectories of decline were markedly similar
worldwide. All reefs were substantially degraded long before
outbreaks of coral disease and bleaching. Regardless of these
new threats, reefs will not survive without immediate protection
from human exploitation over large spatial scales.