The bleaching of coral reefs is dramatic, but there is hope for a future.
We reported already many times on the devastating extent of coral bleaching. Today we have the first science report related to coral bleaching with a positive aspect.
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Researchers discovered a few so called bright spots in the world’s suffering coral reefs. These bright spots are offering the promise of a completely new approach to save reefs.
Researchers conducted over 6,000 reef surveys in 46 countries and discovered 15 bright spots. In these places there were a lot more fish on coral reefs than expected.
“Given the widespread depletion of coral reef fisheries globally, we were really excited to find these bright spots that were faring much better than we anticipated,” says lead author Professor Josh Cinner from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.
"To be clear, bright spots are not necessarily pristine reefs, but rather reefs that have more fish than they should, given the pressures they face," he added.
“Our bright spots approach has identified places we did not previously know were so successful, and the really interesting thing is that they are not necessarily untouched by man," Co-author, Professor Nick Graham of Lancaster University
The scientists also identified 35 dark spots. Dark spots are reefs with fish stocks in worse shape than expected.
“Dark spots also had a few defining characteristics; they were subject to intensive netting activities and there was easy access to freezers so people could stockpile fish to send to the market,” says Dr. Hicks.
This type of bright spot analysis has been used in fields such as human health to improve the wellbeing of millions of people. It is the first time it has been rigorously developed for conservation.
"We believe that the bright spots offer hope and some solutions that can be applied more broadly across the world’s coral reefs. Specifically, investments that foster local involvement and provide people with ownership rights can allow people to develop creative solutions that help defy expectations of reef fisheries depletion," says Prof. Cinner.
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The study has been published in the journal Nature. Thirty-nine scientists from 34 different universities and conservation groups conducted the research.