Thursday, April 7, 2011

New study warns that coral reef diversity is under severe threat

The world's most diverse coral reef regions may be under greater threat from human populations than previously thought, according to a new global scientific field study.

Researchers reporting in the journal PlosBiology say that the diverse reef fish systems are the most impaired by human populations -- which runs counter to previous experimental findings which have suggested that these areas were best equipped to deal with biodiversity loss.

"Before, we thought diversity was an insurance against human stressors but it is actually a weakness," said Camilo Mora from Canada's Dalhousie University, and lead author of the study.

The study, which involved researchers from 49 countries, is the first global analysis which tries to link production of coral fish biomass with human population density.

Over a two-year period, researchers gathered biological field data from nearly 2000 reef sites worldwide detailing fish species' weight, size and abundance, enabling them to calculate the cumulative weight of individual reefs (standing biomass). These results were then compared against demographic data.

The hampering effects of human activities -- fishing, coastal development, pollution and tourism -- on reef diversity are well known, but the damage to the ones with most biodiversity -- many of which are situation in Southeast Asia --alarmed the scientists. (read more)