Q&A: the importance of protecting coral reefs

Polly Ghazi from World Resources Institute, part of the Guardian Environment Network, asks Lauretta Burke to explain why the recent designation of 195,000 square miles of coral rich marine habitat in the Pacific Ocean is important to global reef conservation efforts

What are the major threats that face the world’s coral reefs and what more needs to be done to protect them?

There’s a wide variety of threats affecting coral reefs, some local in nature and some global. Of the local threats, one of the most pervasive is overfishing pressure which can be reduced by this sort of Monument Status and by restrictions on commercial fishing within these reserves. Some other local threats include coastal development and runoff from the land, also runoff from excessive fertilizer application, and in some areas, tourism impacts. The global threats are obviously more difficult to deal with. As we emit more greenhouse gasses we’re getting warmer seas. We’re also getting acidifying seas. So it’s important that there are actions to reduce the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly CO2. But a combination of local action and global action is needed because, as reefs face increasing pressure from these global threats, one thing we can do is reduce the local threats, thereby giving them a better chance to recover after an event like coral bleaching.

Polly Ghazi, The Guardian. 22 January 2009. Full article.

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