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A Blueprint for Saving Reefs

Climate Change Not So Dangerous Against "Super Reefs"
 
Conservation researchers have discovered that some coral reefs off East Africa are unusually resistant to climate change due to improved management of fisheries. According to the web journal Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, "super reefs" exist in a triangle from Northern Madagascar to Mozambique to Kenya, and should be a high priority for further conservation efforts.
 
Tanzania's corals apparently recovered quickly from the 1998 bleaching event that decimated nearly half of the region's corals. The healing of Tanzania's coral reefs seems due in part to direct management measures, including closures to commercial fishing.  Areas with fishery closures now teem with fish that feed on harmful algae, while the few sites without any specific management measures remain degraded - one site had experienced a population explosion of sea urchins, which are pests that feed on corals.
 
The findings also show that the structure of the reefs play a major factor in their resiliency.  Tanzania's reefs have unusual variations in water temperature and flow.  These factors allow for greater endurance of a higher diversity of coral species, including those that can quickly re-colonize after bleaching.
 
As this study suggests, reefs that have ecological conditions comparable to Tanzania's may have the ability to heal from large-scale climate changes and human disturbances.  Similar reefs should be a priority for protection under projected climate change scenarios in which many reefs are anticipated to experience further ruination.

By Neil Whitehall
Get Marine Biology Jobs, Contributing Editor

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