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"Bright Spots" Were Discovered in Our Dead Coral Reefs, What They Mean For The Ocean’s Future

Jun 26, 2016 09:08 PM EDT
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University Of Miami Studies Climate Change Effects On Coral Reef
A piece of Orbicella Faveolata coral is seen in a holding tank at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science after researchers collected the coral from an area of living coral reef off of the South Florida coast on May 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida.
(Photo : Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Reading news about the ocean's coral reefs can be quite depressing. Good news about reefs is hard to come by these days. Usually, a search will lead to headlines of coral bleaching, warming oceans, climate change, overfishing, pollution, and the like.

According to a new study published in the journal Nature, scientists have discovered 15 regions in the Pacific and Indian oceans where coral reefs previously had a dire future, which are now doing better than predictions through ecological models.

The study was held by researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia together with 30 organizations including the National Geographic's Pristine Seas Initiative. They observed 2,500 reefs across 46 countries, and they discovered that areas where humans do not live and fish are doing better than previous predictions.

What changed their predictions? Apparently, it was humans who are living near the reefs. They had low overall impact on those reefs as compared to other locations.

The study claims that people in the communities living near those 15 coral reef locations have had discussions on how to manage the reefs properly. The locals have reef management plans, wherein local fishermen are the ones who are enforcing the policies.

PNR reported that measures to prevent overfishing have proven more effective as opposed to top-down policies from those living outside the communities.

What indicated the revival of the health of these coral reefs were the fish populations, as fish depend on these reefs for food and shelter. When the coral reefs suffer from coral bleaching, which takes place due to warming seas, the number of fish drop as well.

This has been a growing concern among scientists since healthy corals in places like the Great Barrier Reef, have been dying in large swaths.

What does this positive observations prove?

"Our results suggest that investments in strengthening fisheries governance, particularly aspects such as participation and property rights, could facilitate innovative conservation actions that help communities defy expectations of global reef degradation," according to the study authors, as published in the journal Nature.

This is good news for the future of our dead coral reefs. As these bright spots prove, communities have the power to minimize the threats to the world's coral reefs and keep the corals healthy if they work together. That said, if we truly want to save our reefs, it means regulations are not enough to do that. We must also take action to stop further warming of the oceans.

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