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20 Species of Coral At Risk, Says NOAA

Aug 28, 2014 10:17 AM EDT
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The NOAA has officially recognized 20 different types of coral as threatened species, enabling new action to be taken to ensure the preservation of their dwindling habitats in the wake of climate change and human influence.
(Photo : Pixabay)

The NOAA has officially recognized 20 different types of coral as threatened species, enabling new action to be taken to ensure the preservation of their dwindling habitats in the wake of climate change and human influence.

"Coral reefs are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth, providing habitat for many marine species. Protecting and conserving these biologically rich ecosystems is essential, and the Endangered Species Act gives us the tools to conserve and recover those corals ​most in need of protection," Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator of the NOAA Fisheries, said in a recent release.

Sobeck called the amount of scientific information considered in this decision "unprecedented" as NOAA decision-makers analyzed years of work (particularly studies published after 2012) on coral populations, climate change, and how the two are related.

It's important to note that while the NOAA now officially acknowledges that coral reefs are significantly threatened by the effects of climate change, none of the 20 species listed on Wednesday are labeled "endangered." Instead, they are considered "threatened" species, warranting some protection, but nothing too drastic.

Still, any action is good action, according to the NOAA Fisheries. There are currently no prohibitions relating to individual human conduct that may harm these reefs, and that is bound to be the first set of restrictions due to be implemented and enforced.

"We look forward to working with the states, territories, commonwealths, local governments and all our stakeholders and partners to conserve these coral species and ensure they remain for future generations to enjoy," Sobeck said.

Reefs are considered exceptionally important to marine ecosystems. Contrary to popular belief, living reefs are animals, not plants, and serve as important filters and shoreline protectors for numerous fish. In recent years, some coral species have declined in prevalence by up to 90 percent, adversely affected by changing water temperatures, acidification, toxins, and disease.

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