Coral reefs in the Caribbean have suffered significant changes due to the proximal effects of a growing human population, reports a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B.
It is well acknowledged that coral reefs are declining worldwide but the driving forces remain hotly debated, said author Camilo Mora at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. In the Caribbean alone, these losses are endangering a large number of species, from corals to sharks, and jeopardizing over 4 billion dollars in services worth from fisheries, tourism and coastal protection, he added.
The continuing degradation of coral reefs may be soon beyond repair, if threats are not identified and rapidly controlled, Mora said. This new study moves from the traditional localized study of threats to a region-wide scale, while simultaneously analyzing contrasting socioeconomic and environmental variables, he added.
The study monitored coral reefs, including corals, fishes and macroalgae, in 322 sites across 13 countries throughout the Caribbean. The study was complemented with a comprehensive set of socioeconomic databases on human population density, coastal development, agricultural land use and environmental and ecological databases, which included temperature, hurricanes, productivity, coral diseases and richness of corals. The data were analyzed with robust statistical approaches to reveal the causes of coral reef degradation in that region.
The study showed clearly that the number of people living in close proximity to coral reefs is the main driver of the mortality of corals, loss of fish biomass and increases in macroalgae abundance. A comparative analysis of different human impacts revealed that coastal development, which increases the amount of sewage and fishing pressure (by facilitating the storage and export of fishing products) was mainly responsible for the mortality of corals and loss of fish biomass. Additional
|Contact: Camilo Mora|
Census of Marine Life