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The fragility of the world's coral is revealed through a study of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Date:4/6/2009

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) A new study by researchers from UC Santa Barbara's National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) sheds light on how threats to the world's endangered coral reef ecosystems can be more effectively managed.

In a recent issue of the journal Coral Reefs, lead authors Kimberly A. Selkoe and Benjamin S. Halpern, both of NCEAS, explain how their maps of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) a vast area stretching over 1,200 miles can be used to make informed decisions about protecting the world's fragile reefs.

Coral reef ecosystems are at risk due to the direct and indirect effects of human activities. This study was designed to help natural resource managers make decisions on issues such as surveillance priorities, granting of permits for use, and discernment of which areas to monitor for climate change effects.

"Our maps of cumulative human impact are a powerful tool for synthesizing and visualizing the state of the oceans," said first author Selkoe, who is also affiliated with Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii. "The maps can aid in strategically zoning uses of oceans in an informed way that maximizes commercial and societal benefits while minimizing further cumulative impact."

"President (George W.) Bush declared the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands a National Monument in 2006, in part because it is one of the last places in the oceans that have not been heavily altered by human activities," said Halpern. "Our maps of cumulative human impact on these islands show that, despite their extreme isolation, humans are already significantly impacting this special place, and that many of the key threats, such as those associated with climate change, are not mitigated with Monument designation. We must continue to act to protect these islands and coral atolls if we hope to preserve them for future generations."

The authors studied 14 threats specif
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Contact: Gail Gallessich
gail.g@ia.ucsb.edu
805-893-7220
University of California - Santa Barbara
Source:Eurekalert  

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