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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

ic to NWHI. The threats, all generated by humans, included alien species, bottom fishing, lobster trap fishing, ship-based pollution, ship strike risks, marine debris, research diving, research equipment installation, and wildlife sacrifice for research. Human-induced climate change threats were also studied, including increased ultraviolet radiation, seawater acidification, the number of warm ocean temperature anomalies relevant to disease outbreaks and coral bleaching, and sea level rise.

Risk of increased rates of coral disease due to warming ocean temperature was found to have the highest impact, along with other climate-related threats. However, the authors noted that climate issues cannot be resolved by managers at the regional level. It was noted that threats related to ship traffic are most easily managed by regional management.

"With the scientific justification provided by our study, the managers of the Monument have an opportunity to make addressing the worst threats a top priority as they decide on management strategies," said Selkoe. "By updating the map of cumulative impacts through time, success of management plans in reducing cumulative impacts can be measured, and permits for new uses can be evaluated in the context of how they add to the landscape of cumulative impacts.

"The coral reefs of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands make up the majority of U.S. coral reef area, and we should all be proud that they are some of the most pristine in the world, and fully protected under U.S. law," said Selkoe. "However, threats like marine debris, pollution from shipping, climate change effects and alien species still threaten to degrade these reefs. Our effort to systematically inventory and map the ongoing threats to these reefs, as we have done in this project, is an important part of protecting them."

The authors note that this analysis can serve as a case study for other areas and managers who are interested in mapping
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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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