Confronting the Coral Reef Crisis - Nature Essay Example

            Coral reef management must sustain the ability of coral reefs to provide ecosystem goods which human survival depends upon - Confronting the Coral Reef Crisis introduction. The decline of coral reefs has required management practices to be analyzed for improvement. The decline of coral reefs is causing catastrophic consequences among many ecosystems. In order to adequately change the current management practices a complete understanding of the crisis must be understood. Without human impact, reefs can rebuild themselves after naturally occurring events, such as hurricanes (Bellwood, et al, 827). However, the effect that human activity has on the reefs is shaping the ecosystems. These activities lead to an alternate structure of the reef. Until presently, there has been little success in predicting these phase shifts because of increased instability (Bellwood, et al, 827). In addition, the management systems must take into account the varying species and make up of the different coral reefs around the world in order to reverse the current decline. The functional groups within a reef are central to their capacity to resist phase changes as well as regenerate after a disturbance (Bellwood, et al, 831).

            There are four major recommendations for managing human activities in coral reef ecosystems. The first is that the rate of establishment and size of no-take areas (NTAs) need to be increased as tools for resilience management. The second is that the focus of NTAs and hotspots must not be a deterrent from improved management measure in reef areas heavily affected by human activity. Third, reef management needs to be more proactive, inclusive and responsive. Fourth, markets for reef resources must provide economic incentives in order to prevent exploitation of reef species (Bellwood, et al, 832). The differences among these four recommendations are simply that they each allow for better protection of coral reefs in different ways. Some scientists choose one viewpoint over another based on personal opinion and scientific research as the better way to protect the coral reef and reverse the damage already done.

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            There are many scientific and government studies that have been conducted in order to better understand the degradation of the coral reefs and what can be done to save them. For example, the NTAs are an effective way to manage coral reefs if they are properly enforced. Some experts believe this isn’t the best way to manage the coral reefs because there isn’t always enough enforcement. In addition, NTAs are too small compared to human activity (Bellwood, et al, 831). Hotspots are areas where an abundance of certain species grows. These hotspots provide hope for the protection of the coral reefs. However, many studies have shown that these hotspots must not prevent scientists and activists from continuing to work towards preserving and protecting coral reefs.

            The most convincing way to manage the coral reefs is through proactive, inclusive and responsive action. This is the best way because it can include so many different people who care about the coral reefs. Scientists can continue to actively study the ecosystems of the coral reefs and devise ways to help manage them better. It can also include governmental incentives to those willing to protect the coral reef species as well as prevent the exploitation of threatened species. This idea is so convincing because it doesn’t take anything more than care for the coral reef. The first two ideas are less convincing because they have been in place for awhile and haven’t really helped reverse the problem. Adequate enforcement isn’t used in order to help manage the coral reefs and hotspots are preventing further research because of the false idea that all coral reef areas are thriving. It is absolutely necessary to manage the coral reef ecosystems.

Bellwood, D.R.; Hughes, T.P.; Folke, C. & Nystrom, M. 2004. Confronting the coral reef

            crisis. Nature. 429: 827 – 833.

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