More than 85 percent of reefs in the “Coral Triangle,” encompassing Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor Leste, are highly threatened by local human activities, a new report revealed.
The Coral Triangle features immense biodiversity – it contains nearly 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs and more than 3,000 species of fish – twice the number found anywhere else in the world.
More than 130 million people living in the region rely on reef ecosystems for food, employment, and revenue from tourism.
The environmental research group World Resources Institute (WRI) report titled, “Reefs at Risk Revisited in the Coral Triangle,” found that the 85 percent figure is “substantially more than the global average of 60 percent.”
The report was conducted in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Coral Triangle Support Partnership (CTSP), a consortium of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), The Nature Conservancy, and Conservation International that assists the six Coral Triangle governments in implementing their regional and national Coral Triangle Initiative plans of action.
Considered the center of coral diversity in the world, the report illustrates the vulnerability of the region’s reefs and highlights strategies to protect them.
Among the many recommendations offered in the report for protecting reefs in the Coral Triangle, the most urgent is to reduce local pressures such as overfishing, destructive fishing, and run-off from land.
It noted that when these threats are combined with recent coral bleaching, prompted by rising ocean temperatures, the percent of reefs rated as threatened increases to more than 90 percent.
“Across the Coral Triangle region, coastal communities depend on coral reefs for food, livelihood, and protection from waves during storms, but the threats to reefs in this region are incredibly high,” Lauretta Burke, senior associate at the WRI and a lead author of the report, said.
“Reefs are resilient – they can recover from coral bleaching and other impacts – particularly if other threats are low. The benefits reefs provide are at risk, which is why concerted action to mitigate threats to reefs across the Coral Triangle region is so important,” she added.
“The influence of coral reefs on the most important aspects of people’s lives cannot be overstated,” Katie Reytar, research associate at the WRI and a lead author, said.
“The influence extends far beyond the Coral Triangle to people around the world who benefit from the fisheries, tourism, medicines, and numerous other services that reefs provide,” she added.
Alan White, a contributing author to the report and senior scientist at The Nature Conservancy and partner at the CTSP, noted that “while there is still room for improvement in increasing the effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs), especially large MPAs that require significant resources to manage, a lot of progress has been made in building up awareness about reef protection at the local level and in providing communities with the tools and resources to manage the reefs that they depend on.”
“(The report) is an important contribution for supporting the six Coral Triangle countries in making critical decisions related to protecting their marine resources,” said Maurice Knight, a contributing author.
“The region-wide perspective on the status of coral reefs as depicted in this report demonstrates the urgency of the situation and the need for immediate action,” Knight added.
By ELLALYN B. DE VERA