Pacific's reefs bouncing back?
July 12, 2008
Coral reefs in the islands of the Pacific have been granted a clean bill of health in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where leading marine scientists have been meeting since Monday as part of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium.
Director of the University of the South Pacific's Institute of Marine Studies Dr Ken Mackay reported data shows that corals that had suffered severe bleaching had recovered.
"It's been good news all around," Dr Mackay told islandsbusiness.com
"Our monitors around the islands of the Pacific are all reporting recovery from the bleaching coral suffered in 2000 and 2002 to 2004."
Coral recovery has been nothing short of spectacular in some areas, the university marine biologist told the international symposium.
Some corals on Beqa Island, in Fiji, for example, suffered 80 per cent bleaching in 2000, with some species inflicted 100 per cent.
"Bleaching in Beqa actually spurred the formation of the network to monitor the health of coral reefs not only around Fiji but in islands around the Pacific as well," Dr Mackay said.
"Our data for 2007 shows that coral cover is as good as before coral bleaching struck.
"In some areas, corals are much more diverse than pre-bleaching time."
Resilience in coral reefs in the Pacific is being widely discussed during the five day conference inside the sprawling Greater Fort Lauderdale-Boward County Convention Centre on Eisenhower Boulevard.
Scientists are keen to see the lessons learnt, especially as coral reefs that were stricken with bleaching in the Caribbean have yet to undergo similar recovery as seen in the Pacific.
The consensus seems to suggest that healthy corals recover much more quickly.
Signs of coral reef recovery, Dr Mackay said in his report, had been seen in Samoa, proof that the system had recovered from the effects of a cyclone it suffered three to four years ago.
"The impact of the tsunami on corals in the Solomon Islands is still to be known and we will need to continue monitoring there.
"For Tuvalu, monitoring for now is limited to the lagoons of Funafuti and figures are suggesting a somewhat reduced coral cover. This can be attributed we suspect to land degradation in the country's capital."
That the coral reefs in Fiji and around the islands of the Pacific seemed to be healthy took Dr Mackay and his team of monitors by surprise.
"With some incidence of coral bleaching reported in 2002 and again in 2004, we were actually bracing to see more cases of bleaching this year," Dr Mackay said.
"But this has not happened and I suspect that this could be the result of the two cyclones that came to Fiji in 2007."
Dr Mackay was accompanied to the international coral reef symposium by his colleagues Edward Lovell, Isoa Korovulavula, Patrick Fong and Zaidy Khan.
Through sponsorship from the Washington DC-based marine conservation NGO Seaweb, two Pacific journalists Titi Gabi of Papua New Guinea and Samisoni Pareti of Fiji-based Islands Business magazine were among a group of 16 invited from around the world to provide coverage of the five-day gathering that ends in this sea-side holiday city on Friday
Among the group was Pulitzer Prize winner, Ken Weiss of the Los Angeles Times, Tim Radford of the Guardian in London, Steve Conover of The Independent in London as well and Corriene Podger of Australia's ABC.
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