A recent study published by One Earth has revealed the troubled state of coral reefs globally and their impact on the ecosystem. The researchers established that the coral reefs’ capacity to offer ecological services relied upon by humans has declined by 50% since the 1950s.
The study, conducted by the University of British Columbia, found that coral reefs offer key ecological services such as food provision and protection from storms and floods. It was determined that human activities such as overfishing, climate change and habitat destruction were responsible for the declining state of the corals. The study offers the first comprehensive look at how these human activities affect coral reefs’ ability to provide essential benefits and services to humans.
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Lead author Dr. Tyler Eddy, a research associate at the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries (IOF), said that coral reefs must be protected. “It’s a call to action – we’ve been hearing this time and time again from fisheries and biodiversity research,” Eddy said. “We know coral reefs are biodiversity hotspots. And preserving biodiversity not only protects nature, but supports the humans that use these species for cultural, subsistence and livelihood means.”
Researchers analyzed decades of coral reefs trends using data from various surveys and studies. According to senior author Dr. William Cheung, professor and director of IOF, “This study speaks to the importance of how we manage coral reefs not only at regional scales, but also at the global scale, and the livelihoods of communities that rely on them.”
Researchers also noted significant drops in fish catches. The study found that fish catches peaked in 2002 and steadily declined over the years. The catch per unit effort is now 60% lower than in 1950.
Lead image via Pexels