The answer to problems at sea could start at better management of land. A key part of the solution to the problem of dying coral reefs could be reforestation and better land management. This could help reduce the sediment run-off from land to sea, thus building resilience and supporting growth, says a new study.
Coral reefs are home to a diversity of organisms and support the marine ecosystem in multiple ways. Sedimentation is one of the problems that originate on land and poses a serious threat to coral reefs. Apart from sediment run-off, toxic substances, nutrients, plastic & microplastic, and human-generated waste are some of the other problems that start on land and end up damaging coral reefs.
After an analysis of 5,500 coastal regions around the world, the study found that about 85% of these regions threatened the coral reefs with sediment run-off from land to ocean. This leads to a reduction in light levels, which hampers growth and reproduction in coral reefs and sea grass.
“Increased sedimentation can cause aquatic ecosystems to be more sensitive to heat stress, which decreases the resilience of corals to pressures caused by climate change. If the link between the land and sea is not recognised and managed separately, any future efforts to conserve marine habitats and species are likely to be ineffective,” said Dr. Andrés Suárez-Castro, one of the authors of this study.
Reforestation can effectively reduce the sediment run-off to the sea. Not only does this help manage the sedimentation threat, but it is also an important step to ensure that other efforts to save the reefs are effective.
“If land management to reduce sediment runoff does not become a global priority, it will become increasingly challenging, if not impossible, to protect marine ecosystems in the face of climate change. If an average of 1000 hectares of forest was restored per coastal basin, land-based sediments reaching coral reefs could be cut by an average of 8.5 percent among 63,000 square kilometres of reefs,” added Dr. Suárez-Castro.
The results of this study have been published in the Global Change Biology journal.
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