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Reef scientists adapt ideas from investment world to assist coral reef conservation


University of Queensland

Scientists have identified a portfolio of the world’s reefs most likely to survive the coming decades, using principles from the financial investment world.


University of Queensland researchers collaborated with 18 international experts to identify reefs that could be less vulnerable to climate change, yet are well positioned to help regenerate surrounding, less fortunate coral reefs.

UQ Global Change Institute Director Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg said coral reefs had been, and would continue to be, differently impacted by climate change.

“The identification of reefs with the best opportunity to survive over coming decades may hold the key to the long-term survival and recovery of reefs everywhere,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said. “Despite high levels of uncertainty, it may be possible to both identify and prioritise investment in these reefs, in a similar way asset managers deal with the investment risks associated with financial portfolios.”

UQ’s Dr Emma Kennedy said significant research had focused on the loss of corals, but the reefs most likely to survive could represent important conservation opportunities. “These reefs urgently require protection from other non-climate change related stresses, such as overfishing, pollution, and land-based sedimentation,”

“We know that heat stress and storms are two of the major climate-related threats to reefs, and we used the latest global datasets to map which locations might have a better chance of surviving the coming decades.”

“Of these reefs, it is those that are well placed to supply other reefs with larvae that could be crucially important to the survival of coral reefs in the future.”

Dr Hawthorne Beyer said accounting for uncertainty in predicted future conditions allowed the researchers to reduce the risk of widespread failure across the portfolio, with only a small impact on the expected benefits.

“Now we must assess the portfolio alongside field knowledge, local threats and political opportunity in these places,” Dr Beyer said.

“While this work provides a new approach and vision for prioritising conservation investments, existing coral reef conservation initiatives remain critical for providing benefits at more local scales.”

Full story here.

Scientific study here.