Bright Spots Within Coral Reefs Suggest They Could Ultimately Be Saved

Coral reefs in the Bahamas, as seen from the International Space Station. Tim Peake/ESA/NASA via Getty Images

Unfortunately, there are two sides to every coin: The international team of researchers also identified 35 “dark spots” where the fish populations were far lower than even the most conservative estimates would have anticipated. These were found all over the world in every single major ocean basin, and were strongly correlated with areas that featured high-tech or overzealous fishing industries.

It’s unclear whether or not the dark spots can be converted back into somewhat brighter spots, but it appears that local participation and understanding of both fishing governance and reef conservation may be the way forwards. The bright spots themselves are not completely insulated from human activity either, and future climate change, pollution or overfishing could turn them into dark spots.

Science is doing its best to preserve the world’s coral reefs, not just because they provide incredible biodiversity to the world’s seas, but because millions of people depend on them for food.

Engagement between the fishers and the local communities appeared to result in more biodiverse reefs, such as in the Solomon Islands, pictured here. Marci Peravia/Shutterstock

Just recently, a study found that some coral have genes pertaining to high heat resistance, which means that they are more resilient in the world’s warming oceans than others. The hope is that this genetic heat shield can be used to produce corals that can survive the effects of man-made climate change, although this should only be seen as a temporary Band-Aid.

What’s really required, of course, is to stop overfishing in coral reefs, and – most of all – to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions before it is too late.

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