The Asia Pacific is an important region for marine resources and home to over half of the world’s underwater species. Coral reefs provide the ecosystems that support this diversity and also provide an important source of their livelihood for people in Asia, mainly from fishing and tourism.
In many areas, rapid economic development and associated pollution problems have caused widespread destruction of coral reefs. These threats, together with the warming of sea temperatures due to climate change, mean coral reefs are in serious danger in many parts of the region. Mass bleaching has now affected every reef region in the world and in recent months the extent and severity of coral bleaching has been increasing, particularly in Thailand and its neighbouring countries.
Last year, the first Asia Pacific Coral Reef Symposium was successfully organised by the Chinese University of Hong Kong and attracted participants from 27 countries. This year the venue switched to Thailand and Phuket where delegates gathered under the theme "Collaboration for Coral Reef Conservation in a Changing Climate".
One of the key speakers at the conference was Dr. Tom Goreau, coordinator of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development Partnership in New Technologies for Small Island Developing States. Dr.Goreau and his team from the Global Coral Reef Alliance developed the HotSpot method to correctly predict location, timing, extent, and severity of coral bleaching. "We have long warned that complacency over the apparent lack of continuous increase in bleaching was merely a fool’s paradise," he explained. "The relatively stable temperatures since the last episode in 1998 were caused by the fact that heat is penetrating into the deep sea rather than building up at the surface. Although 2010 is less than half over, it now appears that massive bleaching death could happen this year."
Despite these worrying findings, new technologies such as Biorock® can save corals from dying from heat shock. Powered by large scale use of wave, wind, solar, and tidal current power, Biorock increases coral growth rates 2-6 times (depending on species and conditions), and has already increased coral survival from severe heat shock by 16-50 times in the Maldives. GCRA is now working with governments and local groups interested in saving their coral reefs to immediately implement Biorock Arks to save corals from global warming extinction wherever funding can be found. This may be the last chance to preserve coral reefs and those who rely on them.
By Jules Kay