Reefs at Risk - 1998


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Findings from the 1998 WRI report - Reefs at Risk: A Map-Based Indicator of Threats to the World's Coral Reefs ( - to be revisited in 2010.

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  • We know surprisingly little about these biologically unique ecosystems. Much of our global picture of reefs dates from Darwin’s days....his explorations led to the first global map of reefs. Although we have improved on this map, to date we don’t know the condition of reefs world-wide, although experts have made back-of-the-envelope guesstimates.
  • Today the World Resources Institute will unveil the results of a two-year study.....the first-ever systematic, data-driven assessment of threats to coral reefs around the world.
  • 46 WRI worked with partners at the International Center for Living Aquatic Marine Resources in the Philippines, and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in the U.K and----with the help of leading coral reef experts from around the world----to map where reefs are at risk from overfishing, coastal development and other human activities.
  • The results of this assessment are sobering...the authors found that nearly 60% of the world’s reefs are threatened, while those of Southeast Asia----the global center of marine biodiversity---are under greatest risk of any region. Most U.S. reefs are threatened.
  • 9 Let me tell you what is at stake...
  • .......our natural heritage......reefs have been likened to the rainforests of the sea......harboring more species than any other aquatic habitat.....
  • .......a source of food for the world’s poor. One-fifth of all animal protein consumed by humans comes from the sea. According to one estimate, reef s provide fish and seafood for one billion people in Asia alone, many of them among the planet’s most impoverished citizens....
  • ......economic opportunities....reefs are a major tourism draw, and tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global economy...
  • medicinal recent years bacterial infections in humans have become increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Coral reef species hold forth particular promise for scientists seeking new drugs to combat disease. Indeed, one-half of all new cancer research may focus on marine organisms..
  • all, reefs have been estimated to provide some $375 billion dollars a year in environmental goods and services to the world’s people. Their degradation has far-reaching biological and economic consequences to current and future generations.
  • 24 I’d now like to turn the podium over to Lauretta Burke and Dirk Bryant, two of the lead authors, to tell you about our study and the results of this assessment...
  • {LAURETTA BURKE) It is surprising to learn that fewer than 10% of the world’s coral reefs have been assessed by scientists. Given the limited information available on the status of the world’s reefs, how is it that we were able to build a standardized, global map of threats to reefs?
  • 25 We did this by developing a predictor of threat, rather than focusing on actual measures of reef condition. This is similar to the way medical researchers predict cancer incidence by looking at cigarette use, diet, and other Threat Factors, rather than looking directly at the health of each individual in the population.
  • Using some sophisticated computer modeling techniques, -we predicted threat based on a reef’s proximity to cities, shipping lanes, oil rigs, and many other features associated with human activities that contribute to reef degradation. -Our modeling is based on 800 reef locations known to be degraded by human activity, and 14 global maps of population and infrastructure features.
  • We worked closely with over 30 coral reef scientists from around the world, to develop the model, revise data sets, and review the results.
  • For purposes of our analysis, we examined threats to reefs from 4 broad categories. - Coastal development - Marine pollution - Overexploitation - Inland pollution and sediments
  • Coastal Development has both direct and indirect impacts on reefs. Dredging of harbors, extraction of coral for construction materials, and building things such as airports atop coral reefs result in their out right destruction. Sewage discharge from coastal communities promotes growth of algae blocking sunlight, which corals need to survive. Even tourism, when unregulated, can pose a problem.
  • Although tourist $ are one of the greatest incentives for protecting these ecosystems, tourists are capable of loving of a reef to death. Touching, taking bits and trampling reefs are small impacts, which, individually, can accumulate to weaken or destroy a reef.
  • We estimated threats to reefs from coastal development based upon proximity to cities, settlements, airports, mines, and tourist resorts. Our rules for proximity are summarized in the report. For example, any reef within 20 km. Of a city of 1 million people is at high risk.
  • 32 This produced the map of estimated threats shown here. Areas in Red and Yellow are those at High and Medium risk, respectively from coastal development.
  • We used a similar approach to predict where reefs are threatened by marine- based pollution. Especially oil spills from tankers and rigs and discharge of oily ballast water from boats.
  • We identified refs at risk from marine pollution based on their proximity to ports, oil tanks & wells, and areas of intense shipping traffic.
  • The 3rd threat we examined relates to the unsustainable harvest of reef species. Overfishing changes the composition of reef communities, which can have cascading effects on the entire ecosystem. In the Caribbean, for example, elimination of sea urchins, which graze on algae, has been linked to algal overgrowth, and the decline of many reefs. A wide array of destructive fishing practices devastate reefs. In the Philippines, this fishing vessel is headed to practice Muro Ami fishing. Where lots of people bang on the reef with bags filed with rocks in order to drive fish out of crevices.
  • In many areas, fishers use dynamite or poisons, which devastate corals. The men pictured here are using cyanide in order to stun live fish, for sale in the very lucrative “live fish trade” in southeast Asia. Chinese in Hong Kong have paid as much as $300 per plate for a live fish dinner. But, this is risky business for the fisherman and devastating for the coral reefs.
  • 36 To capture these threats, we mapped areas where destructive fishing is rampant, using a combination of expert opinion and documented occurrences of blast or cyanide fishing. In addition, we used population density to identify areas at risk from overfishing.
  • The fourth threat factor which we examined was inland pollution and sediments. Sediment, pesticides and other pollution from human activities far inland can damage coral reefs when transported by rivers into coastal waters. (see plume). Deforestation, cultivation on steep slopes, and poor agricultural practices are several of the upstream threats that can smother a coral.
  • 38 We modeled “erosion potential” for 3000 watersheds throughout the tropics, using data on slope, land cover and precipitation. We were able to estimate the “sediment plumes” extending from coastal river mouths. (In red). These are the zones where corals are likely to be at risk.
  • 46 Finally, we integrated our 4 threat Maps with reef locations to build an overall Map of Threats to Reefs (as shown here). Reefs classified as at risk are those that were threatened by at least 1 of the 4 categories we considered. Reefs at high risk (those in red) are the areas where, in the absence of good management to protect the resource, reef degradation would be expected to occur. It is important to note that we did not have the technology of the data to implement this analysis a few year ago. This is a new, cost-effective approach to looking at threats to these ecosystems. Dirk will now present some of the key findings from this analysis.
  • 47 {DIRK BRYANT} I’m going to run through seven key findings that came out of our study... ....first of all, most of the world’s reefs are threatened today. 58 percent were found at risk, and over a quarter at high risk. The picture is especially grim within some regions and countries....
  • 50 38 ...reefs of Southeast Asia, the most species-rich on earth, are also the most threatened. Over 80% are at risk, and more than half at high risk. These reefs are the global center of marine biodiversity....
  • 53 ....Third, as this map illustrates, much of the world’s marine biodiversity is at stake. As part of our study, we compared threatened reefs with those known to have the greatest number of fish species. This is the first time such an analysis has been done. What you see here are reef areas that exhibit extraordinarily high levels of such biodiversity. Those in red are at risk....what we call global reef biodiversity hotspots. One quarter of Southeast Asia’s reefs, and about a fifth of those of the Caribbean qualify as hotspots.
  • ....Moving close to home, we found that almost two-thirds of Caribbean reefs are in jeopardy. Virtually all of the reefs on the Antilles chain.....which as you see here, include the islands Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica and other vacation favorites.....are at high risk. Reefs off Jamaica, for example, have been ravaged as a result of overfishing and pollution.
  • Many resemble graveyards....algae-covered, and depleted of fish. At stake is a multi-billion dollar tourism industry, accounting for half of the region’s GNP.
  • ....Our fifth finding is that most U.S. reefs are in trouble. Almost all of the reefs off of Florida are threatened, from a range of factors. These include runoff of fertilizers and pollutants from farms, to poorly planned recreational and coastal development. Almost half of Hawaii’s reefs are at Risk, while virtually all of Puerto Rico’s reefs are under high threat.
  • 48 36 ...sixth finding...globally, we found overfishing and destructive fishing practices pose the most far-reaching threat to reefs. Just as commercial hunters gunned down the buffalo in the American West a hundred years ago, leaving empty grasslands in their wake, fishers are plundering even the most remote reefs of groupers, giant clams and other valued species. We were able to document that 36% of all reefs are threatened as a result of these activities.....but we know this is a conservative estimate.
  • This is supported by results from recent diver surveys of 300 reefs around the world, through a volunteer program called REEFCHECK. At least 90% of the sites surveyed were found to be effected by overfishing. In fact, some experts claim that virtually no reef on the planet can be considered truly pristine today, as a result of overfishing.
  • ...finally, the world’s reefs are woefully unprotected. At least 40 countries of the world fail to offer any form of protection to their reefs in the form of marine parks or reserves. Where such sanctuaries exist, most are poorly protected. And more than a third of marine protected areas which encompass reefs.....150 sites.....are less than a square kilometer (a few hundred acres) in size....far below the minimum size needed to maintain their biological integrity.
  • In our report you will find profiles of twelve reefs at risk from around the world. Compiled by our experts, these profiles illustrate the types of threats reefs face, and what is at stake should these ecosystems be irreparably damaged.
  • ...however, the news is not all bad.. Many of the steps needed to safeguard reefs are win-win solutions for both the environment and for people. For example, creating marine parks and sanctuaries enriches local communities by attracting tourists and may benefit nearby fisheries by protecting breeding stock of valued species....
  • ...treating domestic sewage and minimizing agricultural runoff leads to improved water quality, which has both environmental and health benefits...
  • ...and by eliminating perverse and often costly subsidies to fisheries and agriculture, governments cut costs and minimize wasteful practices that lead to the degradation of coral reef habitats.
  • …in the report, we summarize some of the actions that can be taken to combat threats to reefs. These include… ...promoting economic activities that are good for both reefs and people ...coastal zone management and planning…teaching communities how to manage their reefs so they provide a long-term source of jobs and income …involving people that live near reefs in decision making…so that they feel they have a stake in helping to conserve these habitats …law enforcement …and outright reef protection
  • In our report we also profile 7 signs of promise…areas where communities are successfully applying these solutions to protect their reef resources… …for example, in Bermuda, where the tourism industry was generating 7 million more than revenues from trap fishing, a practice which resulted in precipitous declines in key reef fish speci8es, business and government have gotten fishers to give up these destructive harvesting practices… …or off of Apo Island in the Philippines, local communities have set up reef sanctuaries, generating tourism dollars and improving fish catch in surrounding waters… …ultimately it is there frontline efforts that will assure that reefs at risk today are maintained as healthy ecosystems in the future.
  • Reefs at Risk - 1998

    1. 1. Dirk Bryant Lauretta Burke John McManus Mark Spalding A collaboration of World Resources Institute International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management World Conservation Monitoring Centre United Nations Environment Programme
    2. 2. Coral Reefs as mapped by Darwin
    3. 3. Reefs At Risk is the first ... <ul><li>Systematic assessment of threats to the world’s coral reefs </li></ul><ul><li>Global map showing location of reefs at risk </li></ul>
    4. 4. The Reefs at Risk Indicator Low Medium High
    5. 5. Results are sobering ... <ul><li>Nearly 60% of the world’s reefs were found to be at risk from human activities </li></ul><ul><li>Reefs with the highest levels of biodiversity are threatened </li></ul><ul><li>Most U.S. reefs are at risk </li></ul>
    6. 6. Why Reefs Matter
    7. 7. Coral reefs are often called the “Rainforests of the Sea” <ul><li>About 4,000 species of fish and 800 species of reef-building coral have been identified </li></ul>
    8. 8. Coral reefs are a vital protein source for many ... <ul><li>Globally, one-fifth of all animal protein consumed by humans comes from marine environments </li></ul><ul><li>Coral reefs provide food for one billion people in Asia alone </li></ul>
    9. 9. Beach-related tourism is a major revenue earner ... <ul><li>Florida’s reefs contribute $1.6 billion to the economy from tourism alone </li></ul><ul><li>Caribbean countries derive half of their GDP from tourism ($8.9 billion in 1990) </li></ul>
    10. 10. Coral reefs can save human lives. Extracts are used to ... <ul><li>Treat infections, viruses, and other diseases </li></ul><ul><li>Prevent and treat skin cancer </li></ul><ul><li>Provide bone grafts </li></ul>
    11. 11. Coral reefs are a valuable resource <ul><li>Average Global Value of Ecosystem Services ($/HA/YR) </li></ul>From Costanza et al.
    12. 12. The Reefs at Risk Indicator
    13. 13. Global distribution of coral reefs
    14. 14. The Reefs at Risk indicator ... <ul><li>First global map of likely threats to coral reefs </li></ul><ul><li>Predicts threat, not actual reef condition </li></ul>
    15. 15. We predicted threat based on proximity to damaging human activity... <ul><li>Using a geographic information system (GIS) computer model </li></ul><ul><li>Incorporating 800 reef locations known to be degraded as benchmarks </li></ul><ul><li>Using 14 global maps </li></ul>
    16. 16. Coral reef experts from around the world helped ... <ul><li>Develop the computer model </li></ul><ul><li>Revise data </li></ul><ul><li>Review results </li></ul>
    17. 17. Threats to reefs from four broad categories ... <ul><li>Coastal development </li></ul><ul><li>Marine pollution </li></ul><ul><li>Overexploitation of resources </li></ul><ul><li>Inland pollution and sediments </li></ul>
    18. 18. Coastal development ... <ul><li>Dredging </li></ul><ul><li>Construction materials </li></ul><ul><li>Building on reefs </li></ul><ul><li>Nutrients from sewage </li></ul><ul><li>Sediments </li></ul><ul><li>Unregulated tourism </li></ul>
    19. 19. Tourists can love reefs to death
    20. 20. Coastal development stress factors ... <ul><li>Cities </li></ul><ul><li>Settlements </li></ul><ul><li>Airports and military bases </li></ul><ul><li>Mines </li></ul><ul><li>Tourist resorts </li></ul>
    21. 21. Estimated threat from coastal development Low Medium High
    22. 22. Marine pollution <ul><li>Oil spills </li></ul><ul><li>Discharge of oily ballast water </li></ul>
    23. 23. Marine pollution stress factors <ul><li>Ports </li></ul><ul><li>Oil tanks and wells </li></ul><ul><li>Areas of intense shipping traffic </li></ul>
    24. 24. Overexploitation and destructive fishing <ul><li>Muro Ami Fishing </li></ul><ul><li>Overfishing </li></ul>
    25. 25. Destructive fishing damages reefs <ul><li>Blast fishing </li></ul><ul><li>Fishing with cyanide </li></ul>
    26. 26. Destructive fishing practices in Southeast Asia are widespread Areas at High Risk
    27. 27. Rivers transport inland pollution directly to reefs <ul><li>Soil sediments resulting from deforestation </li></ul><ul><li>Inappropriate agricultural practices </li></ul>
    28. 28. Inland pollution and erosion <ul><li>Erosion potential modeled for 3000 watersheds </li></ul><ul><li>Estimated sediment “plume” at river mouth </li></ul>
    29. 29. Integrated results: The Reefs at Risk indicator Low Medium High
    30. 30. 58% of the world’s reefs are at risk from human activities Finding 1
    31. 31. Reefs of Southeast Asia are the most threatened Finding 2
    32. 32. Many areas of high diversity are also very threatened Low Medium High Finding 3
    33. 33. Almost two-thirds of Caribbean reefs are threatened Low Medium High Finding 4 Jamaica Barbados U.S. Virgin Islands
    34. 34. Coral graveyards
    35. 35. Most reefs within U.S. waters are threatened Florida Puerto Rico and U.S.Virgin Islands Hawaii Low Medium High Finding 5
    36. 36. Overexploitation and coastal development are the greatest threats to reefs Finding 6
    37. 37. Virtually no reef can be considered pristine today <ul><li>ReefCheck survey finds most reefs overfished </li></ul>90%
    38. 38. The world’s reefs are not sufficiently protected ... <ul><li>40 countries contain no protected reef areas </li></ul><ul><li>Management goals of most marine protected areas (MPAs) are not met </li></ul>Finding 7
    39. 39. 12 threatened reefs profiled
    40. 40. Reefs and people can co-exist Reefs and people can co-exist
    41. 41. Treating sewage protects reefs and human health
    42. 42. Eliminating perverse subsidies protects reefs
    43. 43. Signs of Promise
    44. 44. Combating threats to coral reefs ... <ul><li>Solutions include </li></ul><ul><ul><li>environment-friendly economic opportunities </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>coastal zone planning and management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>education </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>participatory decision-making </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>enforcing laws </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>protection (marine parks and reserves) </li></ul></ul>
    45. 45. Seven success stories profiled Seven success stories profiled Apo Bermuda
    46. 46. Healthy Reefs
    47. 47.