The 2012 International Coral Reef Symposium, held in Cairns, Australia, was a gathering of top coral reef scientists and conservation experts from around the world. CORAL was able to send six representatives—the most in our history of attending ICRS—to the weeklong conference, where they were able to network with thousands of peers from around the world, all united in the fight to save coral reef ecosystems. Our team presented highlights of our work, including our successes collaborating with marine recreation providers and facilitating lionfish-control efforts.
In contrast to many scientific gatherings, ICRS 2012 focused heavily on solutions and conservation strategies rather than on pure research. CORAL's representatives returned home with a renewed sense that we—and many of our colleagues—are determined and on the right track to protect our planet's coral reefs.
For more information on ICRS 2012, visit the conference's website.
- Letter from Executive Director Michael Webster
- Rick MacPherson speaks on forming partnerships with marine recreation providers
- CORAL's academic poster on lionfish management
- CORAL speaks with conservation leaders from around the world
- Lionfish invade ICRS!
I am pleased to say that the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) was distinctly different from any other conference I have attended over the years.
Typically, scientific conferences are about presenting the latest, coolest science for science’s sake. ICRS instead focused more on how the science being done can inform conservation solutions. This is encouraging news, because it confirms that we have literally thousands of the brightest scientific minds focused on finding ways to save our planet’s coral reefs.
Don’t get me wrong. The threats to coral reefs, including climate change, overfishing, and poor water quality, are sobering. In fact, in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Roger Bradbury, an ecologist at Australia National University, even went so far as to say that the challenges facing coral reefs are so insurmountable that we should give up on what he calls these “zombie ecosystems.”
But I came back from ICRS optimistic because many of the key themes from presentations demonstrate that a reef zombie apocalypse is far from a certainty. For example:
- Corals are resilient. If given time and good conditions, they can recover from disturbances and adapt quickly to changing conditions. In fact, some corals seem to be pre-adapted to high temperatures or low pH—conditions that are likely to become more common in the future.
- Fish keep reefs healthy. Great strides are being made in understanding how reefs shift from high to low coral cover, but one consistent theme is that fish play an important role. For the first time, the details of that role are emerging and they promise to give much clearer guidance on how reef fisheries can be truly sustainable—for people, for fish, and for the corals that build the reef.
- Local conditions matter. Both local climate and local actions have a big influence on the state of the reef; this means that reducing threats locally can significantly improve coral reef health and that some reefs will be naturally buffered against changing environmental conditions.
Overall, the meeting reaffirmed CORAL’s approach and our resolve, and also ignited an even greater sense of urgency.
For coral reefs to thrive, we need to do everything that we can locally and regionally to reduce stresses on the reef. This is CORAL’s strong suit, and we’re committed to finding ways to do it even smarter and faster.
And on a global scale, we must get a handle on CO2 emissions. Because of their geographical location and biological make-up, coral reefs are particularly susceptible to the higher CO2 conditions we have created; and because of their social and economic importance, coral reefs can frame a story that acts as a rallying cry to action.
We are looking forward to telling that story, while continuing to work with communities around the world to protect reefs on a local scale. But saving coral reefs is going to take more than CORAL, more than the people at ICRS.
Through your partnership with CORAL, you have already taken an important step toward protecting reefs. Now, please get your family and friends to join the fight. In whatever ways you can—Facebook, Twitter, in person, in your business—tell them that coral reefs are at risk and that there is something we can do about it.
Leave the zombies to the movies.