New Technology Boosts Reef Conservation, Newswise, 11/07/06
Earthwatch-supported scientist Dr. James Crabbe from the University of Bedfordshire, has been awarded the international Aviva/Earthwatch Award for Climate Change Research. The award recognizes the benefits of Crabbe’s research addressing the effects of climate change on the world’s coral reefs.
“A mere 1ºC rise in water temperature could lead to the long-term bleaching, and death, of coral reefs,” said Crabbe, principal investigator of Earthwatch coral reef projects in Jamaica and Belize. “The protective effects of the reef, for marine life and coastal communities, will be compromised and under threat. We need to know as soon as possible if such changes are happening and where.”
The Aviva award, worth £6,000, will be used to purchase an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), which can obtain high quality video images from depths previously uncharted. The funds will also provide for a laser tracking system to measure coral growth using high-resolution images. This new equipment will allow Crabbe’s team to predict the influence of climate change on tropical coral colonies.
“I am delighted and honored to receive the award,” says Dr. Crabbe, who was recognized at a Royal Geographical Society event on October 27, 2006. “The new technology will significantly progress our research, enabling us to work in much deeper water than regular diving will allow.”
By measuring 2,500 corals, Crabbe and teams of volunteers have already demonstrated that severe storms play a key role in the loss of coral, significantly lowering growth and recruitment. Global climate change is widely recognized to increase in intensity of storms in some areas.
“Earthwatch provides a vital opportunity for scientists from many disciplines to work towards an understanding of how global climate change impacts upon our environment and its delicate ecosystems,” said Crabbe.
“The effect of climate change on coral reef colonies is complex and challenging to document,” says Dr. James Burton, science manager at Earthwatch Institute (Europe). “The data acquired using the ROV will allow more accuracy in predicting how coral will respond to environmental change, and so a better understanding of what is needed to sustain the reefs. Earthwatch is very pleased to be supporting this project.”
Aviva is the world’s fifth largest insurance group, with more than 15 million customers worldwide. As an insurer, Aviva is only too well aware of the dramatic impacts that Climate Change can have, by way of flooding and windstorm. Each year, the company awards an Earthwatch-supported scientist with the Award for Climate Change aims to encourage research relating to this phenomenon.
“Climate change is a complex phenomenon and our understanding of it depends upon our appreciation of its separate facets and manifestations,” says Anthony Sampson, director of corporate social responsibility at Aviva. “That is why the work of so many different scientists is important in informing our developing understanding of it. Aviva is proud to have the opportunity of acknowledging the work of some of those scientists via these awards and is delighted this year to recognise Dr. Crabbe’s important work in respect of coral reefs and climate change.”
Earthwatch teams will continue to support Dr. Crabbe’s work in Belize 2007. For more information about Earthwatch’s Belize regional initiative, go to http://www.earthwatch.org/expeditions/belize.html.
Earthwatch Institute (http://www.earthwatch.org) is a global volunteer organization that supports scientific field research by offering members of the public unique opportunities to work alongside leading field scientists and researchers. Earthwatch’s mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. The year 2006 marks Earthwatch’s 35th anniversary.
Be sure to watch A Year on Earth, a two-part special to debut on Discovery Kids Channel on December 3 and 10. A Year on Earth chronicles the adventures of three American teens who join Earthwatch research projects around the world, including research on coral bleaching in the Bahamas. The film reveals how ordinary people can make a difference in the most pressing environmental issues of our time.