Coral Reefs' Smallest Inhabitants Help to Reveal the Big Picture
|Published by Plaid Press, 2010; 204 pages.|
The staggering complexity of coral reef ecosystems can seem daunting, especially when recent research is only serving to highlight how far this complexity extends beyond the reef's visible components into the vast unseen microbial realm...
...but don't feel intimidated! Microbial ecologist Forest Rohwer and science writer Merry Youle manage to make the complicated coral reef story not only accessible, but also highly engaging and compelling. Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas: The Influence of Fishing, Nutrients, Bacteria, Viruses, and Climate Change on Nature's Most Wondrous Constructs will deepen your understanding and appreciation of these incredible ecosystems and the threats they face, whether you are a novice snorkeler or a seasoned scientist.
Written so that it can be read in the space of an afternoon, this slender volume packs a lot of information between its covers. While presenting both the basics and the newly-discovered intricacies of coral reef ecology, Rohwer takes readers on a journey through the history of coral reef research and introduces the important figures who have helped to advance the discipline. Highly amusing anecdotes from a recent expedition to the Line Islands allow readers to meet today's leading coral reef scientists at work and get a personal (if perhaps overly revealing) impression of life on a marine research expedition.
These light-hearted anecdotes balance the serious message that forms the heart of the book's narrative: coral reefs are dying, and we humans are the killers. Rohwer's comprehensive explanation of the interrelationships among corals, microbes, macroalgae, sharks, and other reef organisms elucidates the processes by which human activities are disturbing the delicate balance of reef ecosystems. Climate change and ocean acidification loom on the horizon as serious global threats, but Rohwer concentrates on the local stressors of overfishing and nutrient enrichment, which are the main killers of corals today.
Therein, too, lies Rohwer's concluding message of hope. In the book's final chapter, he sets out three top priorities for ensuring the survival of coral reefs: 1) stop overfishing; 2) stop nutrient additions; and 3) provide increased habitat protection for coral reefs—especially those that are most likely to survive global changes. These solutions are the same ones that CORAL is helping to put into practice, and they are ones we can realistically achieve with enough help, dedication, and creativity from ordinary citizens.
Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas is a highly recommended read for every current or soon-to-be coral reef enthusiast. Neatly characterized by Dr. Nancy Knowlton, the newest member of CORAL's board of directors and Sant Chair in Marine Science at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, "this book brilliantly captures the lives of both coral reefs and the scientists that study them. It is a 21st century version of the Log from the Sea of Cortez—full of wisdom and humor."
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Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas: The Influence of Fishing, Nutrients, Bacteria, Viruses, and Climate Change on Nature's Most Wondrous Constructs is available from online booksellers.
To read an informative interview with author Dr. Forest Rohwer, click here.