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Feb 28, 2008

Researcher says reef can recover from adversity

Story PictureThere is no denying the importance of coral reefs: they act as a safe harbour for fish, protect the coast, help to control the amount of carbon dioxide in the water, and they attract foreign tourists and their hard currency revenues. But reefs are also susceptible to many negative impacts, one of them being that global phenomenon known as climate change. This afternoon, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute held a seminar for stakeholders in Belize’s marine environment to discuss the resilience of our reef in the face of climate change. Facilitating the event was Dr. Peter Mumby who has been conducting research on the reef for twenty years. According to Mumby, the warming of the oceans does not necessarily mean the death of the reef.

Peter Mumby, Marine Researcher
“As the oceans get warmer corals will be bleaching, they get sort of sunburnt, if you like, very, very frequently and this can be very problematic for reefs. We’ve seen this in Belize in the past and we need to do what we can—the people of Belize need to do what they can—to try and give reefs the best chance of bouncing back from warm temperatures in the future.

“We do know from different parts of the world that areas that have been managed, where people have tried to remove the other kinds of stress on the reef, those reefs can recover from climate change, they can recover and they will tend to be healthier. Really the emphasis is, there’s a lot of things we can’t do anything about. There are some things we can do something about; let’s make sure we do that where we can.

It’s really more important than ever that the management agencies here continue the work that they are doing to protect key species in Belize, in particular things like parrot fish. Many people don’t realise that parrot fish for example, are actually very important fish for the reef. They are brightly coloured fish, they are beautiful, they don’t taste so good and they play a very important role in trying to keep the reef healthy. All they do is cruise around munching seaweed each day, keeping the weeds under control. So if you have plenty of parrot fish it just helps the corals to grow without being overrun with weeds.”

Janet Gibson, Wildlife Conservation Society
“I am hoping that many people who attend will go away with a greater understand of the issue that through your presentation for instance on television that would be a greater understanding. And I hope that—this presentation alone won’t be sufficient by any means but whatever way we can contribute to better awareness of the issue, I think that helps.”

The Wildlife Conservation Society and C.Z.M.A.I. team up to hold seminars regularly throughout the year.

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