We are all aware of the massive, negative affects that global warming and climate change are wreaking on our Ocean Environment. Coral Bleaching events like the massive loss of coral reefs on the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 (see 2016 the Hottest Year in Recorded History), ocean acidification, loss of fish populations, and marine migrations are all symptoms of global warming. However, some hopeful signs have just been reported in an article in Science Daily, Feb., 2017. and BioScience that show examples of resilient marine ecosystems. (photo – Jennifer O’Leary)
Surprising Resilience and Recovery
A survey of 97 experts in coastal ecosystems showed that the impact of climate disturbance on these ecosystems is profound, but also shows that there are areas of resilience to these climate forces and this resilience appears in all types of ecosystems, worldwide. Jennifer O’Leary a Marine Biologist at Polytechnic State University and her colleagues produced the survey and determined that 80% of those experts that had witnessed climate disruption had also seen evidence of resistance to these disturbances or rapid recovery from them.
Bright Spots of Resilient Marine Ecosystems
“O’Leary states that “bright spots of ecosystem resilience are surprisingly common across six major coastal marine ecosystems.” and in some instances this resilience was marked by a striking ecosystem recovery. A good example of this came from an area in Western Australia where up to 90% of the live coral reef was lost due to severe coral bleaching. Although reaching a low of 9% live coral, the reef recovered to 44% over a subsequent period of 12 years. (photo – Burt Jones/Maureen Shimlock, Secreat Sea Visions)
Can We Mitigate the Climate Change Damage?
O’Leary and her fellow authors hope that by better understanding the circumstances of resilient marine ecosystems and their recovery they can apply these conditions and processes onto other ecosystems suffering climate trauma. If marine protected areas “are spaced appropriately given the reproductive output and dispersal potential of species,” O’Leary says, it may be possible to mitigate the damage caused by climate disturbance events. However, she also cautions that these local bright spots do “not contradict the overwhelming evidence that climatic impacts present a major stressor to coastal ecosystems,”
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