February 2011 Archives
Recently, the World Resources Institute released a new study on the state of the world's coral reefs. This study, a sequel to a 1998 report, is called Reefs at Risk Revisited, and presents a comprehensive analysis of coral reefs, including how they are affected by climate change, and their outlook for the future. It includes a Global Reefs Map, which serves as a visual tool for understanding how the health of reefs varies geographically. Even for those of us who are involved in reef conservation, the findings are alarming, with 75% of the world's reefs threatened by human activity and rising ocean temperatures, but only 20% currently protected. It also estimates that 90% will be threatened within two decades.
The introductory video summarizes the findings:
From flooding to severe storms, the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent. Although it is nearly impossible to link specific incidents directly to climate change, a recent study suggests that rising global temperatures and the ensuing changes in weather patters greatly increase the odds of extreme weather events such as this year's torrential rains in Australia.
Many islanders have long been speaking out about the disproportionate harm these extreme weather events and other effects of climate change will have on their homelands. With miles of coastlines, islands are highly sensitive to rising water levels and stronger ocean storms. At the same time, the geographic isolation of many islands makes them home to numerous endemic species, found nowhere else on earth, that are quickly endangered by changes in their habitat or climate. But the people who inhabit the thousands of islands around the globe are also endangered. In low-lying islands, rising sea levels mean less space in the near future and an unhappy eternity next door to Atlantis.
12% of America's land is protected by our government. But how much of the world's oceans, which cover 75% of our planet, are under similar protections? An astounding .08%--not even 1%!
This was one of the many fascinating subjects discussed at a reception this week with Seacology and Dr. Sylvia Earle, a leading oceanographer and member of our Scientific Advisory Board, to discuss the state of the world's oceans. Seacology Fellow Lezlie Johnson hosted a private reception in her Los Angeles home, and guests heard from Seacology Executive Director Duane Silverstein, who described how Seacology is contributing to Dr. Earle's vision of a global network of marine protected areas.
During her presentation, Dr. Earle summarized her career as an explorer of the oceans--from her experience in the first all-female aquanaut expedition, to her 1250 foot dive in a JIM suit, the deepest dive by any woman. Since winning the TED Prize in 2009, Dr. Earle has been a leading advocate of ocean conservation. At Seacology's reception, she shared again her TED wish:
"I wish you would use all means at your disposal -- films! expeditions! the web! more! -- to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet." - Sylvia Earle
Seacology's island conservation projects are working towards Dr. Earle's vision of a global network protecting our oceans and their species. Our latest projects include three new marine conservation areas, in the Philippines, Mexico, and Fiji.
Seacology's Board of Directors came together for their semiannual meeting at the end of January. Among other things, they discussed and approved Seacology's most recent round of island conservation projects.
From protecting a stand of massive ka trees known for their buttressed roots in the Micronesian state of Kosrae, to creating a mangrove reserve and a coastal resources center in Sri Lanka, Seacology is continuing its transformational work protecting the world's islands and their people. Also included in our most recent batch of projects is the whale shark project that we wrote about last fall, where Seacology is working to save the habitat of the world's largest species of fish. Read on for details on all of our new projects: