Using multiple lines of evidence to assess the risk of ecosystem collapse
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The world’s second longest coral reef is critically endangered according to a new risk assessment.
Ecosystems worldwide are sensitive to both natural events and human activities. Coral reefs, for example, face a multitude of threats, from rising seas and hurricanes to overfishing and pollution. A team led by researchers from Deakin University assessed the health of the Meso-American Reef, which extends from Mexico to Nicaragua, using criteria from the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Ecosystems. Factors included ecosystem size, function and degree of degradation. The team used their ‘Coral Reef Scenario Evaluation Tool’ to reconstruct the reef’s recent history and predict its future using different combinations of threats. The results reveal a high risk of coral bleaching that will be intensified by stronger hurricanes and increased pollution.
Identifying ecosystems whose collapse is imminent is crucial for global conservation efforts.
- Proc. R. Soc. B 284, 20170660 (2017). doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0660