Happy Friday SUFB Crew, and thanks for joining us for another episode of Ocean Talk Friday! Today, Andrew and I discuss four major news stories from this past week that impact the habitats and critters that live beneath our oceans in the hopes of spreading awareness for these critical and beautiful ecosystems.
Leonardo DiCaprio announced just last week that his foundation will be donating $1,000,000.00 to the Nature Conservancy to help protect marine ecosystems in the Seychelles Islands. This small island nation, located in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of Africa, is home to some of the most productive and pristine tropical marine ecosystems in the world. The Seychelles is attempting to issue government-backed “blue bonds,” which will aim to boost investment in organizations seeking to protect marine habitats around the island. Together with the Nature Conservancy, the Seychelles Islands are also working with the Waitt Foundation, the China Global Conservation Fund, and other international conservation organizations to increase support for these types of innovative protective measures for our oceans.
A new study this week published in the journal Conservation Letters claims that in order to fully protect marine ecosystems and the services we provide, governments should seek to establish protection for at least 30% of our oceans. The authors of the study reviewed over 100 diverse manuscripts examining different goals of MPAs including protecting biodiversity, avoiding fisheries and population collapses, and maximizing fishery yields. The authors found that more than half of these papers recommended protecting at least 30% of our oceans to achieve their respective MPA goals. We currently protect about 6% of our oceans through MPAs or some other restrictive designation, so we’ve got a ways to go before reaching what these researchers concluded to be the absolute minimum. Check out the entire manuscript here.
A separate study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B show just how human influence and development can detrimentally impact coral reefs in the central Pacific. A team of researchers led by Dr. Jennifer Smith from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography examined a plethora of coral reef habitats in the Pacific, both surrounding inhabited islands and relatively uninhabited islands, and found that (not shockingly) those reefs that were subject to less human influence had healthier coral and more productive ecosystems. In fact, these reefs appeared relatively healthy despite the warming waters in the Pacific and the globalized effects of climate change. While this study certainly cautions against coastal development in areas with high coral cover, it also suggests that coral restoration is possible if the correct environmental stressors are removed from a given ecosystem. You can read the full study here.
Our last story comes from the deep, deep sea. An article published this past week on Phys.org highlights the work of Dr. Santiago Herrera, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and deep sea geneticist. Since the deep sea and its oceanfloor habitats can be difficult to access and study traditionally, Dr. Herrera has sought to use genetics and genomics to answer questions about the history of these ecosystems and the biology of their associated wildlife. Using next-generation sequencing techniques, Dr. Herrera has been able to detect parallel evolution in deep sea corals and phylogeographic patterns in hydrothermal vent barnacles. Because the deep sea is going to become more and more accessible as our technological limits shrink, we’re going to need researchers like Dr. Herrera to study these poorly-understood fauna so that we can better protect them from our own species in the coming generations.
Enjoy the Podcast!