We humans are very dependent on coral reefs for survival as this mega-diverse and productive marine ecosystem provide us with many goods and services. However, coral reefs as we know them are threatened by different stressors such us pollution, bad tourism practices, over fishing, and climate change which poses an even bigger threat at least 1 billion people who depend on coral reefs for survival. The good news is that you and all of us can help today in the understanding of the threats facing coral reefs and actively contribute to reducing the negative impacts of our way of living on them. In short, we can save human lives by saving coral reefs.
Healthy coral reefs...
The world had effectively lost 20% of the original reef area since 1950, 75% is at a critical state, with loss possible within the next 20 years. 5% are healthy, but threatened by global climate change threats. At the international and local levels we know the condition of coral reef health because professionals are regularly visiting the reefs and evaluating their health.
The most comprehensive and recent global assessments of the status of coral reefs summarize indicate that by 2008, the world had effectively lost 19% of the original area of coral reefs; 15% were seriously threatened with loss within the next 10–20 years; and 20% were under threat of loss in 20–40 years. However, 46% of the world’s reefs were regarded as being relatively healthy and not under any immediate threats of destruction, except for the ‘currently unpredictable’ global climate threat (Wilkinson, 2008). A later publication reported that by 2011 approximately 75% of coral reefs worldwide were threatened by a combination of local and global stressors (Burke et al. 2011). Fishing threats (i.e., overfishing and destructive fishing) were considered the most significant non-climate related threat affecting coral reefs, and they affect more than 55% of all reefs worldwide. Both reports highlighted the need to take action to reduce stressors and improve coral reef health if we were to continue benefiting from coral reefs beyond 2050.
Various coral reef monitoring programs at the global (Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network –GCRMN-), regional (Caribbean Marine and Coastal Community Productivity, Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment), and citizen science (Reef Check, and Reef Live Survey) levels have been developed and widely applied to evaluate and track coral reef health.
In Colombia, there is the National Coral Reef Monitoring System of Colombia (SIMAC), implemented by INVEMAR with the support of several Colombian institutions, that has been evaluating coral reef health since 1998 at various locations in the country. INVEMAR publishes annually a report on the condition of coral reefs and other coastal and marine ecosystems, based on the data collected with SIMAC and its simplified protocol, the Trend Condition Index (ICT).
The Reef Check EcoDiver training program is our participatory coral reef monitoring tool to increase technical capacity and human resources for coral reef health assessment and monitoring in Colombia.
The Reef Check monitoring protocol which is also a component of the GCRMN and the official citizen science coral reef monitoring program in the United Nations is as an excellent alternative to carry out assessments of coral reef health and collaborate with international efforts like the ones carried out in Colombia.
Reef Check is a member of the International Initiative for Coral Reefs (ICRI) and the Action Network of Coral Reefs (ICRAN), therefore data collection is performed under a standardized global protocol, so that data can be compared across the globe. The assessment of coral reef health at the local level can be carried out quickly and easily by trained recreational divers and keen reef users.
Corales de Paz and Reef Check Worldwide have partnered establishing Reef Check Colombia, to actively engage citizens in the collection of data on coral health that may be used for research and management of coral reefs. The international citizen science coral reef monitoring program Reef Check has been identified as the protocol, communication, outreach and education strategy to achieve our goal. Consequently, the Reef Check EcoDiver training program is the tool to increase technical capacity and human resources for coral reef health assessment and monitoring in Colombia, with which we can contribute to national efforts, increasing the coverage and frequency of information on coral health in the country.
Burke, L. M., Reytar, K., Spalding, M., & Perry, A. (2017). Reefs at risk revisited: World Resources Institute.
INVEMAR. (2020=. Informe del estado de los ambientes y recursos marinos y costeros en Colombia, 2019. Serie de Publicaciones Periódicas No. 3. Santa Marta. 183 p.
Wilkinson, C. (2008). Status of coral reefs of the world: 2008. Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Townsville, Australia, 296 p.