The Nature Conservancy contributed to the ground-breaking report “The Coral Triangle and Climate Change: Ecosystems, People and Societies at Risk”, which was released in May at the World Oceans Conference and Coral Triangle Initiative Summit in Manado, Indonesia. 

Compilation of the report was led by WWF and Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland, who is a world leader in the threat of climate change to coral reefs.

The report is a comprehensive study involving over 20 experts who used scenario modelling to profile the vulnerability of people and resources in the Coral Triangle to climate change. It concludes that stabilising atmospheric carbon dioxide at or below 450 parts per million is essential if Coral Triangle countries are to meet their objectives of retaining coastal ecosystems and allowing people to prosper in their coastal areas. 

It also concludes that while coastal ecosystems are facing enormous pressures from both local and global factors, many areas within the Coral Triangle show significant ecological resilience, and are among the most likely to survive the challenging times ahead. 

High levels of biodiversity, coupled with fast rates of growth and recovery, put many Coral Triangle ecosystems in a favorable position to survive climate change. Some parts of the Coral Triangle may also have inherently slower rates of change in sea temperature and acidity, representing a potential refuge in an otherwise rapidly changing world.

As an author of this report, I’m encouraged by the findings. To know that the center of coral reef biodiversity exhibits these signs of resiliency gives me hope.

But it doesn’t mean we should stop protection efforts. In fact, we need to be even more focused on ensuring the reefs of the Coral Triangle survive, since they may be one of the few areas around the world that does.

Photo caption: King tides (the biggest tides of the year) caused this coastal erosion and building collapse in Papua New Guinea. An early sign of things to come with sea level rise in the Coral Triangle?  Image: Geoff Lipsett-Moore/TNC.)

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