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2018, an important year in the fight for the protection of coral reefs

  • 03.04.2018

Did you know that 2018 is the official International Year of the Reef (IYOR)? In fact, this year is the third edition of this movement: as you can imagine, after two previous editions of these IYOR and faced with the climatic emergency that threatens these ecosystems, the expectations are quite high!

Climate change dramatically affects coral reef ecosystems

Rising water temperatures and ocean acidification have killed our planet’s coral reefs over the last three decades. As a result of both climate change and local anthropogenic pressures, coral reefs are now one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. The previously mentioned threats triggered a severe coral bleaching phenomenon from 2014 to 2016. Indeed, higher water temperatures, brought on by climate change, have put corals in distress given their high sensitivity to temperature changes. As climate change continues and warm water persists, coral reefs become unable to fight disease and the bleaching becomes more common. 

 Furthermore, climate change also alters ocean chemistry leading to ocean acidification. A significant part of the carbon dioxide induced by human activities and that enters the atmosphere, will dissolve into the ocean. As carbon dioxide present in the ocean increases, ocean pH decreases or becomes more acidic.

coral reefs are now one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet.

The impacts of coral bleaching and cyclone Oli on the coral reefs of Moorea (French Polynesia), CRIOBE.

The International Years of the Reef: a little history

IYOR was a global effort initiated to increase awareness and understanding of the value of coral reefs, the threats they undergo, and to support the conservation, research and management efforts around coral reefs. Over 225 organizations in 50 countries and territories participated, over 700 articles were published in papers and magazines, and hundreds of scientific surveys were undertaken.

Because of the increasing threats on coral reefs and marine ecosystems such as sea grasses and mangroves, international organizations declared 1997 as the first International Year of the Reef (IYOR). The main goal was to gather a significant global effort towards raising awareness and understanding the value of coral reefs. That year, over 200 organizations from 50 countries participated in this international movement. 

Ten years later, the need to increase awareness on the threat coral reefs are facing remains urgent. Thus, the International Coral Reef Initiative designated 2008 as the second International Year of the Reef, IYOR 2008, hosted by governments and NGOs worldwide. #IYOR2008 motivated people to take action to protect the reefs. That year, more than 600 events were organized in nearly 70 countries to produce educational content such as posters, DVDs, children’s book, events and so on to raise awareness among the communities. 

To ensure that the value of coral reefs and the threats they undergo are understood by the general public, some relevant public awareness initiatives need to be continuously developed. Today more than ever, research centers, museums, universities and public authorities reflect on national and regional priorities regarding coral reefs to facilitate public involvement in coral reef conservation. 

2018, a year of hope for the protection of coral reefs

The International Coral Reef Initiative declared 2018 as the third International Year of the Reef and encourages all stakeholders to:

  • strengthen global awareness about the value of coral reefs and the threats they are facing;
  • engage all stakeholders and promote partnerships between local governments, private companies, schools and universities, as well as civil society in order to drive collective action;
  • define and implement management strategies for conservation, share best practices for a more sustainable use of ecosystems. 

For #IYOR2018, if all the actors within this community unite to protect these endangered ecosystems and bring the subject to the forefront of the media scene. 2018 could mark a decisive turning point in the conservation of marine biodiversity!

The BNP Paribas Foundation, involved in IYOR2018 with Reef Services!

What future can we foresee for the coral reefs endangered by climate change? This is the type of question that the REEF Services project from the CRIOBE attempts to solve with the support of the BNP Paribas Foundation and its Climate Initiative program. The goal of Reef Services is to measure and to predict the consequences of global warming on the coral reefs but also to demonstrate the services they provide to the ecosystem (fishing, tourism, coastal protection). Thanks to Valeriano Parravicini, professor and researcher at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Perpignan, and his team, the BNP Paribas Foundation will partner with museums and research centers in order to build toolkits to share knowledge on coral reefs. Stay informed to get involved and to take part in this international movement!

Crédits Photos ©Jakob Owens / Lauric Thiault

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