Thursday, August 10, 2017

Scientists have a real opportunity to engage the public with "Chasing Coral."

August 8, 2017

The ecological and economic value of coral reefs (click here) has long been understood, and the negative impacts of human activities on reef systems are well documented. This wealth of knowledge however, has not prevented the devastating and widespread decline in coral reefs.

The new documentary “Chasing Coral” about coral reefs will have its Tallahassee premiere from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at the Challenger Learning Center. After the film Dr. Sandra Brooke, coral researcher with FSU Coastal and Marine Lab, and Budd Titlow, professional wetland and wildlife biologist, author and photographer will participate in a 20 minute question and answer session. The movie is free; doors open at 6:30 (donations accepted).

Coastal development, fertilizers and pesticides have caused chronic water quality degradation that has increased turbidity, nutrient levels and pollutants in waters that were once crystal clear. To sensitive marine life, this is the equivalent of us breathing badly polluted air....

Add to that the new film by Al Gore and the conversation takes a real place in American lives.

Coral reefs support jobstourism, and fisheries. (click here)

Healthy coral reefs support commercial and subsistence fisheries as well as jobs and businesses through tourism and recreation. Approximately half of all federally managed fisheries depend on coral reefs and related habitats for a portion of their life cycles. The National Marine Fisheries Service estimates the commercial value of U.S. fisheries from coral reefs is over $100 million.

Local economies also receive billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours, recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses based near reef ecosystems.

Despite their great economic and recreational value, coral reefs are severely threatened by pollution, disease, and habitat destruction. Once coral reefs are damaged, they are less able to support the many creatures that inhabit them. When a coral reef supports fewer fish, plants, and animals, it also loses value as a tourist destination.

The National Marine Fisheries is not the only economic hub. Wall Street has a real reason to worry. The oceans have been some of the new focus for the pharmaceutical industry.

Coastal Protection: (click here) ...Coastlines protected by reefs are more stable, in terms of erosion, and are also a source of sand in natural beach replenishment...

Fisheries: estimate shows fisheries benefits account for $5.7 billion of the total $29.8 billion global net benefit provided by coral reefs. Sustainable coral reef fisheries in Southeast Asia alone are valued at $2.4 billion per year. These numbers do not take into account the value of deep-sea corals, which are themselves home for many commercially valuable species and thus additional fisheries value.

Medicine: Many species found in coral ecosystems produce chemical compounds for defense or attack, particularly the slow-moving or stationary species like nudibranchs and sponges. Searching for potential new pharmaceuticals, termed bioprospecting, has been common in terrestrial environments for decades. However, bioprospecting is relatively new in the marine environment and is nowhere close to realizing its full potential. Creatures found in coral ecosystems are important sources of new medicines being developed to induce and ease labor; treat cancer, arthritis, asthma, ulcers, human bacterial infections, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases; as well as sources of nutritional supplements, enzymes, and cosmetics. The medicines and other potentially useful compounds identified to date have led to coral ecosystems being referred to as the medicine cabinets of the 21st century by some, and the list of approved and potential new drugs is ever growing.

Tourism and Recreation:... One estimate places the total global value of coral-reef based recreation and tourism at $9.6 billion of the total global net benefit of coral reefs.