A new study from the University of Queensland found that coral reefs have degraded dramatically because of warming seas.

The negative impact climate change is having on coral reefs has been increasing at an alarming rate, scientists say, but that doesn't have to be the case forever. A new study from the University of Queensland found that healthy mangroves may help fight the consequences of climate change on coral reef fisheries while also providing support for sea life. "Mangroves provide a calm, safe environment with plenty of food and allow fish to grow larger before heading out to the reef as adults," according to University of Queensland professor and lead researcher Peter Mumby.

Fish Swimming Around a Wild Coral Reef
Credit: Georgette Douwma / Getty Images

As a result of warming seas, coral reefs are losing their structural complexity and coral bleaching is on the rise. The concern is that fish rely on these reefs for protection from predators, which a degraded reef cannot provide. "Many people are worried that—due to climate change —reef fishery yields could halve if coral reefs flatten, losing the hiding places that support thousands of fish," Professor Mumby explained.

Their findings conclude that degraded coral reefs with healthy mangroves, which are sometimes referred to as nurseries, can support fisheries' productivity as well as, or even better than, healthy reefs without nurseries. "While our results offer a glimmer of hope that losses of reef fisheries productivity can be constrained through the provision of a good nursery habitat, this does not undermine the importance of coral reef habitat health nor the impacts of its loss," the study reads.

"Mangrove nurseries essentially allow some fish to sidestep the challenges of early life on a degraded reef," Victoria University's Dr. Alice Rogers told ScienceDaily. Professor Mumby and his team of researchers believe that protecting and restoring mangrove habitats should remain a priority in order to offset the consequences of climate change.


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