Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Communique on the future of coral reefs and their human communities.

Download PDFDownload PDF

To ensure delivery, please add to your address book, contact list, safe senders list, or white list.


ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Communiqué on the future of coral reefs and their human communities

Brisbane, Thursday, August 6, 2009 - Embargoed until 10.40AM AEST 6/8/09

Leading Australian scientists today released the following call for action to save the world’s coral reefs,

at a scientific symposium in Brisbane:

• Coral reefs are irreplaceable and far too valuable for human societies to allow their continued

destruction. It is a moral imperative that coral reefs are not simply abandoned as an overly fragile

casualty of the world’s appetite for coal and oil. Reefs are threatened, not doomed - if we can take

steps to avoid extreme climate change. We know what to do to maintain healthy reefs, and we should

get on with it.

• Because of their sensitivity to temperature and acidification of oceans, coral reefs are in the front line

of the effects of climate change. For reefs, climate change is not some distant threat that might come

to pass in the future - scientists and reef managers have already clearly documented the impacts of

accelerating climate change on the Great Barrier Reef and elsewhere around the world. The evidence

is irrefutable.

• Without targeted reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the ongoing damage to coral reefs from

global warming will soon be irreversible. Substantial global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions

must be initiated immediately, not in 10 or 20 years.

• Substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are consistently with steadily growing improving

standards in both developed and developing countries. The best estimate of the change in the rate of

economic growth associated with a program to hold the change in global temperature below 2 degrees

C over the next century is less than 0.1 percentage points.

• The coral reef crisis represents a policy and governance failure. Improved outcomes for reefs will

require unprecedented coordination and integration across jurisdictions. People from developing

countries who are highly dependent on reefs for their livelihood are the most vulnerable to change.

Australia’s support for the Coral Triangle Initiative and for Pacific Nations, represents a sound

approach that combines conservation objectives with sustainable development. These efforts need to

be much better supported by all governments.

• In many places, we need to move beyond the usual measures to involve communities in

conservation- things like consultation, participation, and compensation. We need to understand the

social, cultural, political and economic conditions the same way we understand ecological conditions

such as the types of corals and fish in a park. In some areas, the capacity of communities to cope with

change will have to be built up, which will require donors and governments to make real and

meaningful investments in poverty alleviation, education, and reducing dependence on coral reef


• Development aid, particularly for education, capacity-building and alternative livelihoods will increase

the capacity coral-reef nations to adapt to climate change. The higher the level of education and the

broader the range of economic prospects available to people, the greater the appeal of long-term

management for sustainability, as opposed to extraction of resources to meet immediate demands for


• The world has a narrow window of opportunity to save coral reefs from the destruction of extreme

climate change. Local action can help to re-build the resilience of reefs, and promote their recovery

from coral bleaching. It is critically important to prevent the replacement of corals by algal blooms, by

reducing runoff from land and by protecting stocks of herbivorous fishes. However, reefs cannot be

“climate-proofed” except via reduced emissions of greenhouse gasses.

MEDIA CONFERENCE: Reid Room, UQ Customs House, 399 Queen Street, Brisbane, 10.40AM,

August 6 2009

Contacts :

1. Prof. Terry Hughes (Coral Reef Ecologist), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and

James Cook University, AUSTRALIA.

Phone: 61 (0) 7 4781 4222 or 0400 720 164. Email:

2. Prof. John Quiggin, (Resource Economist), University of Queensland, AUSTRALIA.

Phone + 61 7 3346 9646, Mobile 0432 551 381


3. Dr. Joshua Cinner (Social Scientist), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James

Cook University, AUSTRALIA.

Mobile: 0431036393. Email: