Findings from the World’s Largest Coral Reef Expedition Showcased at International Coral Reef Conference

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is sharing its findings from the Global Reef Expedition (GRE) at the 15th  International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) this week in Bremen, Germany. This international coral reef conference brings together experts in coral reef …

Sharing our findings at the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS)

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The Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation will be attending the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) this week to share our findings from the Global Reef Expedition.  The 15th International Coral Reef Symposium is the primary international conference for coral …

Corals in the Anthropocene

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This guest blog comes from a former KSLOF fellow, Dr. Anderson Mayfield, who joined the foundation on many of our Global Reef Expedition research missions in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. A former student of the renowned coral biologist Dr. Ruth Gates, Dr. Mayfield studies coral health and physiology at NOAA’s AOML Coral Program and at the University of Miami’s Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies. He continues to publish scientific papers based on data collected on the Global Reef Expedition, including his latest paper, recently published in the journal Oceans.

As a naïve post-doctoral researcher back in 2012, I had an idea that was surely far from novel at the time: corals of far-flung, uninhabited atolls are in better shape than those closer to major human population centers. The logic was that these corals would be under global-scale stressors only (namely those associated with climate change), and not the threats that instead plague reefs close to cities (such as pollution and overfishing).

As a fellow with the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation during their Global Reef Expedition (GRE), I tested this hypothesis by sampling corals from among the most seemingly pristine islands and atolls in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Although we certainly observed beautiful reefs with high coral cover (see image above) and diversity as well as a plethora of fish —all the visible hallmarks marine biologists look for in ‘healthy’ reefs—the corals themselves told a different story (Mayfield et al., 2017); high cellular stress levels were documented in the vast majority of the many hundreds of corals sampled across the GRE.

Despite looking healthy, the corals were struggling to survive.

These high stress levels do not, in and of themselves, imply that all such sampled corals are not long for this Earth. They do signify, however, that we likely never visited ‘pristine’ reefs during the GRE, despite studying some of the most remote coral reefs on the planet. This is a testament to the wide reach of climate change. This statement may come as a surprise to some, who, like me, assumed that somewhere out there, one might find corals entirely untouched by humankind, but this unfortunately does not appear to be the case.

Global coral reef survey reveals extent of reef crisis

Oceanographic Magazine By Oceanographic Staff October 21, 2021 ON 21 OCTOBER, THE KHALED BIN SULTAN LIVING OCEANS FOUNDATION PUBLISHED THEIR FINDINGS FROM THE GLOBAL REEF EXPEDITION, THE LARGEST CORAL REEF SURVEY AND MAPPING RESEARCH MISSION IN HISTORY. NEARLY EVERY LOCATION SURVEYED …

Global Reef Expedition reveals the extent of the coral reef crisis

Earth.org by Ashikha Raoof October 13, 2021 A new study from the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation (KSLOF) has investigated the state of coral reefs around the world. The researchers surveyed and mapped coral reefs in the Atlantic, Pacific, …

Reflections on a Big Year

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As 2021 comes to a close, the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation is taking some time to reflect on everything we have accomplished this year.

Despite the restrictions imposed by the ongoing pandemic, we have had quite a few things to celebrate. This year we entered into a partnership with NASA to map the world’s reefs, concluded our 10-year Global Reef Expedition, and published a final report of our findings. We also presented our research at two major international conferences: the IUCN World Conservation Congress and the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), released a report of our research in the Chagos Archipelago, and published several peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Our education and outreach departments also had a remarkable year. This year we launched a new mangrove conservation program with our partners in Jamaica and had students from over 60 countries submit artwork to our Science Without Borders Challenge. Last but certainly not least, we produced an excellent TV show on ocean health, “Our Living Oceans,” which is now playing on EarthxTV.

It’s been an incredible year, and we look forward to the work we will accomplish next year to help protect, preserve, and restore our living oceans.

What We Learned: Collaboration with Local Communities has the Biggest Impact on Reef Conservation

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On the Global Reef Expedition, we prioritized using a collaborative approach to study and map coral reefs by partnering with scientific and local experts in each of the countries we visited. While the scientific team was conducting surveys underwater, we also implemented various outreach and education programs in parallel to improve ocean literacy and inspire the next generation of ocean advocates. The partnerships we formed allowed us to exchange knowledge and learn how local communities were using and managing their marine resources.

One of the biggest take-aways from the GRE was that nearly every community we worked with expressed, and continues to express, the want and need for conservation of their reef systems. Working directly with communities, sharing findings, using our education and outreach programs, and expanding on the current management efforts has proven to be the most successful in conserving the reefs visited on the GRE.

What We Learned: Marine Protected Areas Work in Conserving Coral Reefs

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Managing marine resources is a challenge for communities around the globe. On the Global Reef Expedition, we had the opportunity to visit protected and unprotected reefs in both remote locations and those regularly used by humans. The degree of protection varied, but we found that areas with the highest protection had the healthiest reefs.

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a tool commonly used by governments and communities to manage their marine resources. An MPA can have varying degrees of regulations, including no-take and no-entry where no fishing is allowed and entrance into the park is not permitted, to varying permitted use that regulate the fishing and use practices. Some of the countries we visited, such as Australia (Northern Great Barrier Reef), Palau, and New Caledonia have large human populations utilizing the reefs and have prioritized establishing large protected and managed areas to conserve their nearshore reef systems.

We Need Better Coral Reef Management

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Coral reefs are subjected to natural and human-induced disturbances, both of which can have a negative impact on the health of the ecosystem. Examples of human caused disturbances include pollution, destructive fishing practices, overharvesting animals for the aquarium trade, among …