With so much dire news these days regarding the world’s coral - from coral bleaching, to ocean acidification, to over a majority of the reefs being degraded - it’s always good to get some good news every once in a while. Guarded news perhaps, but it reminds us that all is not lost if we act responsibly and act now.Scientists from the Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean (what a mouthful), also known as CORDIO, have reported the results of a study from 2002 to 2010 on reef-building corals in the West Indian Ocean. Their survey shows a high level of coral biodiversity, particularly around Madagascar, the large island off the central east coast of Africa.In the Mozambique Channel, between Madagascar and the African continent, the scientists found as many as 200 to 300 coral species at various sites in the area. In other locations within the West Indian Oceans, there were less than 200 species, making the Mozambique Channel especially rich.
Throughout the West Indian Ocean, the scientists found 369 species of coral and estimated that there could be as many as 450 species. That would put the area head-to-head with other well-known coral reefs like the northern Great Barrier Reef.
As healthy as the reef-building corals in Madagascar and surrounding waters may be, they are not immune to the challenges and threats against them, particularly as Africa attempts to build its economy and infrastructure. Pollution from urbanization, overfishing, and energy exploration are just a few of the dangers these reefs face.
Coral reefs of the Western Indian Ocean need careful management and protection if they are to realize their full potential for improving human well-being in this critical developing region," said Steve Katona, managing director of the Ocean Health Index.
While coral reefs provide natural protection from storms and an ecological foundation for healthy fish populations - all of which are beneficial to mankind, Katona added they are also "threatened by warming sea-surface temperatures, ocean acidification, pollution by chemicals, nutrients and sediment, ultraviolet light, invasion by alien species and direct habitat destruction from unsustainable fishing techniques, divers, boat anchors, coral collection or mining and dredging."
But for the moment, we can revel in the knowledge that healthy, pristine reefs can still be found in the world. Now it is our job, our duty, to not only preserve this coral oases but to build upon their success elsewhere.