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February 2014: One of a Kind Love Affair / Seventh Grader Loves CORAL / CORAL Field Peeps / Bolstering Response to Bleaching

Certain Acropora corals emit a chemical beacon that attracts broad-barred gobies to eat away toxic seaweed; photo by Dr. Oliver Schneider via Wikimedia Commons
One of a Kind Love Affair

When Acropora nasuta corals in Fiji find themselves being overgrown by a toxic seaweed (Chlorodesmis fastigiata), they send out a chemical “SOS” to certain gobies—in this case, the broad-barred goby (Gobiodon histrio) and redhead goby (Paragobiodon echinocephalus), according to a new study by Georgia Tech biologists. These gobies and corals have a mutually beneficial relationship: the corals offer shelter to the gobies, and the tiny fish act as the corals’ bodyguards. When the seaweed comes in contact with the corals, the corals release a scent that causes the gobies to swim in to rescue “their” coral by eating the offending seaweed. The researchers also found that the gobies did not respond to signals from other corals. Read More

Gavin Parnes, left, presents a check to CORAL's Dr. Michael Webster; photo by Michael Parnes
Seventh Grader Loves CORAL

Gavin Parnes is a seventh grader at Brandeis Hillel Day School in San Rafael, California, who is determined to change the world—by saving coral reefs. After his teacher decided to hold a Tzedakah (in Hebrew, “doing a good deed”) and parents created a fund to benefit nonprofit organizations, the 30 students in Gavin’s grade researched a variety of potential beneficiaries, then gave presentations about them. The students gave each of the nonprofits a donation, but chose three favorites to receive the largest awards. Gavin’s choice, CORAL, came in third, and on January 23, he presented CORAL’s Executive Director, Dr. Michael Webster, with a check for $725.

Gavin says he "thought CORAL looked the best" of the coral reef conservation organizations he researched. In his five-page essay assignment, he writes, "People are not doing much about the dying coral reefs, but the Coral Reef Alliance is working to end this... Do you want your children, or your children's children to see the beautiful coral reefs, or do you want it to be a story, something you wouldn't be able to go and see? You and I might not be able to witness a change in our lives, but if we act strongly and carefully, there might be a future for the coral reefs." Read More

Naneng Setiasih leads CORAL's effort to create an MPA network off Bali, Indonesia; photo by CORAL staff
CORAL Field Peeps

Coral Triangle Regional Manager Naneng Setiasih’s hope for the future of conservation is that nonprofits, businesses, and governments will learn to play better together. “We have so many prejudices and boxes,” she says. “I want to see more of us work across boxes. The environment is a job for everybody; we need to stop blaming and judging each other and work together.”

Nan is walking that talk in Indonesia—and she’s having a lot of success. In 2013, after years of advocacy, CORAL, Conservation International, and The Nature Conservancy persuaded the Raja Ampat government to sign a shark and manta ray sanctuary (that had been declared in 2010) into law. The law protects sharks and rays in 46,000 square kilometers (18,000 square miles) of ocean off the coast of Raja Ampat. And for the past three years, CORAL’s Indonesian field team has been gathering community input—from fishermen, business operators, and government officials—on plans for a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) off the coast of Bali. Read More

Corals free from stressors like sedimentation and overfishing are more likely to resist and survive bleaching; photo via Wikimedia Commons
Bolstering Response to Bleaching

CORAL and our many partners in Bali are working on an action plan to help the region prepare for future reef bleaching incidents: large-scale bleaching events took place in several parts of the archipelago in 2009 and 2010. In recent workshops held in Denpasar and Gili Trawangan Lombok, Indonesia, participants from throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand came together to talk about recent bleaching incidents, what they had learned, and how to coordinate a better response among nonprofits, community members, marine recreation providers, and local governments.

Part of the solution is making reefs healthier and more resilient in the first place, says CORAL Triangle Regional Manager Naneng Setiasih.“Reefs affected by stresses like destructive and excessive fishing, anchoring, coral mining, pollution, sedimentation, and coastal development have less chance of recovering from bleaching,” says Nan. “We need to reduce these stressors.” Read More

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