Menu
Scientific developments
NASA's WISE Mission Captures Black Hole's Wildly Flaring Jet

Climatic Fluctuations Drove Key Events in Human Evolution, Researchers Find

Researchers Discover How 'Promiscuous Parasites' Hijack Host Immune Cells

Using Human Genomes to Illuminate the Mysteries of Early Human History

Carnivorous Plant Inspires Coating That Resists Just About Any Liquids

From the Comfort of Home, Web Users May Have Found New Planets

Aquarium Fishes Are More Aggressive in Reduced Environments, New Study Finds

Bioengineers Reprogram Muscles to Combat Degeneration

Asia Was Settled in Multiple Waves of Migration, DNA Study Suggests

Some Brain Wiring Continues to Develop Well Into Our 20s

Evolutionary Tree of Life for Mammals Greatly Improved

Nitrate Levels Rising in Northwestern Pacific Ocean

Nanoscale Nonlinear Light Source Optical Device Can Be Controlled Electronically

Cloaking Magnetic Fields: First Antimagnet Developed

Nature Offers Key Lessons On Harvesting Solar Power, Say Chemists

Monkeys Also Reason Through Analogy, Study Shows

Invasion of Genomic Parasites Triggered Modern Mammalian Pregnancy, Study Finds

Jumping Gene Enabled Key Step in Corn Domestication

Salty Water and Gas Sucked Into Earth's Interior Helps Unravel Planetary Evolution

People Learn While They Sleep, Study Suggests

New Technique Maps Twin Faces of Smallest Janus Nanoparticles

New 'FeTRAM' Is Promising Computer Memory Technology

Hide-And-Seek: Altered HIV Can't Evade Immune System

Scientists Reveal Molecular Sculptor of Memories

Correcting Sickle Cell Disease With Stem Cells

Decline and Recovery of Coral Reefs Linked to 700 Years of Human and Environmental Activities
Changing human activities coupled with a dynamic environment over the past few centuries have caused fluctuating periods of decline and recovery of corals reefs in the Hawaiian Islands, according to a study sponsored in part by the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University. Using the reefs and island societies as a model social-ecological system, a team of scientists reconstructed 700 years of human-environment interactions in two different regions of the Hawaiian archipelago to identify the key factors that contributed to degradation or recovery of coral reefs.

"Historical reconstruction reveals recovery in Hawaiian coral reefs," which was published online October 3 in the journal PLoS ONE, concludes that historical changes in human societies and their relationships with coral reef ecosystems can explain whether these ecosystems exhibit patterns of sustainability and resilience or decline and degradation. Dr. John N. Kittinger, lead author of the study, was a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa when the reconstruction was conducted. He is now an Early Career Social Science Fellow at Stanford University's Center for Ocean Solutions.

"Our reconstructed ecological changes included an intensive review and assessment of archaeological deposits, historical observations of ecosystem conditions, and modern ecological and fishery data," said Dr. Kittinger. "Using these data sets, our findings demonstrate that we can't always view environmental degradation solely through the lens of simplistic cause-consequence relationships. In the historical recovery periods we uncovered, we found that human agency is partly responsible for environmental recovery, which shows that not all human-environment interactions lead to irreversible deleterious outcomes and that degraded ecosystems may still retain the adaptive capacity and resilience to recover from human impacts."

"This reconstruction shows that human-environment interactions need to be included when considering the factors that contribute to the degradation of an ecosystem," said Dr. Ellen Pikitch, executive director of the Institute for Ocean Science and Professor at Stony Brook University. "Understanding past interactions can be crucial in determining best practices for present-day management of coral reef ecosystems."

The analysis suggests that in the Main Hawaiian Islands marine exploitation was highest in the early period after Polynesian settlement more than 700 years ago. By 1400, however, reef-derived protein sources became less important than those derived from domesticated animals, and a suite of coral reef resource conservation strategies was implemented by Native Hawaiian societies, allowing reefs to recover. This recovery continued as traditional reef-fishing subsistence practices were abandoned through the post-European contact period after 1778 due to the introduction of epidemic diseases to the Native Hawaiian population. By the early to mid-1800s, however, reefs again went into decline due to overexploitation, land-based pollution, and other factors associated with changes in demography, economic systems, and new technologies. The analysis shows that negative impacts continued and intensified to the present day, exhibiting only a brief reprieve in the 1940s due to the closure of nearshore marine areas during World War II.

"Reefs in the Main Hawaiian Islands have been declining for more than 150 years, and similar degradation that has occurred in other reef ecosystems indicates that we may be approaching a tipping point or threshold, beyond which recovery is doubtful," said Dr. Kittinger. "If we look at historical ecosystem recoveries, reversing this decline will require protection of a broad range of habitat types over large areas, such as marine no-take reserves. Additionally, appropriate institutions and policies will need to be in place to effectively engage the diverse community of ocean-users in Hawai'i in collaborative marine ecosystem stewardship."

Unlike the Main Hawaiian Islands, researchers found that coral reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) have long functioned as a geographic refuge due to their isolation and limited human population. They also benefited from cultural protection as a sacred ancestral homeland in Native Hawaiian society. The analysis shows that they did, however, suffer from some of the same negative impacts of the post-European contact period as coral reefs in the Main Hawaiian Islands. After World War II, however, reefs in this region began to recover from historical impacts due to human depopulation in the area, conservation efforts, and decreases in commercial activities involving the reefs. NWHI reefs are now among the most diverse and abundant coral reef ecosystems in the world, and provide an example of how healthy reefs that have recovered from human impacts can look.

"The substantial resilience and adaptive capacity of coral reefs demonstrated in this study provide reason for hope and suggest that we should not dismiss the possibility of bringing even the most degraded reefs back to health," said Dr. Pikitch.


First Comet Found With Ocean-Like Water

Laser Light Used to Cool Object to Quantum Ground State

Biologists Find 'Surprising' Number of Unknown Viruses in Sewage

Long-Lost Lake Agassiz Offers Clues to Climate Change

Series of Bumps Sent Uranus Into Its Sideways Spin, New Research Suggests

Venus Has an Ozone Layer Too, Space Probe Discovers

Supersaturated Water Vapor in Martian Atmosphere

Is Chivalry the Norm for Insects?

Crab Pulsar Beams Most Energetic Gamma Rays Ever Detected from a Pulsar

Subtly Shaded Map of Moon Reveals Titanium Treasure Troves

Ancient Climate Change Has Left a Strong Imprint On Modern Ecosystems

Astrophysics and Extinctions: News About Planet-Threatening Events

Giant 'Kraken' Lair Discovered: Cunning Sea Monster That Preyed On Ichthyosaurs


Menu
Easily Embarrassed? Study Finds People Will Trust You More

Stardust Discovered in Far-Off Planetary Systems

Galaxy Caught Blowing Bubbles

Sharks Are in Trouble, New Analysis Confirms

Engineers 'Cook' Promising New Heat-Harvesting Nanomaterials in Microwave Oven

NASA Space Telescope Finds Fewer Asteroids Near Earth

Scientists Release Most Accurate Simulation of the Universe to Date

'Superfast' Muscles Responsible for Bat Echolocation

Space Telescopes Reveal Secrets of Turbulent Black Hole

'Alarm Clock' Gene Explains Wake-Up Function of Biological Clock

Mechanism Uncovered for the Establishment of Vertebrate Leftright Asymmetry

Astronomers Reveal Supernova Factory

Reefs Recovered Faster After Mass Extinction Than First Thought

Gravitational Waves That Are 'Sounds of the Universe'

Decline and Recovery of Coral Reefs Linked to 700 Years of Human and Environmental Activities

Unprecedented Arctic Ozone Loss Last Winter

'Mirage-Effect' Helps Researchers Hide Objects

Electricity from the Nose: Engineers Make Power from Human Respiration

Natural Compound Helps Reverse Diabetes in Mice

Physicists Move One Step Closer to Quantum Computer

Pumice Proposed as Home to the First Life Forms

Arctic Sea Ice Continues Decline, Hits Second-Lowest Level

Sociability May Depend Upon Brain Cells Generated in Adolescence

Last Universal Common Ancestor More Complex Than Previously Thought

Monkeys 'Move and Feel' Virtual Objects Using Only Their Brains