Coral reefs attract a diverse abundance of marine animals and plants that rely on each other for food and shelter. They create rich spawning grounds for fisheries and feeding grounds for sea turtles. They protect coastal areas from extreme ocean storms. They provide areas for tourism and recreation. There is even evidence that some organisms found within the reefs are a valuable resource for modern medicine.
But climate change alters reefs, setting off a domino effect: Rising ocean temperatures stress the reefs, driving away or killing off the microscopic algae that give reefs such glorious color. The progressive loss of coral reefs reduces the resilience of vital tropical habitats worldwide.
Taking the lead on scientific research that examines adaptation and resilience, WWF is asking and answering questions like: What factors increase coral's resilience to climate change? How can we increase the ability of coral to recover? In a sense, how can we boost their "climate change immune systems"? Our adaptation work responds to the effects of climate change, as we work with local communities and governments around the world to develop and test new conservation approaches. As for the causes of climate change, we work with governments to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions and with companies to reduce their carbon footprint.
Our work on reefs around the world. Our adaptation projects span the world's waters. Each place is different, but the effects of climate change are similar and our solutions are applicable worldwide.
In Coastal East Africa and the Coral Triangle, we are protecting and restoring mangroves, the maritime trees whose massive root systems protect shorelines from the climate change effects of sea level rise and strong storm surges. They also stand as buffers between reefs and damaging runoff from the land. We monitor the nearby reefs to learn how healthier mangroves make for healthier reefs.
In the Mesoamerican Reef and South Florida, we are seeing how water pollution exacerbates coral bleaching. We are exploring the relationship between climate change and contaminants such as soil and chemical runoff from farms, as well as potential negative effects on regional economies. Big change, big challenge. Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge of our time. By exploring how reefs can better resist and adapt to the impact of global warming, WWF's innovative approach to adaptation anticipates the shape of things to come and creates solutions for today.