Study of world’s richest marine area shows size matters

Updated 23 February 2013
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Study of world’s richest marine area shows size matters

GENEVA: A new study of Asia’s Coral Triangle, which contains nearly 30 percent of the world’s reefs, shows that when it comes to ensuring a rich and diverse range of species, size matters. “The study suggests that marine protected areas should be as large and diverse as possible,” Peter Etnoyer, a marine biologist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said in a statement.
Etnoyer, who co-authored the study published by open access peer-reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE, stressed that providing more protected marine space made it possible to “include more species, more habitats, and more genetic diversity to offer species the best chance of adapting to sea temperature and other environmental changes.”
The Coral Triangle covers a triangular area stretching across the Philippines, eastern Sabah, eastern Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
It’s sheer size has made it a treasure trove of marine life — it contains more than 3,000 species of fish and is often referred to as the “Amazon of the seas”.
The fact that its size, according to Thursday’s study, is also what will help it adapt to change is important, since previous reports have shown that more than 85 percent of the reefs there are considered to be threatened by human activities like coastal development, pollution and overfishing.
For the study, scientists at NOAA, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Old Dominion University in Virginia and the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies had “analyzed over 10,000 maps of marine species,” said Jonnell Sanciango, the head author of the study and a researcher at Old Dominion.
They had “found that habitat, calculated as coastline length, was the best predictor of species richness, followed by the variety of habitats and sea surface temperature,” she added. Their research led them to suggest stretching the borders of the Coral Triangle further to also include Brunei, Singapore and peninsular Malaysia, “to ensure that these areas are included in the management and conservation of the region.”



The study also found that sea surface temperature plays an important role in the proliferation of marine life.
This suggests that “climate change may have a direct impact on species diversity,” the authors said in the statement.
“The conservation implication is that if climate change raises sea temperatures it may have a profound influence on evolution rates and how species are distributed over time,” Kent Carpenter of IUCN said.


Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

An aerial photo of a road running through an palm plantation in Dumai, Riau, Sumatra island, Indonesia. (Antara Foto/Rony Muharrman/via REUTERS/File)
Updated 27 May 2018
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Unmapped roads raise risk to Southeast Asian rainforests — study

  • Researcher Alice Hughes found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
  • An average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.

KUALA LUMPUR: Forests in parts of Southeast Asia face greater threats than previously thought because researchers often rely on data that ignores new roads, which are precursors to deforestation and development, a study shows.
The paper, published this month by the journal Biological Conservation, showed that an average of 75 percent of roads in five countries were missing from OpenStreetMap (OSM), a mapping platform widely used by researchers and academics.
“Large-scale forest clearance is preceded by the growth of road networks, which provide a stark warning for the region’s future,” the study said.
Author Alice Hughes, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, studied a total of 277,281 square kilometers by analyzing satellite images and maps showing forest loss and coverage, as well as agriculture concessions.
She found that roads have penetrated areas previously considered untouched and unreachable by vehicles.
“We are deluding ourselves that we still have large tracts of inaccessible, pristine forest, when the reality is highly-fragmented, very accessible forests,” Hughs said on Friday.
Her research examined road networks in parts of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
“In some parts of the region, up to 99 percent of roads on those global maps, which are used as the basis for a huge amount of further analysis, are not included,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Deforestation and development of forests in the area studied have occurred at a rapid pace since 2000, said Hughes, while maps used by researchers do not regularly update their road data.
“Most of the time these roads are just providing access to forests and up to 99 percent of deforestation is within 2.5 km of road,” she said. “They are clearly the access method.”
She added that the region urgently needs better protection and enforcement for its remaining forests.
Indonesia, which is the world’s biggest palm oil producer, introduced a forest clearing moratorium in 2011 to help reduce deforestation.
Hughes said the ban should be expanded beyond just land designated as natural, untouched primary forest to include all high biodiversity forests.
Hughes’ research methodology should be used to determine whether the same patterns exist in other parts of the world, said Christopher Martius, team leader for climate change at the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research.
“It is surprising that nobody ever did that before, and it is shocking that the result shows we grossly underestimated the possible threat to tropical forests from road building,” he said by email.