Sept 23 2010 

Thomas J. Goreau, PhD

President, Global Coral Reef Alliance

 Coral reefs are the most sensitive ecosystem to global warming and will be the first to become functionally extinct due to excess atmospheric CO2 from fossil fuel combustion, imminently threatening the major marine biodiversity, fisheries, tourism, and shoreline resources of over 100 countries. In particular restoration of lost reefs is a life and death matter for the Small Island Developing States, and especially the atoll nations.

 2010 will almost certainly be the hottest year in history, and already there has been massive coral mortality from heat shock across the Indian Ocean and South East Asia, with the Caribbean and Persian Gulf now being affected as well. Since hotter years will certainly follow, we now have only a few years to protect the most critically threatened natural resource of the ocean.

 Even if all fossil fuel use stops today, we still face thousands of years of warming, continuing long after IPCC’s model projection time horizons of 50 or 100 years, and condemning future generations.

 In order to prevent catastrophic loss of fisheries, shore protection, tourism, and biodiversity in the coming years a massive programme of coral reef restoration is needed in all the coral reef countries and especially the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). This should be under the direct control of the countries affected, and using the state of the art Biorock methods, which have been developed in the SIDS without any help at all from the rich countries. It should specifically not be under the control of the global programmes, funded and controlled by the rich countries, which have spent 40 years denying the massive declines of reefs that were well known in the SIDS, denying their clearly proven linkage to global warming, and preventing any effective action to restore coral reefs. These groups will now attempt to control any funding, and if they succeed they will waste the money by repeating their proven failures.

 To be truly effective all the funding should be put directly into community-based initiatives supporting local efforts to restore and manage the resources they have lost, not to foreign or even national institutions, who will use the money to support bureaucracies, foreign consultants, and big international NGOs (BINGOs). Only local people can be dedicated to restoring their own fisheries, shorelines, and natural resources over the generations that will be needed until global warming can be brought under control. This is a long-term task, and only those committed to long-term restoration of their own immediate environment are competent for the task, not short-term visitors from abroad or even from national capitals.

 An immediate crash programme is needed NOW to restore our damaged reefs using methods that 1) greatly increase coral growth rates, and 2) greatly increase coral survival from high temperature stress. Only one method is known that does so: The Biorock method, which can be powered on any scale by developing our vast but untapped clean and sustainable wave, wind, solar, and ocean current energy. Biorock methods increase coral growth rates 2-6 times, reduces coral bleaching from heat shock, speeds up recovery, and results in much higher survival, up to 50 times in the worst cases. Biorock reefs also greatly increase fish populations, mariculture opportunities, and turn severely eroding low island beaches into growing ones, allowing them to survive global sea level rise. All other methods of coral reef restoration are doomed to fail catastrophically under global warming conditions.

 There is no time to waste: failure means condemning around a billion people to become climate refugees.