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Review of the luncheon by Marilyn T. Fordney:

We recently attended another “lunch and learn” at the California Science Center, in Los Angeles, because of our annual support of environmental education. Thanks to the hard work of the California Science Center Foundation, both children and adults can visit its incredible interactive and educational exhibits for free and learn throughout the year. The topic for the “lunch and learn” was “The Coral Triangle” and Dr. Paul Barber, a professor and evolutionary and conservation geneticist from UCLA was our speaker. The information we heard about the Coral Triangle is only just beginning to be introduced to the public but it’s importance to our planet is vital!

Founder Marilyn T. Fordney with Dr. Barber

If you’ve never heard of the Coral Triangle, you aren’t alone. . .  The Coral Triangle is a very special area on our planet. It is the largest and most biologically diverse marine system area of the earth and is known as the Amazon of the Ocean. It is the global epicenter. There is incredible biodiversity with over 500 hard coral species across an area encompassing 6 countries and covering 6 million km2. Biodiversity means a variety of forms of life within an ecosystem, biome, or planet and the Coral Triangle is an incredible example of a biodiverse marine system! For example, in the Carribean, there are two coral species known as staghorn coral and elkhorn coral. In the Coral Triangle, there are over 100 species!

During the lecture, Dr. Barber showed a video to demonstrate the value and uniqueness of the marine life in the Coral Triangle. It was breath-taking to see many examples of marine life especially this amazing mimic octopus, which he shared with us. 

Why does the Coral Triangle matter? Not only is it beautiful and a unique place unlike anywhere else on the planet but it plays a major role in the economies of the world. The Coral Triangle affects 40% of the world’s economy and 80% of the needs of the people who rely on its resources. Of the 363 million on earth, about one-third (120 million) depend on fish, the sea, and other marine life to support their livelihood.

This region is critically endangered as shown by the reefs at high risk (orange colored areas) in the Coral Triangle.

In spite of the incredible importance of this ecosystem, these reefs are affected by coastal pollution and “bomb fishing” which developed during wartime when people threw bombs into the water. When people realized that this enabled them to get fish quickly and easily they adopted unsustainable fishing practices.  The area is also affected by climate change and coral bleaching–in other words, the coral gets replaced with algae. It was also discovered that heavy metal contamination occurred in some regions.

Dr. Barber presented us with some potential solutions to these alarming problems: A method used to preserve biodiverse areas is to create reserves to manage protected areas (MPAs) and develop rules so people using the areas must abide by the rules. MPAs increase density, size, and diversity. MPAs spill over from one area to another and this helps nearby areas. In doing research, it was learned that some marine life remains in the same location from birth and do not move to other distant locations. In fact, the longer larvae remain in water, the further away the distance of dispersion to another area. This means that protecting a region requires us to protect a much larger area to help preserve. It is difficult to put tracking devices or tags on marine life to find the locations so this is a challenge.

Incredible biodiversity in coral reefs.

Individuals obtaining doctorates at several universities studied and did research of genealogy of marine life.  A project offering courses called The Diversity Project/Pathways to PhDs was created and their research results have made discoveries to help the Coral Triangle. They discovered that if ocean currents do not move that becomes a barrier to marine life as the population stays static versus currents that move creating more diversity of marine life. This is helpful for conservation. In the beginning some areas and species were not considered endangered but now after the research, the conservation efforts have expanded to larger areas, regions, and countries. In fact, the “Save The Whales” campaign that so many know about today came about due to research of marine life.

We learned that in Indonesia, reef sharks have become extinct. Fisheries target endangered species so when research produces knowledge about the endangered marine life then new laws of protection are created and this occurred in Indonesia.  

We decided to create this blog to “grow the public’s consciousness.” As Dr. Barber emphasized, we must change the fate of The Coral Triangle. He quoted and shared this proverb–

You protect what you love

You protect what you know

You protect what you’re taught

An African proverb

Click here to learn more about the Coral Triangle,

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