24 February 2017
50 Reefs.  Photo: The Ocean Agency, Jayne Jenkins
50 Reefs. Photo: The Ocean Agency, Jayne Jenkins

A list of the world’s 50 most important reefs to protect from climate change is being compiled by a global team of world experts led by The University of Queensland.

The 50 Reefs initiative brings together leading ocean, climate and marine scientists – and conservation practitioners from around the world – to raise awareness of the increasingly severe impact of climate change on the ocean and to catalyse global conservation action.

The 50 Reefs chief scientist and director of UQ’s Global Change InstituteProfessor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, said the list and its corresponding initiatives – to be announced later this year – would identify 50 coral reefs with strategic importance and the greatest likelihood of surviving climate change.

“These reefs will play a key role in re-seeding the reefs of tomorrow as ocean conditions stabilise,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

“The 50 reefs initiative is ambitious, however it is a manageable number of reefs to focus on.

“The intention is to grow this number over time, based on success and availability of resources.

“It is also large enough to allow protection of reefs in all major regions and to make a real difference in the long-term recovery of coral reefs around the world.”

Coral reefs from around the world will be prioritised via a transparent “decision algorithm” developed at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions at UQ.

An independent panel of 12 world-leading coral reef and marine scientists, drawn from some of the world’s top organisations, will select reefs for characteristics such as biodiversity, climate vulnerability, current health and reef connectivity.

In this way, many of the reefs selected are predicted to have a good chance of acting as sources of larvae or “seed centers” as ocean conditions stabilised, enabling optimal circumstances for the regeneration coral reefs.
Conservation experts will also identify the types of regional interventions necessary to ensure reef survival and to encourage global action and investments in key reef geographies prioritised in the survey.

“We need to approach this problem from a global perspective and develop a strategy that deploys resources most effectively in terms of ensuring coral reefs continue into the future,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

A unique philanthropic coalition of innovators in business, technology and government – led by Bloomberg Philanthropies with The Tiffany & Co Foundation and The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation – announced the launch of the 50 Reefs Initiative today at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, Indonesia.   

UQ’s Global Change Institute developed the 50 Reefs concept in partnership with The Ocean Agency

Media: Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, oveh@uq.edu.au, @oveHG. UQ Communications: Rachael Hazell, r.hazell@uq.edu.au, +61 7 415 814 529.

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