‘If we lose our reefs, we’ll be washed away’
An updated survey of the world's reefs ranks Bermuda as among the most vulnerable to reef loss.
Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences director Tony Knap said: “The most important thing we can take away from this report is that we in Bermuda have a lot to lose.”
In the ‘Reefs at Risk Revisited' report, the Island appears on a list of the seven at-risk countries: those with both a high exposure to threat, and a high dependence on reefs. The others are the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mayotte, Samoa, St Eustatius and St Kitts and Nevis. “All of these are small-island states, and many are densely populated,” the report says.
“While relatively high adaptive capacities are likely to help these islands to buffer potential impacts on reef-dependent people, ultimately the extent of their vulnerability to reef loss will depend on how effectively resources and skills are directed toward reducing reef threats and dependence.”
The report is an update on a 1998 study released by researchers at the World Resources Institute. It points to a direct dependence on reefs for food and employment in Bermuda as throughout the Caribbean although, for Bermuda, the chronic overfishing seen in poorer countries is not a factor in the strain on reefs.
Still, the report notes, corals across our region “have been in decline for decades”, with diseases such as the 1980s plague that wiped out black-tipped urchins in Bermuda and the Caribbean causing particular damage.
Dr Knap said Bermuda's reefs are found in “particularly clean open ocean” and agreed with the report that “our biggest threat is the increasing acidity of the ocean, and sea levels increasing brought about mainly by the expansion of the ocean caused by warming.”
Bermuda's vulnerability is especially high because of the Island's small size, and its dependence on reefs for protection from tropical storms.
The report concludes: “Threat levels for reefs in Bermuda range from medium to very high.
“However, the value for the exposure index is very high because this component combines threat levels and the ratio of reef to land area (which is very high for Bermuda).”
Dr Knap said: “Our danger is that if we lose our reefs, we'll be washed away.”
Useful web link: www.wri.org\reefs, www.pmel.noaa.gov