Apr 162014
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There’s been a lot in the news lately which pertains to reefs and climate change, so here are a few links for anyone who has seen The Last Reef and wonders if anything has changed since the film was released (short answer, not a lot)...

The UK Guardian has an in depth look at the Great Barrier Reef, and the multiple threats to its survival, which include contamination from new deep water harbours and construction. Seems the Australian government isn't prioritising one of it's nations treasures. It's a really in depth, multimedia experience, and the title says it all: 'The Great Barrier Reef: An Obituary'

Also in the Guardian, and mentioned because Bikini features in the prologue to The Last Reef, an article about the islands 6o years after the nuclear tests.

In the US, celebrities are getting serious about climate change and lending their support to a new Showtime series, Years of Living Dangerously.


The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has recently met in Berlin and just released it's latest assessments, you can see the (mostly) grim news in New Scientist's special guide.

 April 16, 2014
Oct 152013

After several successful screenings at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film festival and some interesting Q&A sessions with locals of all ages, we thought it was time for a round up of the latest reef news... since the film was completed 2 years ago, has there been any change in the projected fortunes of the world's reefs?

Overall, the answer appears to be a resounding no...

Take this article from the Guardian in late August, about the upcoming IPCC report and the 'Inhospitable Oceans' report:

'Rapidly rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are causing a potential catastrophe in our oceans as they become more acidic, scientists have warned... However, the process of acidification takes decades and the worst effects on some species could still be avoided if emissions are urgently reduced. "The ocean is changing already, mostly due to temperature – acidification will exacerbate those effects," Poertner said.'

Another Guardian article, last week adds:

'In the starkest warning yet of the threat to ocean health, the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) said: "This [acidification] is unprecedented in the Earth's known history. We are entering an unknown territory of marine ecosystem change, and exposing organisms to intolerable evolutionary pressure. The next mass extinction may have already begun." It published its findings in the State of the Oceans report, collated every two years from global monitoring and other research studies.'

Another report, earlier this year, in Science Daily notes that:

'To prevent coral reefs around the world from dying off, deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions are required, says a new study from Carnegie's Katharine Ricke and Ken Caldeira. They find that all existing coral reefs will be engulfed in inhospitable ocean chemistry conditions by the end of the century if civilization continues along its current emissions trajectory.'

Another Science Daily article sounds a positive note:

'The seeding of marine clouds to cool sea surface temperatures could protect threatened coral reefs from being bleached by warming oceans. Research, published in Atmospheric Science Letters, proposes that a targeted version of the geo-engineering technique could give coral a fifty year 'breathing space' to recover from acidification and warming.'

When the IPCC report was released, New Scientist had this to say:

"Hundreds of thousands of words will be written about the latest report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Here, in 10 words, is the bottom line: we have to leave most fossil fuels in the ground. It really is that simple.'

And echo of that sentiment came in this interesting article:

'The fall of the Soviet Union created the largest ever human-made carbon sink – abandoned farmland.'

As time goes by, it becomes more apparent that governments and big business will drag their feet when it comes to CO2 emissions, climate change and acidification... take this news from Germany, for example, in which Germany is delaying the EU CO2 vehicle emissions limit by 4 years.

Seeding clouds feels like a small hope in the face of such massive governmental and industrial obstacles, but perhaps geo-engineering is our greatest hope after all... we'll follow this up in a later post...







 October 15, 2013
Oct 272012
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Palau makes World Heritage list!

Palau’s Rock Islands Southern Lagoon has recently made UNESCO's World Heritage List. This is especially poignant for The Last Reef, since most of the films underwater coral reef sequences and many of the timelapse sequences were shot in Palau, one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet, and yet, one of the most threatened.

UNESCO notes the lagoon "covers 100,200 ha and includes 445 uninhabited limestone islands of volcanic origin. Many of them display unique mushroom-like shapes in turquoise lagoons surrounded by coral reefs. The aesthetic beauty of the site is heightened by a complex reef system featuring over 385 coral species and different types of habitat. They sustain a large diversity of plants, birds and marine life including dugong and at least thirteen shark species. The site harbours the highest concentration of marine lakes anywhere".

This area has long been protected by the Palauan government, seen as the crown jewel of the archipelago.

The decision was made at a meeting in St Petersburg, Russia by the World Heritage Committee, where they apparently discussed Palau's "wow" factor...

You can read more about UNESCO's take on the islands here

 October 27, 2012
Sep 122012

A new article in The Guardian quotes a report by 36 scientists from 18 countries, the “Tropical Americas Reef Resilience Workshop”, released by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. It makes for a sobering read:

“Caribbean coral reefs – which make up one of the world’s most colourful, vivid and productive ecosystems – are on the verge of collapse, with less than 10% of the reef area showing live coral cover."

Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine and polar programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said: "The major causes of coral decline are well known and include overfishing, pollution, disease and bleaching caused by rising temperatures resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. Looking forward, there is an urgent need to immediately and drastically reduce all human impacts [in the area] if coral reefs and the vitally important fisheries that depend on them are to survive in the decades to come."

It emphasises the ecological and economic significance of reef collapse, and adds to the ever increasing call for action to prevent the loss of coral reefs globally.

"Last year, scientists estimated that 75% of the Caribbean's coral reefs were in danger, along with 95% of those in south-east Asia. That research, from the World Resources Institute, predicted that by 2050 virtually all of the world's coral reefs would be in danger."

Read the entire article here and download the report here.

 September 12, 2012
Jul 242012

Another New York Times article today, this one more positive, about the work of scientist Mary Hagedorn at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology: she is attempting to create a coral sperm bank, by capturing and preserving coral spawn. Coral spawning can be a predictable event, taking place at certain times of the year, but specifically in relation to a full moon, usually a couple of days afterwards. Some coral spawning can be predicted almost to the hour. So Mary's idea of capturing and freezing spawn is not so impractical, and could give dead reefs a chance to rebuild in the future...

Read the full article here.

 July 24, 2012
Jul 232012

Following on from the declaration of a “state of emergency”, Roger Bradbury had this to say in the New York Times Opinion Pages:

“IT’S past time to tell the truth about the state of the world’s coral reefs, the nurseries of tropical coastal fish stocks. They have become zombie ecosystems, neither dead nor truly alive in any functional sense, and on a trajectory to collapse within a human generation. There will be remnants here and there, but the global coral reef ecosystem — with its storehouse of biodiversity and fisheries supporting millions of the world’s poor — will cease to be."

He accuses environmentalists, scientists and governments of "false hope": he has a negative view of the state of the worlds reefs and their prospects of recovery:

"Overfishing, ocean acidification and pollution have two features in common. First, they are accelerating. They are growing broadly in line with global economic growth, so they can double in size every couple of decades. Second, they have extreme inertia — there is no real prospect of changing their trajectories in less than 20 to 50 years. In short, these forces are unstoppable and irreversible."

Mr Bradbury argues we should be preparing for the worst, and the negative impact the loss of reefs will have upon " hundreds of millions of people in poor, tropical countries like Indonesia and the Philippines who depend on coral reefs for food.", not to mention tropical tourism and the ultimate knock on effects of the loss of biodiversity.

Read the entire article here.


 July 23, 2012
Jul 232012

Dramatic headlines from Australia:

Scientists Declare State of Emergency for World’s Coral Reefs

“CAIRNS, Australia, Jul 10 2012 (IPS) – Coral reef scientists urged local and national governments to take action to save the world’s coral reefs and said they’d be “on call 24/7″ to assist politicians and officials.

Without global action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and greatly improve local protection, most of the world’s coral reefs will be devastated and the benefits they provide billions of people will be lost in the coming decades, scientists warned at the opening of 12th International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Cairns, Australia."

Read more of this article here


 July 23, 2012
Jun 092012

Professor Callum Roberts, whose book “An Unnatural History of the Sea” was such an influence on the film makers during production of Wild Ocean 3D (and subsequently became script advisor on that movie), has done it again: his new book "Ocean of Life" has just been published, and if you were to only read one book about the state of our seas, this has to be it. Callum skilfully brings together every aspect of man's impact on the ocean, and he actually offers a way forward. Callum has a vision of the future that gives hope for the sea both as a group of interconnected ecosystems and as a resource for humanity.

Of particular interest to us is his chapter on Ocean Acidification: "Corrosive Seas". He describes a moment at a meeting to discuss climate change in 1998 when Joanie Keyplas, an American reef expert, realise that by the end of the 21st century, seawater would be too corrosive to sustain coral reefs: "she excused herself and ran to the bathroom to be sick". A Roland Emmerich disaster movie moment if ever there was one...

Callum also points out that acidification is a global problem and not exclusively a threat to tropical reefs: oyster farms off the coast of Oregon have shown how they can easily be disrupted by ph change, and the swarms of pteropods in the Arctic, fast food for whales, cod, salmon are particularly vulnerable to acidity.

Callum Roberts is a great advocate for preserving the environments that help refurbish the ocean, such as Marine Protected Areas, proven time and again to help replenish fish populations. Specifically regarding acidification:  "It has been estimated" he writes, "that every year healthy  salt marshes, mangroves and seagrass beds collectively remove carbon dioxide equivalent to half the emissions of the world transport network... so if you can do just one thing, protect the salt marshes and mangrove swamps!"

You can buy "Ocean of Life" in bookshops, from Penguin, on Amazon or in the iBookstore... go get it...




 June 9, 2012
Apr 212012

One of the key reasons so many people got behind the idea of saving the rain forests was the notion that a cure for cancer could be hidden in the Amazon, and remain undiscovered forever, thanks to deforestation. It was a wake up call that seemed to ring around the world...

What the world didn't realise was that the pharmaceutical industry was equally involved in probing the world's coral reefs looking for source materials for medicine. An invaluable reference book on coral reefs,  "Reef Life" was written by Denise and Larry Tackett both of whom worked part time as coral reef field-researchers for Arizona State University Cancer Research Institute diving all over the world for 13 years. "Reef Life" uses images the pair took mainly in Palau, a research hot spot because of the spectacular diversity there. Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas each carried a copy of this book during the Palau shoot: a wonderful reference for anyone interested in reefs, and partly made possible because of cancer research.

So it's heartening to see another article on reef discoveries which highlights the importance of their preservation not just for  environmental reasons, but because there are important discoveries still to be made, discoveries that can save lives.

What makes this article so interesting is that coral and sponges are actively being farmed in Florida Keys, and that the researchers state there is a much greater likelihood of finding a source for a drug in the ocean, than on land: 400 to 600 times more likelihood! This fact alone is worth promoting across the world...

Particularly poignant for us is that one of the producers of The Last Reef has a son being treated for Leukemia, and one of the drugs being used, Ara-C, is sourced from coral reefs...

Take some time to read the article, and watch the videos on Daily Nightly...


 April 21, 2012
Apr 212012

An article in International Business Times (not our usual source of science news) has the extremely positive headline: Coral Reefs Saviour Found: Sea Cucumbers can reduce Climate change impact…!

Whilst that headline seems like an enthusiastically overly positive spin (we doubt that we can relax and assume sea cucumbers will save the planet), it's good to hear some positive news on the subject...




 April 21, 2012