Planting trees along the coast can save coral reefs

Planting forests along the coast in tropical regions can also have an unexpected benefit at sea: helping to save beleaguered spools of coral.

The reason for this is that denser vegetation in coastal regions can greatly reduce the amount of toxic sediment runoff that reaches Earth’s coral reefs and undermines the resilience of those reefs.

A team of scientists at the University of Queensland came to this conclusion after studying more than 5,500 coastal areas around the world, of which nearly 85% of coastal areas leak sediment into coral reefs, They found .

This is of concern because much of the runoff is mixed with toxic agrochemicals and deforestation along the coast increases the amount of polluting sediment that seeps into coastal waters.

In fact, land pollution in the form of runoff poses the second most serious threat to the planet’s reefs, after climate change, scientists say.

“The increase in sedimentation can make aquatic ecosystems more sensitive to thermal stress, which reduces the resistance of corals to the pressures caused by climate change”, says Andrés Suárez-Castro, a specialist at the University’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Sciences.

“If the link between land and sea is not recognized and managed separately, any future efforts to conserve marine habitats and species are likely to be ineffective,” he explains.

Trees on the coast benefit the coral

Scientists say that restoring the earth in sea ​​shore and by increasing their vegetation, countries and communities can drastically reduce the amount of sediment runoff.

“Reforestation is very important because it maintains soil stability, which is fundamental to limiting the risk of erosion: it also helps to retain more sediment and prevent it from reaching aquatic systems,” says Suárez-Castro.

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“Building coral resilience by reducing sediment and pollution is also critical to increasing a coral reef’s recovery potential. If soil management to reduce sediment runoff does not become a global priority, it will be increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to protect marine ecosystems from climate change”, he warns.

If, on average, 1,000 hectares of forest are restored in each coastal basin, the amount of sediment reaching earth’s coral reefs could be reduced by 8.5 percent on average among reefs that cover an area of ​​63,000 square kilometers.

“Our approach can be adapted with local data to identify optimal actions to preserve ‘win-win’ for various ecosystems that span land and sea,” said Suárez-Castro.

By Daniel T. Cross. Article in English

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