Species360 Conservation Science Alliance researchers show worldwide, aquariums protect vulnerable species of corals now facing threats of extinction in our oceans.
When you visit the world’s zoos and aquariums, be sure to enjoy the colorful corals living throughout large and small marine exhibits. Often colorful and odd in shape, these unique aquatic animals are the building blocks of our marine ecosystems – and may hold the key to rebuilding reefs hard hit by disease, natural disaster, and rising water temperatures, according to a study published in Journal for Nature Conservation.
Conservation of corals is increasingly critical. More than 60% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened, according to the IUCN Red List. And the 5th Biodiversity Outlook, published September 15th by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) shows the undeniable failure of governments globally to reach the UN targets designed to minimize threats to species. For corals, that includes overfishing, destructive fishing practices, the climate crisis, ocean acidification and coastal development.
Still this week we have some good news, 48 species of birds and mammals have been saved from extinction many of them with the help from zoos breeding programs — with the goal of reintroducing species to their natural habitats. Thus, the value of insurance populations under human care led or with the support of zoos, shows the huge potential of Aquariums to help the CBD Targets aimed to slow down the current extinction rates in the oceans.
Still, one aquarium may not have the sample size or the diversity of species to make a huge impact, however “by sharing standardized information with hundreds of other like-minded institutions in Species360, the world’s aquariums as a global network are uniquely equipped to help sustain coral’s insurance populations to support its conservation in the wild,” Said Dr. Dalia Conde, Director of the Species360 Conservation Science Alliance, and Associate Professor at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU), lead author of the paper.
In all, researchers found that aquariums, and zoos that maintain aquatic species, sustain more than 30 percent of coral species identified as Vulnerable to Climate Change (VCC), and 19 of the 111 species assessed as Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE). These ‘insurance populations’ are already yielding results as part of regional and global efforts to rebuild reefs such as those off the southeast coast of North America and in the Great Barrier Reef.
“Our results show the value of aquariums expertise and animals under their care, which can provide a lifeline for conservationists who may feel they are fighting a losing battle,” said Dr. Rita da Silva, Assistant Professor at SDU and first author of the paper.
Learn more about the study, “Assessing the conservation potential of fish and corals in aquariums globally” at Species360.