“We need to protect coral reefs so they can protect us,” said Federal Minister for the Environment Steffi Lemke at the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) press conference. Steffi Lemke was referring to one of the most important ecosystem services provided by coral reefs. They are indispensable for coastal protection because they reduce the force of waves by about 90 percent. Abdulla Naseer, the Minister of Environment of the Maldives, who also attended the conference: “It’s really simple. No coral reefs, no Maldives.” Coastal protection is fundamental for all island states and coastal regions in the tropics. The dying of coral reefs is an existential threat for all inhabitants of these areas.
But coral reefs are not just important for coastal protection. They are also concentration points of biodiversity and affect ocean diversity and biomass well beyond their distribution range. The economic importance in the tourism industry, as well as for food supply, especially in poorer countries, is great. About 600 million people are directly economically dependent on functioning coral reefs. That currently accounts for almost eight percent of the entire world population. In addition, highly developed countries are increasingly benefiting from new active ingredients for medicines discovered in coral reefs.
“Unfortunately, threat levels continue to worsen. The research results of the recently concluded 15th World Coral Reef Conference confirm that the situation has further deteriorated compared to the last status report of global coral reefs in 2008. This makes it all the more important that we identify possible solutions to find ways out of the coral reef crisis,” said Chair of ICRS 2022 Christian Wild from the University of Bremen.
Cooperation and Dialogue between Science and Politics of Great Importance
The World Coral Reef Conference devoted an entire day to scientific recommendations for overcoming the severe coral reef crisis. It shed light on the fact that there isn’t a lack of ideas and proposals from the scientific community, but rather a lack of communication with decision-makers from politics, business, and civil society that ultimately results in inaction. Andréa Grottoli, President of the International Coral Reef Society: “Scientists must move toward politics and politics toward science. If they can meet in the middle, it’s already a big win.”
It was expressly emphasized that what continues to remain important is the strategy paper “Rebuilding Coral Reefs: A Decadal Grand Challenge.” The paper is aimed at decision-makers from politics, administration, business, and civil society worldwide. “In it, we want to make clear the urgency of measures needed to protect and restore coral reefs,” said Dr. Sebastian Ferse and Professor Christian Wild, both Bremen-based coauthors of the international strategy paper. It was presented for the first time a year ago as part of the 14th World Coral Reef Conference.
First World Coral Reef Conference in Europe
The CO2 emissions, that have caused anthropogenic climate change and will lead to the steady decline of the world’s coral reefs if nothing changes, come primarily from industrialized nations. The 15th World Coral Reef Conference being held in attendance by an institution in Europe for the first time is therefore no coincidence. “It’s an indication that we have to face the joint responsibility of the coral reef crisis in the tropics and look for possible solutions for this crisis,” said marine biologist Christian Wild from the University of Bremen.
The conference also sent an important signal in this regard. Professor Christian Wild: “We are proud that the University of Bremen has managed to host both the 14th (purely virtual) and the 15th (in attendance) coral reef conference in a climate-neutral way. For the 15th World Coral Reef Conference, we followed a two-step strategy: To avoid CO2 emissions, we provided all conference participants with flat-rate tickets for local public transport. We also avoided the production of waste and the use of paper in quite a few places. For catering, we focused mainly on local and vegetarian products. Unavoidable CO2 emissions caused by the participants’ travel were compensated.”
Bremen as a Venue
“The International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) is the largest marine research conference ever held in Germany. Dr. Claudia Schilling, Bremen’s Senator for Science and Ports: “Bremen was chosen as the venue for good reason, as it has a very active and visible community of excellent coral reef researchers.” Several partner institutions, most of them in close proximity to each other on the campus of the University of Bremen, are active in coral reef research. These include the Center for Environmental Research and Sustainable Technologies (UFT), MARUM, the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), and the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). They make the state of Bremen a central hub of coral reef research in Europe and beyond. In addition, Bremen offers an excellent infrastructure, and our cooperation partner, Bremen’s economic development agency Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen (WFB), with its organization, ensures that even large trade fairs run smoothly.
You can find the policy paper “Rebuilding Coral Reefs: A Decadal Grand Challenge” here: https://coralreefs.org/publications/rebuilding_coral_reefs/
Download press information and photos at:
University of Bremen
Tel.: +49 176 5500 8505
Email: heinz.krimmerprotect me ?!icrs2021protect me ?!.de