Enric Sala’s TED talk illustrates the impact humans have on the coral reefs of the world. What is now overrun with algae and lacks diversity was once a thriving ecosystem with a wide array of fauna. Complex ecosystems evolve over huge spans of time, and remain in a delicate balance. Anthropogenic (human) disturbances including pollution, fertilizer runoff, overfishing, and habitat destruction tilt this balance until it falters. Unless action is taken to halt these disturbances, the ecosystem may never recover.
Enric raises an important point: a complex ecosystem is able to better adapt to climate change. A diverse ecosystem has more resilience. In essence, each organism plays a role, and when say, the coral of a coral reef are bleached due to high water temperatures, the remaining organisms can support the ecosystem until the coral are able to recover.
Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) are areas of the ocean with limited human interaction (fishing, tourism, collection, etc) that are established with the intent of preserving existing diversity while allowing damaged areas to recover. Not only do MPA’s increase diversity and biomass, they also increase profit for the local population that has set aside a portion of their waters. This seems counterintuitive, but the creation of MPA’s allows fish stocks to recover, while simultaneously increasing demand for that stock (because of a smaller supply). This allows fishermen to sell their fish for more at the market, increasing profit for their efforts. In the case of a coral reef, a greater variety of larger corals with many colorful fish is a more desirable vacation spot for tourists.
Maintaining the diversity of the world’s oceans through Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s) may mean the difference between algae ridden rubble fields and pristine reefs.